Commenters to last week’s post, Heirloom apples and pears, anyone?, correctly identified the shorthand text found in Henry Oxinden’s miscellany (Folger MS V.b.110) as the Lord’s Prayer written out according to Thomas Shelton’s method of shorthand, called tachygraphy.
Below is the prayer and Creed from the last leaf of the Folger copy of the 1674 edition of Thomas Shelton’s Tachygraphy: The most exact and compendious method of short and swift writing, that hath ever yet been published by any followed by the manuscript version from Oxinden’s miscellany:
The shorthand guide in V.b.110 (shown below in full) reproduces five different tables from Tachygraphy: “The letters of the Alphabet” and “Double consonants” (in the upper left of the leaf; scroll down for the matching printed pages), “Prepositions for longe words,” “Terminations for longe words,” and selections from “The Table.” Five rules concerning vowels take up the middle of the page, and to the right of the Lord’s Prayer and Creed (at the bottom) is the name “Tho: Shelton/” (which looks a lot like a signature, but I couldn’t track down any examples of Shelton’s writing to compare). Shorthand doesn’t appear anywhere else in the manuscript, and it is unclear what function the guide serves, aside from novelty.
Shelton created his system of “short writing” in 1626, which he then revised and began calling “tachygraphy” in 1635. Tachygraphy went through at least 22 editions by 1693. Shelton also published A tutor to tachygraphy in 1642, a FAQ guide for people who thought tachygraphy was too complicated. He then developed an entirely different system, Zeiglographia, shortly before his death in ca. 1650. See Frances Henderson’s useful overview of seventeenth-century English shorthand systems in the electronic British Library Journal.
Shelton’s tachygraphy was one of the most popular forms of shorthand in early modern English, used by Samuel Pepys, and in the eighteenth century, by Thomas Jefferson. One of the dedicatory verses to Shelton in the preliminary leaves of Tachygraphy states that if he had devised his system “In Ages past, Printing had ne’re been known / Nor the Invention sought or valued.”
Back in 2006/7, we had an exhibition called Technologies of Writing in the Age of Print which had three cases devoted to various kinds of shorthand, one giving an introduction to shorthand manuals, one on using, learning, and practicing shorthand, and one on shorthand’s impact.
The Folger has plenty of other examples of manuscript shorthand using various systems. In parting, here are a few examples for your entertainment (V.a.529, V.a.308, and V.a.387 — click on the call numbers to see the Hamnet records):
Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
[…] of shorthand devised by Thomas Shelton, first published in its full form in a 1635 book entitled Tachygraphy, and used most famously by Samuel Pepys in his diary. The writer here, though, had written out […]
A Document Speaks | Ben Jonson's Walk — June 19, 2013