22 Annotations

First Reading

dirk  •  Link

Annotations for March 23rd 2004:

"Pepys's shorthand"

As far as I know Pepys only introduced some personal variations in an otherwhise well known existing shorthand system - as many shorthand users used to do up to some 10 yrs ago, when stenographic writing fell out of fashion.

For more on Shelton's system, have a look at these BBC links for teachers - it's actually a teaching plan about our very own S.P. !!!

The second link even shows the Shelton 'alphabet'.

- - - - -

"Only a small and misleading part of Pepys's shorthand"

See later post for 23 Mar 2004:

Emilio  •  Link

From Paul Brewster, info on the facsimile edition of Shelton's Tachygraphy (http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1… ):

I have a copy of Shelton's two books, "A Tutor to Tachygraphy, or Short-Writing (1642)" and "Tachygraphy (1647)" (published by the Augustan Reprint Society, Publication Numbers 145-146). Even with the books it's difficult to go beyond conjecture about some aspects of the shorthand. I've come to the conclusion that without an intensive study of the Pepys manuscript it's almost impossible to venture any conclusions about the editorial judgements made by L&M or Wheatley in the interpretation of the shorthand. Besides the variations introduced by SP, it's often difficult to put the rules together into a coherent whole without more examples than are included in Shelton's work.

Note: the books are published as facsimiles and supplemented by an extract of the diary itself for 1-4 September 1666. I tried to decipher the extract using the information in the book and had a difficult time of it. The facsimile copy is quite tiny and often indistinct. I'm really not sure if this relects on the quality of the original or the quality of the facsimile.

ORDERING INFORMATION (originally posted by PB to the Handwriting page):

A Tutor to Tachygraphy, Or, Short-Writing; Tachygraphy
by Thomas Shelton
Editor: Robert Matthews
Publisher: AMS Press; (January 1992)
ISBN: 0404701450

There response was as follows "This title is available for $27.50, plus $5.95 for shipping. If you'd like to pay with a MasterCard or Visa, please provide shipping address, card account number, expiration date, and name of card holder. All sales are final and non-returnable.

AMS Press, Inc.
Brooklyn Navy Yard
Bldg. 292, Suite 417, 63 Flushing Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11205, USA
Fax: 212-995-5413

Glyn  •  Link

Here is the illustration of the last page of shorthand in his diary, in May 1669:


If anyone should like to see a page of his handwriting from the same year, the Pepys Collection in the Prince Henry's Room, Fleet Street has a business letter written in his own hand from 17 July 1669.

Terry F.  •  Link

The History of Shorthand By Anita Kreitzman
National Court Reporters Association (USA)

As a feature of the 17c revolution in shorthand, "Samuel Pepys used the Shelton system of shorthand to record his account of the Great Fire of London as well as offer his most vivid recollection of the Great Plague. To his credit, Pepys was an excellent shorthand reporter. He had to be, for he records that he by command of King Charles II took down in shorthand from his own mouth the narrative of his escape from Worcester."

"There were many names for shorthand over the years - brachygraphy, tachygraphy and stenography are just a few. The word shorthand first appeared in an epitaph to be found in Westminster Abbey. It concerns William Laurence who died on December 28, 1661:

‘Shorthand he wrote, his flowre in prime did fade,
And hasty death shorthand of him hath made.’"


Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

From Michael Robinson's excellent annotation of 29 April 2008, found here:

This is a quick selection of the major relevant portions of a lengthy discussion, of 20 p. in L&M Vol. I, on various questions about and arising from transcription from shorthand and editing the text for modern printing.

In L&M The shorthand is discussed in Vol. I, pp. xlviii - liv, at p li:-

"Its essence is a brief way of representing the letters of the ordinary alphabet ... the shorthand substitutes a set of brief signs, a few of them cut-down forms of the ordinary letters, but the majority straight lines and simple curves. These symbols serve for constants in all positions and for vowels that occur at the beginning of words. For vowels in the middle or at the end of words two devices employed. A medial vowel is represented by placing the following consonant (disjointed and written small) in five positions above the preceding consonant. These five positions represent a, e, i, o, u, and these serve for both long and short vowels and also for diphthongs..."

and the editorial decisions, liv - lxvii, at p. lvii:

"The problem that presented itself therefore was whether the conventional spelling to be used for the shorthand in this text should be our own or something similar to the spelling used by Pepys and his contemporaries. The possible objection to the first alternative is that it conflicts with our decision to print, so far as the abbreviations allow, Pepys’s longhand as he wrote it. It conflicts moreover with our decision to retain Pepys’s grammar, to keep his ‘you was’, ‘he begun’, ‘ill-written’ and so on, rather than to change them to ‘you were’, ‘he began’, and ‘ill-written.’ Unless Pepys’s grammar and longhand were also modernized, to represent his spelling entirely in modern fashion would obscure a lot of details important to many scholars. To spell in seventeenth-century style (where it can be said to exist) is, however, not only difficult but leads to scholarly tampering. This is what a previous editor, H. B. Wheatley, tried to do, and the result is a free-hand antique, in which nothing can be relied upon. The trouble is that seventeenth century spelling was extremely variable and very inconsistent; the same words could be spelled in present-day fashion and also in one often two or three earlier styles...

From these considerations, it was decided that the basis of the spelling of the shorthand in this text should be present-day British usage. The procedure, although necessary, is not free from defect. Even though Pepys’s own variants include almost every modern spelling, uniform spelling is quite alien to his habit; to adopt it entirely would, moreover, be subject to objections we have already mentioned.

It is fortunate, therefore, that a desirable mixture, a moderate kind of seventeenth-century inconsistency, can be achieved in a systematic fashion and with sufficient accuracy. This is made possible by the phonetic spelling in Pepys’s shorthand ... Thus the general principle adopted for spelling shorthand forms in this edition was that ordinarily the spelling was to be in present-day British style, but when the shorthand indicated a seventeenth-century variation in spelling, and when that spelling indicated a seventeenth-century pronunciation and a spelling that Pepys himself used, it should be spelled in the appropriate non-modern style. This compromise has certain merits. The variant spellings, both of longhand and shorthand words, combine to give the text an appropriate seventeenth-century coloration. And since every one of the variants is authentic, it is to be hoped that the text provides historical linguists with evidence they may need..."

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

Another excellent annotation from Michael Robinson related to this subject, found at http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1…

L&M on ‘Punctuation’ etc., (I have removed the discussion of their particular textual choices and solutions to problems) vol i, p lxiv:-

"The normal marks of punctuation are seldom used in the manuscript, probably because some of them are used instead as arbitrary symbols for common words: the colon and full-stop are thus employed to represent ‘owe’/’oh’ and ‘eye’/’I’ respectively. Except for the extremely rare use of a comma (which is used a few times to separate words in series), the only normal punctuation marks found in the manuscript are parentheses (the practice with these is not always the same as ours), new lines for paragraphs (usually flush with the left hand margin, but sometimes indented), hyphens in compound words and compound names (although hyphens are restricted to longhand and even there they are used only seldom), apostrophes for possession (these too are rarely used and only in longhand), colons and full-stops for some abbreviations, dashes and full-stops occasionally in sums of money, full stops and oblique strokes after some title headings, etc., a rarely used square bracket for marking off a quotation. Pepys’s standard stops, however, are two devices for indicating a break in a statement or the completion of it. These are a pyramids of three dots used in the earlier part of the diary, and ticks which Pepys begins to use at 16 March 1667."

L&M continue to discuss: 5.’Abbreviations and Corrections’; 6.’Numerals’ and dating in the diary entries; 7.’Mr. and Mrs.’; 8.’Capitals and hyphens in place names’; 9.’Pepys’s Corrections’ (@ p.lxvi):

"In addition, Pepys has often added words, phrases and sentences. These he inserts over a line or in the margins, though sometimes he crowds them in to the spaces between paragraphs and daily entries ... Other peculiarities of the manuscript ... are the sections that Pepys, for various reasons, writes in extremely small characters or in very large ones...

11. ‘Obscurities.’ Pepys’s shorthand is almost always extraordinarily neat and clear; even the passages written in minute characters are all very distinct. Sections written when his eyes were very painful are large and commonly less precise than elsewhere, but they, too, give little trouble to the editor.
Nevertheless, a few shorthand forms are illegible, or almost so, because of blots or poor writing. His longhand, which is less clear than his shorthand, also contains a few doubtful readings. And there are occasions where the inefficiencies of Shelton’s stenography makes for ambiguity."

Michael Robinson  •  Link

‘Swifte and Secrete Writing’ in Seventeenth-Century England, and Samuel Shelton’s Brachygraphy
Frances Henderson

Abstract: In the autumn of 2006 the British acquired S. Shelton's Brachygraphy of 1672, the only copy now known to be extant. This article sets Shelton's invention in the general context of seventeenth-century shorthand and considers its importance in understanding contemporary attitudes to the new fashion of short-writing both then and now.

Full article in PDF available

Mary  •  Link

CGS - file update.

Afraid that I cannot make either the new address or the old one work. Any suggestions?

CGS  •  Link

It must be the new year resolutions, shorthand is a no no, too many secrets, Elizabeth I directorate of spying on Mary Queen of Scots mail has scrubbed all references to this delicate subject from Google.

P.S. worked fine yesterday.

GrahamT  •  Link

Mary; remove the full stop from the end of the new web address, then it works.

Mary  •  Link

Many thanks, Graham.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Tachygraphy the most exact and compendious methode of short and swift writing that hath ever yet beene published by any / composed by Thomas Shelton ... ; approve by both unyversities.
Shelton, Thomas, 1601-1650?, Hall, Ralph.
London: Printed for Samuel Cartwright ..., 1641.

Early English Books Online -- Reproduction of original in Harvard University Library. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/…

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

DNB on how the diaries were deciphered:

‘ . . The seemingly impenetrable shorthand of the six volumes marked ‘journal’ discouraged examination until, it seems, the successful publication of Evelyn's diary (1818) prompted Magdalene to have Pepys's manuscript deciphered. An impecunious undergraduate of neighbouring St John's College, John Smith, was hired, and learned the characters by comparing Pepys's shorthand of Charles II's escape story with the longhand version. He did not know that the manual for the system, Thomas Shelton's Tutor to Tachygraphy (1642), was in the library . . ‘


JohnR  •  Link

I was recently lucky enough to buy a copy of Eikon Basilike printed in 1648.

On its back end papers is a handwritten record of the conversations King Charles had with his children whilst imprisoned in St James Palace immediately before his execution.

The front endpapers however have a piece written in shorthand.

I have a friend whose work includes examining and interpreting old documents; she has looked at it and is happy that the writing is period and she thinks that the code is a variation of Thomas Shelton’s shorthand.

Therefore my problem is to find somewhere, someone who may be able to interpret the code, or direct me to assistance. I have approached The Folger library in America to no avail and have received no reply from The British Library.

Yours in hope,

JohnR  •  Link

Thank you, John York

Terry Foreman  •  Link


Pepys had been before the diary by profession a clerk; in the diary years his job was Clerk of the Acts of the Navy Board, in which role he kept track of contracts and correspondence and reports having, nearly daily "writing" letters and reports. If not family or personal correspondence or indicated otherwise these were written in shorthand and transcribed into longhand by his clerks.

We know Pepys used shorthand for its ease and efficiency from rare passages like this: "At home, to the office, where late spending all the evening upon entering in long hand our late passages with Carcasse for memory sake."

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Sir W. Coventry did write to me this morning to recommend him another [to replace Philip Loyd, the clerk he has just sacked]; which I could find in my heart to do W. Hewer for his good; but do believe he will not part with me, nor have I any mind to let him go ....He insists upon an unmarried man, that can write well, and hath French enough to transcribe it only from a copy, and may write shorthand, if it may be."

This passage indicates writing shorthand was a prized but not uncommon skill among clerks and others in Pepys's milieu: Sir Isaac Newton, the Clerk of the Acts and Will Hewer wrote and transcribed using Thomas Shelton's Tachygraphy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tho…...
A century on US-President Thomas Jefferson also used it.

Third Reading

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.