A History of Shorthand, Written in Shorthand

by Isaac Pitman

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Isaac Pitman (1813-1897) lived a fascinating and varied life. He was born in England, and earned his teaching credential from the British and Foreign School Society. He began teaching in Lincolnshire. After marrying in 1835, he started his own school in Gloucestershire, where he taught for a few years before moving to Bath and starting another school there in 1839. More so than teaching perhaps, Pitman was interested in language, transmission and the printed word. He stopped teaching in 1843 in order to run his printing and binding business. As part of his business’ outputs, he published his own works which forwarded the argument for standardized spelling, including Phonotypy in 1844. Previous to this, he published Sound-Hand, a book on a system of phonetically based shorthand. He began a distance learning course, arguably the first of its kind, where he would work with students on their shorthand through the mail, sending work and critiques to each student. His work was very well received; so much so that by 1886, a million copies of his work, The Phonographic Teacher, were sold. Pitman credited his ability to carry on so many pursuits to his adoption of a vegetarian diet and abstinence from alcohol. He was also devoutly a follower of Swedenborgianism. For all his activity, in 1894, he was knighted by Queen Victoria.

History of Shorthand is written in shorthand, but the back of the book offers a basic look at the language, and transcribing the book provides and opportunity to learn the writing method.