Shorthand Crosses the Atlantic: An Overview and Preliminary Census of Shorthand Manuscripts in Early American Archives
early modern history
Book and Paper
Literature in English, North America
Forms of short and fast writing have existed since antiquity, but interest in them rapidly took off during the early modern period. Dozens of different manuals and methods appeared, all promising to teach the trendiest manuscript technologies of the day. Despite the widespread early modern interest in stenography and ciphers, relatively little research has been conducted on these scribal arts. Some scholars have focused on the famed diary of Samuel Pepys, but few have considered the scores of early modern journalists, ministers, students, diplomats, and merchants, among many others, who also actively employed fast writing in their daily lives. This article provides a historical overview of early modern shorthand, as well as an original bibliographic account of shorthand's presence and prevalence in colonial American archives.