Thomas Allen Reed.

A biography of Isaac Pitman (inventor of phonography) online

. (page 14 of 14)
Online LibraryThomas Allen ReedA biography of Isaac Pitman (inventor of phonography) → online text (page 14 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

speedily out of print. The proceedings of Wednesday
have since been published separately.


Mr Pitman is now (1890) in his 78th year. Rising
generally between half-past four and five o'clock, he reads
as part of his morning devotion, a portion of Swedeiiborg's
exposition of the Spiritual Sense of the Scriptures, then
walks a mile to his office, and arrives there at six o'clock.
He continues his labors, with brief intervals for breakfast,
lunch and half - an - hour's siesta, until half- past - five.
Sometimes he goes out to an evening meeting or a concert.
He takes a great interest in all the public movements of
the day, especially such as relate to educational and social
advancement, but is too much absorbed in his own special
sphere of labor to take any prominent part in their pro-
motion. He has often been solicited to join the municipal
body ; and a pressing invitation was given to him last
year, in order that the Town Council might oflfer him the
mayoralty. But he has had no ambition in that direc-
tion, and has contented himself with the ])osition of a
private citizen.

Speaking in 1818, in Nottingham, he said, "I am now
35 years of age. My father, an eldest son, is Gl, and is
scarcely past the prime of life ; and his father, who is 81,
gives promise of a few more years in this world. And I
have further to add that when I was seven years of age I
attended my great-grandfather's funeral. I hope, then,
that through the Divine mercy, I may reach the age of 80,
and in the 15 years of this period yet to come I fully expect
to see phonetic printing so far established that a return to
unphonetic spelling will be impossible." As far as age is
concerned he has nearly realised his expectation, and still
possesses an amount of mental and bodily vigor which
gives ample promise of its complete fulfilment. If in re-
gard to phonetic spelling his anticipations have hardly


been fulfilled^ lie has lived to see his ideas adopted by the
greatest philologists of the age, and may look forward with
a well-founded confidence to their general acceptance at no
distant period. As a shorthand inventor it would be
difficult to imagine a more complete triumph than that
which he has achieved, and he still pursues the even tenor
of his way. " Mr Pitman's personal character/' says the
Echo, " almost unique in its modest bearing and endeavor^
the Franklin-like simplicity of his mode of living, with other
cognate traits of character, combine to distinguish him as
one of the most remarkable, as he has been one of the most
useful, men of his generation."




This inemoir would be incomplete without a brief state-
ment of the position at present attained by Mr Pitman's
system of Phonography^ and the extent to which it is
taught and practised throughout the country. The object
for which Isaac Pitman published his little " Stenogra-
phic Soundhand/' namely, that every boy in the land
should have an opportunity of acquiring the art, has been
practically realised. His system of Phonography is to-day
universal in English-speaking countries, and such are the
changed conditions of society, that not only has every
youth a chance of learning shorthand, but he is almost
driven by circumstances to learn it. "The invention of
Phonography," it has becm said, " deserves to rank, and does
rank in the minds of those who know its uses, with the
great inventions of the nineteenth century, along with the
steam engine, the telegraph, the sewing machine, and the
telephone. Not indeed so potent in its influences on the
welfare of humanity as some of these, it is yet unquestion-
ably one of the greatest mental triumphs which are the
principal causes of civilization." To-day, Phonography is
virtually doing the shorthand writing and reporting of the
English-speaking world, and there is no other steno-
graphic system that can approach it in the extent to
which it is taught and used. The last few years, dating
perhaps from the celebration of the Phonographic Jubilee



and the International Shorthand Congress, have witnessed
the most rapid strides in this direction. Lord Rosebery's
opinion as to the absolute necessity of shorthand in the
clerical work of the future has been unhesitatingly accepted,
and the signs of its acceptance are visible on all hands.
Not only is the art extensively taught in the public and
private schools of the country, but in evei-y large town, and
in many of the smaller ones, colleges and schools have been
formed for the express purpose of facilitating its acqui-
sition. From the high-class foundation schools, lite Rugby
and Malvern, to the humble Board School evening classes,
where the teaching is gratuitous, or given at merely
nominal fees, there exists a chain of educational institu-
tions which practically places a knowledge of Phonography
within the reach of everyone who wishes to acquire it.

Under the new Education Code of 1890, shorthand
forms one of the fifteen " Specific Subjects," any two of
which can be taken by the scholars in Standards V., VI.,
VII., in any of the 20,000 Board Schools of Great Britain.
A grant is given of 4s. per head per annum, and the study
is spread over a period of three years. In practice the
time is not so long, as most of the scholars leave before the
completion of the three years. Grants of 2^. per head are
also given in Board School evening classes, which are a
Continuation scheme of Education for scholars who have
left the Board School day classes. The Technical Instruc-
tion Act of 1889 provided for instruction in commercial
subjects, including shorthand, but very few towns availed
themselves of its provisions ; and there was no contribu-
tion from the Imperial Treasury in aid of local effort.
Now, however, grants arc given in addition to the local
sums expended ; and Sheffield, one of the first towns to


avail itself of the provisions of the Act, has included Pho-
nography as a form of instruction required in that district*
Shorthand also Hnds a place as an optional subject in the
Oxford and Cambridge Local Examinations, and though no
specific system is prescribed, nearly all the candidates are
writers of Phonography. The subject, too, is included in
the programme of the Society of Arts, and while the writers
of all systems are admitted to these examinations, Phono-
graphy is specially recommended to the candidates, and
the recommendation is almost universally adopted.

From the most recently compiled statistics it appears
that the number of persons receiving profccsional instruc-
tion in Phonography throughout the kingdom in February,
1890, was 37,767, of whom 34,739 were males. These
stndents were taught in 1,200 colleges, schools, institu-
tions, and private classes, by 875 teachers, 1 1 1 of whom
teach in London. The number being taught for the whole
of the previous year was 44,7''50. These figures do not
include a very large number of persons who receive instruc-
tion gratuitously from the members of the Phonetic Society,
or from private friends, or are self-taught; and who, if
added to the returns, would raise the total to a much
higher figure. A better estimate can be gained of the num-
ber of persons actually learning the system from the fact
that 150,000 copies of the elementary instruction book, the
" Phonographic Teacher," are purchased every year.

An interesting feature in connection with Isaac Pitman's
Phonography is the extent and variety of its literature.
The instruction books and shorthand reading books number
84 ; and including all that have been issued from the com-
mencement, many of which are now out of print, the total
would exceed 150. Among the works printed entirely in


Phonography may be mentioned the " Biblc/^ litho-
graphed four times), " iEsop's Fables/' " Bacon's Essays,"
" Bladders Self-Culture/' the " New Testament " and the
''Book of Common Prayer" in numerous editions, " Paul
Clifford," " Narrative of the Pilgrim's Progress," " Life of
Alexander the Great," the " Church Service," the "Ancient
Mariner," the poetical works of Cowper, " John Halifax,"
the " Pickwick Papers," " A Christmas Carol," " Oliver
Twist," the " Vicar of Wakefield," " Gray's Elegy,"
" Tom Brown's Schooldays," the " Legend of Sleepy Hol-
low," " Rasselas," " Macaulay's Biographies/' " Paradise
Lost," "Waverley," '' Ivanhoe/' " Gulliver's Voyage to
Lilliput," " Thankful Blossom " (Bret Harte), and many
smaller works. Of the ''Phonographic Teacher," one
million three hundred and seventy thousand copies lia\e
been issued. Large numbers of these books go to the
Colonies and to America, and as Mr Pitman has recently
established a branch of his publishing business in New
York (3 East Fourteenth Street), the probability is, that
an increasing number will find their way across the Atlantic.
The periodical literature of the system is also considerable.
There are two weekly shorthand magazines, (the Phonetic
Journal\\di\\n^ a circulation of 23, 000,) and seven monthlies,
the latest addition being a phonographic edition of Tit-Bits,
issued by the publishers of that periodical.

There are 81 Shorthand Associations in the United
Kingdom ; and tluac has recently been established in
London the " National Phonographic Society," intended
to constitute a large central body to promote the culture
of Phonography and to raise the status of its practitioners.

With reference to the professional use of shorthand,
that is, for reporting puqioses, Phonography is practically


the only system in common use. From a census taken not
long since among the principal London and provincial
papers and news agencies, it appears that of 607 journalistic
writers of shorthand 569 (or 93 per cent.) use Phonogra-
phy. In America the system is used by 97 per cent, of
the shorthand writers and reporters, and in Australia by
96 per cent. Among shorthand clerks and amanuenses
Pitman's is almost the only method employed, and its use
is often made a specific condition of employment. The
advantage of a uniformity of method among writers engaged
in a common service is, of course, as obvious as that of a
uniformity of gauge on lines of railway.

The system has now been before the public for fifty-
three years, and it is probably an under-estimate to say
that its practitioners in this country, in America, and in
the Colonics, number half a million. It is not, of course,
suggested that these are, in the ordinary sense of the term,
shorthand writers, but a large proportion of them are earning
their living, wholly or in part, by the use of Mr Pitman's
invention, a competent knowledge of which is one of the
most effectual passports to clerical employment and promo-
tion. Many a young barrister, journalist, and litterateur,
has been indebted to it, not only as a source of income in
his earlier struggles, but as an instrument of training which
has largely contributed to his ultimate success. And on
these material grounds, scarcely less than on the many
others set forth in this volume, the writer claims for his
old friend and venerated chief a not inconspicuous position
amouK the benefactors of mankind.



Or, a Compendious Summary of Changes and Improvements in Piltnati's
Phonography since its Invention to the present time.

By James Singleton.

The First Edition, 1837, differs from the present edition in the fol-
lowing respects,

/ /



r r

A f>;

/, v;

ch, j ; s, z ;

r f r p

s/t, zh (Jown)


«', li'h. tw. dw.

The letters were arranged in «, h^ c order. R had only one sign, the up-
ward stroke ; which, when standing alone, was commenced with a tick i^
•| c I vl

1 1 e, (i, ah ; c I '> '') "' ' I "u.

The straight letters were hooked initially for / and r as at present ;
but the other abhreviatine principles were gradually introduced into
the system, as will appear from what follows.

Second Edition, 1840, was a Penny Plate, published simultaneously
with the introduction of the Penny Post, loth January. In it the
alphabet was changed to the present characters, with the exception
of .^ r, and (.) or ^ /;. There were no consonant signs for w and j.

Compound vowels, | i, \ oi, ^| ow, ^\ u, | wt, and -i| ivou.
l\ we,ivaj',waA ; \] wau>, wo, uilo ; ^\ye,yay,yah; \2 yaw,yd,yod.

Final hooks for /and r, as, J cord, \ part, j pelt, /Vj> resolve.

Initial hooks for / and r added to curved letters, as v_ vl, "^ vr,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14

Online LibraryThomas Allen ReedA biography of Isaac Pitman (inventor of phonography) → online text (page 14 of 14)