Monday, December 27, 2021

Something About Dickensian Shorthand

Hard times with handwriting.

Every once in a while I wish there were lost Bellairs stories out there. How much fun would it be if there were - and in plain sight? This passed by the desk this week:
Charles Dickens is famous for his iconic characters, gripping plots, and outspoken critique of Victorian society. But did you know that there are Dickens texts that have never been read? A letter on blue notepaper, stories dictated to a shorthand pupil, and a memo from Dickens to his publisher, all written in shorthand and waiting for someone to decode them. So far, no one has succeeded.

This is because of Dickens himself. He learned a difficult shorthand system called Brachygraphy and wrote about the experience in his semi-autobiographical novel, David Copperfield, calling it a ‘savage stenographic mystery’. Dickens used shorthand throughout his life but while he was using the system, he was also changing it. So the hooks, lines, circles and squiggles on the page are very hard to decipher.
The Dickens Code Project is hosting a prize of £300 for the full or partial decipherment of a shorthand letter presumed to have been written by Charles Dickens. The letter, held by the Morgan Library and  Museum, is written entirely in shorthand characters. It has never previously been decoded.  The only catch?  The deadline is December 31, 2021.

Better get reading.

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