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Would our common writing be more easily acquired, or its execution in any way facilitated, by increasing the number of letters in the English alphabet ? Would arithmetic be improved by the introduction of arbitrary marks to represent the numbers 11, 12, 13, and so on to 100 or 1000 ? Would the art of printing be rendered more simple, easy, and expeditious, by the construction and use, of leaden syllables, words, and sentences, instead of the letters of which they are composed ?
Till these questions can be answered in the affirmative, the following theory will be found, with practice, amply sufficient for the purposes proposed, and without practice the efforts of human invention will prove abortive.
To convey a more just idea of the present state of the art, it is necessary to return to its former character and merits. This recapitulation will account for its long neglect, and enable us to appreciate more fully the triumph of modern improvement over the attempts of former times; while it will furnish a reasonable ground of hope, that a general standard of stenography may yet be established, notwithstanding numerous efforts have proved abortive.
Short-hand formerly consisted in the use of almost innumerable hieroglyphics and arbitrary characters, which could only be learned with much time and labour, and when learned could not be retained without continual practice. This was tolerable, only while words were few, and the cultivation of the human mind in its infancy. For however numerous these characters, the advancement of arts, sciences, and general knowledge, rendered their continual multiplication necessary to the representation of new words and ideas; nor could such a system, by the constant aid of human invention, even approximate perfection, while resting
on this false foundation. Every appendage to the already overgrown structure, only served to make it more unwieldy, and to hasten the downfall of the whole fabric; for the characters were some of them so seldom used, that the utmost powers of human memory could scarcely retain them, and if at all recalled by memory, it was not with sufficient facility to answer the end for which they were intended.
We have thus far traced the subject as an art merely, without beholding one beauty, or one solitary feature, to claim our admiration; but we will now proceed, by the light of reason, philosophy, and experience, to unfold some of its beauties as a science as well as an art.
We are all aware, that ten simple figures, or the nine digits and cipher, have been found sufficient for all the purposes of numerical calculation. We also understand, that these ten figures are now used for nearly the same object, by every civilized nation on earth. We likewise know, that seven notes comprise the whole of written music, and that by a proper arrangement of these few notes, may be intelligibly represented all the varieties of harmony. It is also known, that, by means of these few simple, but acknowledged signs, this music is transmitted from individual to individual, and from nation to nation, requiring little interpretation but that afforded by the visible signs themselves. And though individuals are antipodes, totally ignorant of each other's language, and discordant in all their other feelings, habits, and views, yet, in the signification and use of these musical signs, they have not only a perfect understanding, but thereby hold communion, at the distance of thousands of miles, and, as it were, reciprocally drink, from the same fountain, the rich melody of borrowed sounds with which the ear and heart had never before been greeted.
It is also evident, that, notwithstanding the infinite number of combinations produced by the organs of speech, through the varied modifications of the human voice, the whole may be resolved into a few simple sounds. Hence the practicability of assigning to each distinct sound, a particular representative, which shall be understood like arithmetical figures, or musical signs, by all people, and at all times, without regard to the language in which they are employed.
As a proof of this position, to a most satisfactory extent, let us look to the 26 letters of our common English alphabet. We all know, that with these few signs may be recorded the language of a thousand tongues for a thousand ages: nor would the object be at all facilitated were the signs 26 hundred, or as many thousands, though the modes of expression are be gond all human computation.
It is also a fact of notoriety and philosophie interest, that our alphabetic signs are now employed is common by the inhabitants of England, France, Spain, Italy, and many other countries.
By these facts we see that, the powers of arithmetical figures, musical signs, and alphabetic letters, are alike unlimited, in the extent of their application. Having established this important fact respecting the use of visible signs, we may with propriety approach the subject in question.
The system of short-hand which is about to claim our attention, is not, as some have erroneously imagined, an arbitrary art, necessarily confined to the indefatigable reporter of speeches—it is in fact a science as well as an art; and as such, claims a degree of attention even from those who may never employ it as an art.
As a science, adapted to the powers and faculties of
he human voice and human ear, the leading organs employed for the transmission of thought, it traces the Jarious modes which have been pursued, and, in conformity with the dictates of experience, determines upon the use of alphabetic characters, for the purpose of swift writing, instead of arbitrary signs for words, sentences, or ideas.
In the next place, it furnishes rules, which, if reduced to practice, will enable us to record language with the least possible time, labour, and space, compatible with legibility.
It shows the common alphabet to be totally at variance with the primary object of short-hand, which is despatch—that several of the letters are superfluous, and none of them well chosen, as they contain unnecessary crooks and curves, which tend to perplex and embarrass the learner, while they require time and space, to the sacrifice of ease and facility.
In this system, the alphabet consists of twenty characters, which are extremely simple, easily made, and readily combined, without loss of time, labour, space, or legibility. They are employed Ist. To represent, individually, certain words, which are known to occur very frequently. 2d. As letters, or representatives of sounds, to be joined together in writing all words not denoted by individual characters. 3d. For some of the most frequent prefixes; and 4th. For the most frequent terminations of words.
There is in this system, a symmetry not only in the adaptation of the visible signs to each other, so as to insure the greatest brevity, perspicuity, simplicity, and beauty—but the elementary rules harmonize with each other and the whole, according to fixed scientific principles.
It was thought an important object by the author, to
condense the theory and instructions, into a convenient and cheap form for individuals and schools, and to illustrate and exemplify the whole by rules and engravings, so as to place it within the reach of those who cannot attend a regular course of personal instructions.
The work passed with unparalleled success through seven large editions, and was then presented to the public in a stereotype impression, with a number of corrections and improvements, and seventeen new copperplate engravings. Several editions from the stereotype having been sold, it is now issued in a larger form and type. And although the theory remains nearly the same, it is believed that the arrangement and general
accuracy of this edition, will be found valuable improve| ments to those who seek a knowledge of short-hand through the book alone.
It is therefore earnestly recommended to the attention of parents, and particularly to teachers, who may, at a very trifling expense, acquire the theory from the book, and communicate it to their schools.
The learner should not be discouraged, though he be not able at once to record the entire language of a fluent speaker: nor should he hence infer, that the system is incomplete, or the art unattainable,—for with the same propriety might the young reader condemn and abandon the use of the common alphabet, because he cannot at once read elegantly—the musician his notes, or the tyro in mathematics his elements of Euclid - let him persevere in practice, and he will soon attain the object of pursuit.
To turn this necessary practice to the best possible account, he should record in a common place book from day to day, such facts, and other items of information, as may be considered immediately interesting, or wor thy of future perusal-his notes should be read while