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between the 16th and 18th centuries, was just; but when applied to the more improved systems of a later date, it is grossly illiberal and unjust. Still the prejudices, excited previous to the publication of those scientific principles which now characterize the art, are unjustly kept up, by those who are more ready to condemn what they do not understand, than to acknowledge their ignorance of a subject with which others are familiar.
Under this complication of embarrassments, the subject received, comparatively, little attention in the United States, till within the last few years. But when the unparalleled advancement, and almost universal extension of other improvements are taken into consideration, there is reason to believe, that the merits of modern short-hand will not be long overlooked.
Few persons are aware of the simplicity and practi. cability of the art, and fewer of the facility with which it may be acquired; otherwise it would soon emerge from obscurity, and assume its rank in the constellation of modern improvements.
The great object is, to commit words to paper with the least possible time and labour; but by a strange infatuation, surpassing that of the most visionary alchymists in search of the philosopher's stone, a thousand efforts have been made to draw from the regions of fancy some fine-spun theory, by which with crooked marks, to record the language of a public speaker, as
fast as delivered, without the aid of previous practice. - This has served to bewilder and misguide; for short
hand is found to depend, not upon a formidable array of marshalled hieroglyphics, but upon the active maneuvring of a few select signs. Such signs have been selected, and their various powers distinctly defined in the following pages; and future experience will prove,
that no system of stenography can be extensively useful, upon any other principle, than that of having at command these simple but significant marks, as in arithmetic, music, common writing, &c.
The author of this work, having perused about forty publications upon the subject, and having devoted much iime and labour in the popular field of innovation and visionary reform, as well as in reporting some thousands of pages, was at length compelled, by his own experience, to settle down in the belief, that even in shorthand, a right line is the shortest distance between two given points; and that, to pass from one point to another, there is no way more direct than that which passes through the intermediate space.
The inference from this conviction was, that in theorizing, too much had been anticipated, and too much done ; and that greater advantages would result from clearing away the rubbish, defining, and adhering to a few rational and permanent landmarks, than from erecting any new superstructure, upon the discordant ruins of systems which had already crumbled beneath the weight of their own unnecessary lumber.
It is therefore the aim of this work, to adapt the subject to the age in which we live; to lay aside every thing unnecessary, and to express in few words all that is necessary for a general system of short-hand. In doing this, the design and method of illustration are entirely new; and some trifling attempts have been made, under the sanction of reading and experience, to improve the theory of the art; but while the merits of these efforts may be appreciated by few, there are hundreds who will think all systems incomplete, which do not present a great assemblage of arbitrary characters, and vexatious grammar rules. Let such persons answer the following questions,
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 necessàry 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 under. stand, 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 philosophic interest, that our alphabetic signs are now employed in common by the inhabitants of England, France, Spain, Italy, and many other countries.
By these facts we see that, the powers of arithmeti. cal 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