Mi'kmaq Shorthand?
By Richard Flavin

Pages from the "Micmac Ms." Mi'kmaq-Récollet script (Mi'kmaq-Récollet  Date Unknown).  Click for larger images.

     Recently, I asked for an interlibrary loan to have a look at Cornell University's "Micmac Manuscript," a 19th century Catholic prayer and service book, handwritten in the Mi'kmaq-Récollet "hieroglyphic" script.  I had originally offered to pay a fee for a couple of photocopies or higher priced scans, but was politely told that the written-in blank lined notebook was too fragile and that I should request the microfilm of The Wabanaki Indian Collection, which includes the "Micmac Ms."  The microfilm took a week to arrive and I spent a couple of enjoyable hours in the BPL's Microtext Department reading and admiring the collection.

     Prof. Frank G. Speck (1881-1950), who initially acquired the Micmac Manuscript for the University of Pennsylvania (see below), wrote about the Mi’kmaq in his ethnology classic, Penobscot Man: "The Micmac, Miʹk‛makik (singular Miʹk‛mα), are well known to the Penobscot, who regard them as large strong people, but poor and inclined to be mean.  The name Miʹk‛mα is evidently, though obscurely, related to the term Mi‛kαmwe’s referring to a class of dwarf-like supernaturally gifted human creatures who inhabit the dense woods.  The connection between these names is brought out more clearly through the Malecite Mi·kʹαm, “Micmac,” or 'Wood Spirit' (Speck 1940)."

Bookmarks used in a prayer and service book (Mi'kmaq-Récollet Prayer Book Date Unknown) and reassembled.
Click for larger images: 1 & 2.

     Later, while studying the several photocopies I had made, I noticed that a set of clippings which had been used at some point as bookmarks in the Mi'kmaq-Récollet book could be reassembled.  After a quick cut and paste, I produced a photocopy collage.  A cursory and initial examination showed modern letters in a Western alphabet expressing words in a Romance language, most likely French.  The marvelous thin lined symbols with flourishes, however, were a mystery to me.  I'd rashly assumed that this was some previously unknown interim form of the Mi'kmaq-Récollet script which had emerged between the 1670s, when the Récollet missionary, Fr. Chrestien Le Clercq, invented the script (claimed to have been based on an existing, though unattested, aboriginal pictographic system), and when printing plates with formalized representations of the script began to be used in the 1860s (Shea 1861, Kauder 1866 & Vetromile 1866).  I soon found out that I was wrong.

Partial signature, French word and two word endings in large print, and out-of-focus small print material

          “Originale” could arguably be Italian or French, as both are well established and common enough, though the unique French endings of the large print words unquestionably defines the language of the printed portion of the original document. The signature with flourishes is partial, though substantial, and is immanently researchable.  I accept the endings of the two large print French words as equally conjectural.  The small print French words, unfortunately, remain beyond my means, as I lack the sufficient digital imagining skills (or software) to enhance the clarity enough to read.  It’s always a little more difficult when you don’t have the proper tool kit.

Handwritten Arab numerals and area measurement.

     The Arab numerals seem written by the same pen as the signature and the rest of the handwritten material, that is to say the thin lined symbols.  “21 X 24" is made up of Arab numerals with an X used as a modern mathematical symbol.  One interpretation could allow X to represent multiplication, an exercise which produces 504, but such a somewhat high number could be almost anything and seems not to indicate further speculation.  Another interpretation, one which allows the X to represent measurement with the numerals applied as centimeters, perhaps defining the blank space of the original document, produces an area of potentially small size.  Smaller, manageable, and with 21 centimeters (or 8.3 inches) being the approximate size of today’s paperbacks, favoring a measured area seems required.  Either interpretation wouldn’t assist with determining if the “21X24" is typed on the original manuscript or printed in a font different from the other printed material.

1929 letter from Prof. F. G. Speck describing the acquisition of the "Micmac Manuscript."

     The provenance of any original document is always of the upmost importance, but the scribe of the Mi’kmaq handwritten book is unknown.  Who or how many used the prayer and service book is also unknown.  Contained in the microtext of The Wabanaki Indian Collection is a 1929 letter from Prof. Francis G. Speck (Pennsylvania, Chair of Anthropology) giving the  Mi'kmaq-Récollet prayer book to the University of Pennsylvania.  Speck was one of Franz Boaz’s first students and is highly regarded for his sensible fieldwork.  The background information provided in the letter is meager and easily misinterpreted.  Mailed from Gloucester, MA could indicate a purchase in New York, Connecticut or Rhode Island in one direction and New Hampshire, Maine or Canada in the other.  Why Speck chose Gloucester might be as mundane as a favored vacation spot, respect for its post office or actually where the Micmac Manuscript was acquired.  The letter uses “samples” which shouldn’t necessarily indicate either other prayer books sent to Pennsylvania or a reference to the thin-lined writing on the bookmarks.  Prof. Speck probably used “samples” to refer to the pages of the prayer book collectively, regardless of their bound state, akin to our usage of the so-called “Royal ‘we’.”

     As Prof. Speck doesn’t specifically refer to the bookmarks in his letter, it would be reckless to guess whether or not the bookmarks became associated with the prayer book a day before the acquisition, a few months or years before, or a few or several decades before.  The Micmac Manuscript came into the possession of the Unversity of Pennsylvania in 1929, passed into the collections of Cornell University at some point, and was preserved on microfilm in Andover, MA after that.        

   Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections         Northeast Document Conservation Center
                   2B  Carl A. Kroch Library                                                               100 Brickstone Square
                   Cornell University                                                                             Andover, MA  01810
                   Ithaca, NY  14853                                                                                                                      

      A colleague, with whom I’d previously shared the images of the prayer book and its bookmarks, has commented: “The resemblance to Pitman Shorthand (created in 1837, but based on an older system patented by John Byrom in 1740) is very strong. I suggest that, if the document is in the Micmac language, it is NOT written in Micmac script, but in shorthand.”  It was a fine suggestion and I credit and thank Donal Buchanan (Editor, Epigraphic Society Occassional Publications) for much of what follows.  

Various shorthand systems presented by Dr. David Diringer (1900-1975) in his The Alphabet (Diringer 1968, 2: 445).

     The descriptive term, ‘shorthand’, is applied to any writing system in which an average practitioner may match the pace of conversational speech with characters, signs or sigla.  Such systems of abbreviation form the basis of stenography (Gk. stenos or narrow + graphos or writing), brachygraphy (short + writing) and tachygraphy (swift + writing).  Arguable evidence exists that early scribes made occasional time-saving choices in writing Sumerian cuneiform (and its later uses in expressing other languages), as well as with Egyptian hieroglyphs, though the hieratic and demotic forms seem to suggest this unbeckoned.  David Diringer (Cambridge, Reader in Semitic Epigraphy) believed that, "Stenography or shorthand, that is to say the script which aims at the maximum speed in transmission of thought, is in a certain sense the last stage of the history of writing (Diringer 1968; 1: 442)."

     There are many popular histories of shorthand (e.g., Guénin 1908; Glatte 1958; Leslie 1964) and of writing, in general, which include mention of shorthand systems (e.g., Daniels 1996).  What follows is not meant to supplant these sources, as this article merely attempts to trace a somewhat twisted line from the earliest shorthand to that used on the Mi’kmaq Ms. bookmarks, and not a full and thorough treatment of the fascinating dead-ends and asides common enough in most industries and disciplines.  Unfortunately, it’s 'shorthand' from Point A to Point B, with an odd detour or two, as I'm unable because of space limitations to address medieval Greek tachygraphy (Allen 1890), Newton and Thomas Shelton's shorthand (Westfall 1963), the “Visible Speech” system by the father of the inventor of the telephone (Bell 1867), and other addenda.  Maybe next time.

Xenophon (c. 430 -355 BCE), the Acropolis Stone (c. 350 BCE), Brit. Mus. Add. Ms. 33270 (3rd to 4th cent. CE).

     Today, most paleographers accept the classical Greek system from the fourth century BCE inscription as discovered on the Athenian Acropolis in 1884 as a posteriori, demonstrably functional and the oldest extant example of shorthand.  The Acropolis Stone inscription uses a geometrical outlined system modified by short lines (Foat 1901).  Xenophon, the Greek soldier and historian who had been, as a youth, a disciple of Socrates, is said to have transcribed an oratory by Socrates with an invented system of writing (Diog. Laërt. ii.48).  Perhaps the Acropolis Stone inscription is an example of Xenophon’s system, but lack of evidence leaves one at the altar with nothing to sacrifice.  Greek shorthand was eventually standardized in the second century BCE and by the fourth century CE had emerged as a viable system, yet  for some Greeks shorthand continued to be avoided and memorization was encouraged (Norman 1960).

Vindolanda Tablet 122 with Latin shorthand, possibly notae Tironianae, c.90-130 CE and modern examples of Tironian notes (inv. c. 63 BCE).

     A Latin shorthand system is known from the mid-first century BCE and usually credited to Tiro, the household slave and personal scribe of  the Roman orator, philosopher and rhetorician, Marcus Tullius Cicero.  Plutarch (Lives 23.3) wrote that a 63 BCE speech by Cato the Younger directed against Catiline was preserved with a system promoted by Cicero, which may have been a method developed over a century before Tiro by Quintus Ennius, said to have been the father of Latin poetry.  Seneca (Apoc. 9.2) attests to the presence of an inept stenographer with the Roman Senate during the “Pumpkinification of Claudius,” but the writing system is not specified and may or may not have been Tironian notes.

     Classical debate aside, the notae Tironianae (Tironian notes) survived into early Frankish times and is attested in Merovingian documents of the seventh century CE.  Our modern Roman-based alphabet was more or less finalized during the Carolingian reign of Charlemagne when the Romano-Celtic scholar and librarian, Alchuine (var. Alcuin; Sax. Alchoin; Eng. Alhwin; Lat. Flaccus Albinus), promulgated the Carolingian miniscule, which is essentially our Unicode lowercase letterforms in use today.

Tironian notes: 9th cent. ms. -et and early '&', transcription, 10th cent. ms., Scottish usage of viz. (c. 1500 1700), and the Irish agus sign.

     Evidence suggests that Tironian notes enjoyed widespread usage until the twelfth century when odd squiggles began to be grouped with secret and occult scripts and were generally discouraged until after the Inquisition ended.  St. Thomas Becket  (Catholic, Archbishop of Canterbury) is said to have encouraged the study of Tironian notes, but his season ended prematurely.  The banning of shorthand by Justinian (527-565) and Frederick II (1194-1250) is regarded by some as paranoia, but was probably motivated by wishes to monopolize and control the usage of the various shorthand systems available.  A direct influence on the Irish adaptation of Insular Minuscule and similar monastic scripts continues to be better understood, as well as the various cipher scripts and codes of medieval church and court espionage.  A Tironian note is still used today as a typographic symbol by the Irish (O. Ir. agus, var. ocus) classified as Unicode Character ‘TIRONIAN SIGN ET’ (U+204A) and is comparable to our '&' or ampersand.  The Tironian -et also survived in our abbreviation, viz., with the ‘v’ and ‘i’ indicating the first two letters of videlicet (L.  contr. videre licet; “it is permitted to see") with a variation of the ‘7' shaped Tironian -et degraded by scrivener (viz. book hand) repetition to a final flourish resembling our ‘z’.  Unlike the agus, they’ll be no unique Unicode character for the ‘z’ in viz., as convention has chosen the 'z' to stand-in for the flourished book hand Tironian -et, but some will still recognize the survival of Latin shorthand.  Okay, maybe not many, but some.

Cipher binary alphabet invented by Sir Francis Bacon (1623), predating Leibniz (1666) and Gore’s “initiative in creating the Internet (Gore 1999).”

     Francis Bacon (Gray's Inn, Reader) has been justly credited for keeping his head and encouraging inductive reasoning, though among his many other accomplishments is sometimes added a notational regard for the paradigm return of shorthand as a viable, expedient and practical system of writing.  Contemporary reports of secretaries and amanuenses in Bacon’s employ who were capable of rapid writing are intriguing, a shorthand system is sometimes mentioned, though it’s unclear as to whether or not this was an invented system by Bacon, another’s system, or simply ...exceptionally rapid writing.  Bacon had experience in ciphers (var. ME ciphre < MFr. cifre < MLat. cifra < Ar. sifr [Heb. sephira] < Sans. lip [“to write”]), published a remarkable binary system (Bacon 1623), but cryptology and codes are not the tools to be used when speed and accuracy are paramount.  A better choice for beginning modern shorthand would be another Englishman just down the lane.

Examples of the Chinese Căo Shū ("grass [swift] writing"), invented during the Han Dynasty, c. 48 BCE.

     Concurrently with the time-saving choices made by Western scribes, Chinese ideographic writing also allowed shorthand systems to develop and gain acceptance, with the mid-1st century BCE Căo Shū (var. tshăo shū) or “grass writing” serving as the basis for other systems to differentiate and expand from.  The existence of Căo Shū in other than a Far-Eastern setting is first mentioned in the famous narrative of the Persian scholar, Al-Razi (865-925), while in Baghdad (Pers./Kur. bagh or God + dad or gift), when describing the passing along of a rare Galen text to a traveling Chinese scholar who transcribed a reading with Căo Shū.  It would appear the technology of writing developed independently, but time-saving choices seem basic and shorthand seems an almost predictable outgrowth of formal writing, as Diringer suggests.  To Diringer's "the alphabet follows religion" model and its allowances for idea diffusion and independent invention, the history of post-Medieval shorthand would indicate that borrowing from (i.e., plagiarizing opportunism) has been practiced extensively. 

Examples of Bright's 1588 system and early usage (Seager 1588).

     While employed as a physician at St. Bartholemew's Hospital, Dr. Timothy Bright (Cambridge; Doctor of Medicine [“Phisicke”]) wrote a book in which he introduced a new system of writing the English language with brevity (Bright 1588).  Foregoing the European standard of horizontal lettering (whether left-to-right, right-to-left or boustrophedon), Dr. Bright adopted the vertical columns of the Chinese Căo Shū for his new writing system.  Bright had previously established himself through his pioneering work on melancholy (Bright 1586) and had been briefly jailed in 1587 for a minor (money?) matter.  Leaving St. Bart’s in 1591, he took holy orders and was rewarded by Queen Elizabeth (his invented character book having been dedicated to her) with a modest living by being appointed a rector, a position he maintained (with various parishes) for the rest of his life.  The Rev. Dr. Bright was also granted a limited license of fifteen years propriety for rights to exclusively use and profit from his new system.  He’s also remembered as an administrative slacker for continuing his practice of medicine on the side, though perhaps this is balanced by his c. 1596 extolling of the health benefits of drinking pure water from a "spaw," which marked the word’s first English usage of spa as a descriptive term and not as the name of a Belgian town (Deane 1626).

     Renowned calligrapher and copyist, Peter Bales (1547-1610?), introduced a new shorthand writing system which substituted a single scribbled letter (or character) for one spoken word (Bales 1590).  Bright’s system had been equally ingenious, but inevitably proved unwieldily without years of study, though Bales bragged that proficiency with his approximately 4000 possible symbols could: "...easily be attained by one moneth's studie, and performance by one moneth's practice."  As if it were ever meant to be anything else, the teaching and study of shorthand had become a means to wield a pen for profit.

The final page of a 1622 Bible written in Willis shorthand and examples of the system of the Rev. John Willis (1575-1627) based on the alphabet.

    Following Bright, the Rev. John Willis (Christ’s College, BA [BD in 1603]) held the position of rector at various parishes in and around London.  While at St. Mary Bothaw of Dowgate Hill, London, Willis anonymously published a book on shorthand (Willis 1602).  Whatever scribal or secretarial work was meant by the French when he appropriated the term, with his radical diversion from the bloated (but brilliant) shorthand systems (ciphers, properly) of Bright and Bales, Willis invented an alphabet-based method of writing which simplified matters greatly.  Again, much like Bright was the first to use ‘spa’ in its current context, Willis is given credit by the Oxford English Dictionary for introducing ‘stenography’ into the English language, and because of a lack of citation for earlier usage (whether medieval or ancient), the implication is that Willis coined the term.  I remain confused at an OED suggestion to compare Willis’ usage with a French reference dating from 1812, rather than simply citing an earlier French work (e.g., Bertin 1792).

     Both Bales and Willis were limited to teaching their respective shorthand systems out of their homes, as Bright’s fifteen year patent was enforceable and any public teaching would have been criminal.  Willis’ shorthand book was reprinted in Latin in 1618 (under his name), the same year that he published Mnemonica, also in Latin (Willis 1618), a work still respected by mnemonicians.  His brother, Edmond Willis, changed some of the characters and achieved a modicum of success with the improvements.  While new shorthand systems began to appear like mushrooms after a soaking rain, the improved Willis system found favor at home (if reprints are any certain indication) and abroad.  Alphabetic shorthand was soon used by others and adaptations were immediate and continuous.

Title page of Méthode pour ecrire aussi vite qu’on parle (Cossard 1651) and Cossard's system.

     Despite bearing a surname which is a colloquial French nickname for an oaf, or a lazy or idle individual, the Abbé Jacques Cossard (Paris, Bachelor of Theology) published respected works on such varied topics as musical history up until the 12th century (Cossard 1631) and how to teach children to read (Cossard 1633), yet is best remembered for introducing the first alphabetic shorthand system in France (Cossard 1651).  The Abbé Cossard’s system followed that of Willis in its minimal number of abc-based sigla and modifiers, remained popular for a respectable amount of time, and was only replaced when French shorthand was improved upon.

Images of John Byrom (1691-1763), his shorthand system, and a 1744 page from Wesley's diary in Byrom shorthand.

     John Byrom, FRS (Trinity College, Fellow) was a poet, founder of two secret societies (Societas Tachygraphica ["Speedwriting Society"] and The Cabala Club), and the inventor of a popular shorthand system.  Byrom was elected a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge in 1714, but resigned a year later after achieving his MA degree and refusing to take holy orders, which probably would have required swearing an oath against the Jacobite movement.  He then spent a period in Montpellier, France studying medicine ("Physic") and through he never completed a formal program, he was often referred to as “Dr. Byrom” by his colleagues.  Some historians believe his time in France was to further the Jacobite cause and suggest that he met with the Old Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart (James III).  Such a meeting could have occurred either before Dec. 22, 1715, when the Old Pretender visited Scotland (too late to assist the failed Sept. 6, 1715 Jacobite uprising), or sometime after Feb. 4, 1716, when he briefly returned to France, before accepting free housing in Rome.  The Jacobite movement caused trouble for Byrom later in life, but he weathered it and stayed alive, something which he was apparently adept at.

         Byrom’s reputation has recently been shaken, not stirred, with the suggestion that he was a lover of Caroline, Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales (later, Her Majesty Queen Caroline of Great Britain and Ireland), and to have sired Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, making a cuckold out of George II (Hancox 1994).  His shorthand system is thought to have been invented between 1719 and 1721, and Byrom was taking on students by the early 1720s.  In 1723, he wrote and privately circulated an overview of his shorthand system (Byrom 1723), which assuredly played a role in his being elected a Fellow of The Royal Society in 1724.  The Society’s most prominent member, Isaac Newton, was proficient in Thomas Shelton’s method in his youth, but made no recorded statement regarding Byrom’s system or any other.

     Charles Wesley, the brother of the founder of Methodism (an evangelical movement within Anglican [Protestant] Christianity), John Wesley, (1703–1791), mastered Byrom’s system and introduced his brother to it.  Both Wesley’s used the system extensively in their personal writings.  Byrom is remembered in Methodist hymnals for his “Christians Awake!

     In 1739, Byrom circulated brief descriptions of his invented system (perhaps a re-issue of his 1723 material) and went on to apply to the House of Commons, prompting George II to grant a 21 year patent on the public teaching of Byrom’s system.  Several years later, a new system was presented and read before The Royal Society, which prompted Byrom to pen a short article on his system (Byrom 1748), the only material on his system formally published during his lifetime, as his primary volume wasn’t printed until a few years after his death (Byrom 1767).  There was undoubtedly money to be made from an efficient shorthand system and even more, one might imagine, if the system was easily learned.

Examples of Samuel Taylor's 1786 system.

     As time passed and other shorthand methods were introduced, few became more than passing fads.   One which had lasting influence was that of Samuel Taylor (1748/9-1811), which improved upon Byrom’s while keeping it simple.  Taylor is known to have traveled through England, Scotland and Ireland from 1781 to 1784 promoting (i.e., selling) his new shorthand system and published soon afterwards (Taylor 1786).  His system enjoyed trans-Atlantic popularity, perhaps because of its brevity and certainly for its lack of enforceable patent claims.  Later, Taylor wrote about his life-long interest in recreational fishing (Taylor 1800), a book which is still discussed among those concerned with using artificial flies to catch pike.

Bertin's 1792 French system modeled after Taylor's.

     Théodore-Pierre Bertin (1751-1819), the son of a French parliamentary lawyer, was employed as a translator in London in 1791, and while there he studied Talyor’s system.  Upon completion, Bertin returned to France and the next year published, with additions and commentary, a French language version of Taylor’s system (Bertin 1792).  Bertin’s adaptation of Taylor’s system (i.e., Taylor-Bertin) is credited with being the first to allow the linking of signs and the saving of time by not having to lift the pen as much.  Hippolyte Prévost (1808-1873) furthered French shorthand by adding several new signs (Prévost 1828).  Bertin went on to make something of a name for himself as an English to French translator of many significant (i.e., popular and uncopyrighted) works.  

[Note: The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB 2004; p. 979) states that in Taylor’s 1786 stenography book he's described as “many years professor, & teacher of the science at Oxford, & the universities of Scotland & Ireland,” and also the work was dedicated to Frederick, Lord North, chancellor of the University of Oxford.  On the title-page of Bertin’s translation of Taylor (Bertin 1792), he credits Taylor with being “Professeur de Sténographie à Oxford et dans les Universités d’Ecosee et d’Irlande.”  Oxford has never had a department specializing in stenography or shorthand and surviving records don’t indicate Taylor as either a student or teacher.  Perhaps he was a lecturer or reader for a term or two and a mistake was made in terminology, but this is hypothetical and it may be that Taylor was overzealous in self-description.  The ODNB also mentions that his obituary (Sun, 2 Sept 1811) reports that “he was an eccentric, secretive man of ‘strange and rough’ manners, who none the less held a high reputation as a teacher.”]

The gravestone of Jacob Pitman (1810-1890), Sir Isaac Pitman (1813-1897), and Benn Pitman (1822-1895).

          Isaac Pitman (Barton-on-Humber, Schoolmaster) queried a publisher in 1837 with a suggestion for a book about Samuel Taylor’s shorthand, but was fortuitously turned down and challenged to develop a system of his own.  Pitman grouped his shorthand sigla based on an associative (read: arbitrary) phonetic classification (Pitman 1837).  Using a small pamphlet of 16 pages (plus two of graphics), Pitman started his own school and eventually offered shorthand as a correspondence course (a first for long-distance learning).  Pitman’s school, Wotton-under-Edge, was necessitated because of his being fired from Barton-on-Humber for his strong Swedenborgian (spiritualist) beliefs.  Jacob Pitman, Isaac’s older brother and likewise a follower of Swedenborg, took his wife and children to Australia in 1838, along with his brother’s new shorthand system.

     The era of store-front stenography began in 1839 with Pitman establishing the Phonetic Institute in Bath.  The next year, now called phonography, Pitman brought out a  greatly expanded and revised version of his shorthand system (Pitman 1840).  With the assistance of his brother, Fred, the phonography system soon had its own society, printing press, journal, newspaper and more store-fronts (e.g. Pitman 1849a; Pitman 1849b; Pitman 1850).

     Yet another brother, Benn Pitman, immigrated to the to the United States in 1852, established a store-front in Cincinnati, began publishing and quickly introduced a shorthand system based on his brother's (Pitman 1855).  Isaac Pitman continued to modify his method and in 1857 completely reworked his vowel scale, a development which wasn’t adapted in the United States for many years.  Benn Pitman established the standard for American court reporting with a series of trial transcripts which included the Abraham Lincoln assassination trial (Pitman 1865) and the Klu Klux Klan trials in South Carolina (Pitman 1871).  As Pitman shorthand usage became widespread, Jacob became a Swedenborgian minister and earned his living as an architect, Benn gave up the store-front stenography business and spent the rest of his days promoting architectural design and woodworking, and Isaac practiced vegetarianism and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1894.  I've no idea what happened to Fred.

Émile Duployé (1833-1912) and an example of his 1864 shorthand method.

     Contemporaneous with the Pitmans, four French brothers also introduced and promoted a new shorthand system based on Samuel Taylor’s.  During his first appointment after graduating from the seminary at Soissons, as vicar and chaplain of the Notre Dame de Liesse collegiate church, the Abbé Émile Duployé (Soissons-Laon, Honorary Canon) contributed the last major improvement in French shorthand before the Gregg system took hold. The Abbés Émile and his brother, Aldoric, together with two other brothers (who weren't clerics), sought to improve upon existing shorthand systems (e.g., Aimé Paris, who followed Prévost), and produced a pamphlet with the basics of several different methods (Duployé 1860).  Unsatisfied with their joint efforts, the abbé then worked independent of his brothers to invent his own system.  He quite the Diocese of Soissons-Laon, relocated to Beaumont-in-Beine and then published a full and complete description of his new shorthand method (Duployé 1864).  Later, he became vicar in Montigny-in-Arrouaise, a post he held for five years, during which time his shorthand system became exceptionally popular.  By 1870, he needed metropolitan Paris to facilitate a better understanding of his system for those so interested.  His superiors accommodated the move by appointing him vicar of St.  Nicolas of the Fields, chaplain of Grand Montrouge, and then chaplain of Montreuil-sous-Bois (OBF 1970; p. 422).

     In Paris, Duployé began publishing an occasional periodical, Le Sténographie (renamed Le Grand sténographe in 1881 and Le Journal des sténographes in 1882).  His system was used extensively in Europe and the Americas, with its earliest and greatest success in such French-speaking regions as Canada (Manseau 1878).   

Jean-Marie Raphaël Le Jeune, OMI (1855-1930), a hymn in Wawa and the first issue of the Kamloops Wawa newspaper.

     Father Jean-Marie Raphaël Le Jeune (Catholic, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate) arrived in British Columbia in 1879 to minister to the poor with a specific focus on the Chinook.  The Chinook (Chelalis Tsinúk) are an indigenous people whose territory centered around the Columbia River basin area of the Pacific coast of North America.  Chinookan, their language family, is comprised of several similar tongues, many of which are now considered extinct on a practical level.  One remnant that does survive, however, is a creole of Chinook Jargon spoken by a few small communities in Oregon.

     Chinook Jargon is an agglutinative trade pidgin with Old Chinook (aka Maritime or Lower Chinook), as the lexifier.  The contact-era Chinook were accomplished traders and had invented a speech based on their own, with loan-words from neighboring peoples (the Nootka, Salish and Kwakiutl) assisting communication and trade.  The new speech formed a pre-pidgin, of sorts.  With the arrival of the Europeans (and, later, Americans), more loan-words were added with French being a major contributor, and a popular trade pidgin emerged which for several decades is said to have been the most widely spoken language along the Pacific coast between Northern California to Alaska (Leechman 1926).

     The Oblate Father Le Jeune was discomforted by the inefficiency of the Roman alphabet at expressing Chinook Jargon.  As he was familiar with shorthand from his seminarian days in France, Le Jeune began to apply the Duployan method in 1890.  Shortly afterwards, he started teaching, writing and publishing in what is now called Kamloops Wawa (Chelalis 'talk' or 'speech').  Writing in 1898, Le Jeune promoted Wawa with: “The shortest way to learn the Chinook is through the Shorthand, and the shortest way to learn the Shorthand is through the Chinook.”

     Fr. Le Jeune and the Chinook wasn’t the only pairing of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and a Canadian Native American people.  At about the same time, the Oblate Father Jean-Pierre Guéguen (1838-1909), published a grammar of the Cree (Guéguen 1889).  Interestingly enough, while Fr. Guéguen was releasing his work, a Canadian stenographer was applying the Duployan method to Native American languages in the land formerly known as Lower Canada (Perrault 1889).

     This article was begun to investigate the bookmarks inserted into the “Micmac Manuscript” and  to identify the shorthand system employed and the language expressed.  As the article progressed, it became neccessary to search for an important Canadian stenographer and the results were fairly immediate and not what I expected.

Example of Perrault-Duployan shorthand, store-front stenography in 1932 Montréal and partial signature of Denis-Romulus Perrault (1861-1934).
      Denis-Romulus Perrault understood the technical and commercial viability and necessity for shorthand and used the Duployan method until he made improvements and began marketing a new system based on the method of the Abbé Duployé (i.e., Perrault-Duployan).  He founded the l'Institut sténographique in Montréal, on the second floor of a Saint-Laurent Blvd. building (see photograph above), from which he provided stenographic services (“Technique Stenographique,” as perhaps printed at the top of the bookmarks and partially preserved), taught shorthand, and published for many years.  The Perrault-Duployan system is still used in Montréal.

Excerpt I
(1)   5 degrés ... [too dark] intégale...
(2)   [éc]rite correctement ...[too dark] ... ceux qui écrivent ...
(3)   diplôme sténographique ...
(4)   prix 50 cents ; le diplôme de premier [degré]
(5)   [au] moins 75 mots à la minute, prix 50 cents
(6)   professionnel, à ceux qui écrivent au moins ...
(7)   ceux qui enseignent les méthodes françaises ...
(8)   aux professionnels religieux 50 cents ...
(9)   de ces diplômes seront envoyés sur ...
(10)  timbre pour la réponse. Adressez les communications ...
(11)  des chroniques sténographiques...
(12)  je n'ai pas encore reçu les 2000 ...
(13)  hebdomadaire samedi...
(14)  correspondante(s). Je parlerai(s) de la ...
(15)  crois que le sujet intéressera les sténographes ...
(16)  point de vue ...
(17)  [française] et anglaise, pour correspondance ...
[De]nis R. Perrault. 
Excerpt II
(1)   ? souvent manifesté(es) par les institutions ...
(2)   superbe diplôme qui sera à nous en sommes sûrs..
(3)   et par les élèves. Elle ne sera donc ? en France ...
(4)   [véri]table chef-d'oeuvre à 21 x 24 pouces ...
(5)   ? riche papier. Elle à un cachet tout à la ...
(6)   et patriotique. En effet, vous figurez ...
(7)   la cathédrale Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur ...
(8)   les monuments de Monseigneur Laval de Chapelin...
(9)   deux bustes surmontent les deux colonnes ...
(10)  notre vénéré maître l'abbé Emile Duployé ...
(11)  sténograpie. L'autre sujet de
(12)  or en Canada, le professeur ...
(13)  or les sciences, l'industrie et le ...
(14)  les drapeaux du Canada, de France ...
(15)  Sacré-Coeur forme(nt) un très joli faisceau ...
(16)  personne. la sténographie et la mécanographie ...
(17)  levé pour le nom du récipiendaire
Translation of Perrault-Duployan shorthand on the bookmarks into French by M. Pollak.

     As mentioned above, Perrault had expressed several Native American languages with Duployan shorthand, and while his La sténographie Duployé adaptée aux langues des sauvages de la Baie d'Hudson, des Postes Moose Factory, de New Post, d'Albany, de Waswanipi & de Mékiskan, Amérique du Nord (Perrault 1889) is preserved in manuscript form at Chicago’s Newberry Library, I’m unsure if his efforts went beyond a very limited (e.g., private) distribution.  When I consulted stenography enthusiasts and experts for help in translating the Perrault-Duployan shorthand, I included in my correspondence a possibility that the shorthand might transcribe easily enough, but if Mi’kmaq was expressed it might not be readily recognized.  A leading alphabetologist had previously replied to a request and made a guess that the bookmarks were clipped from a printed advertisement and had nothing to do with Mi’kmaq.  My request for help from the stenographers was answered with a translation which seems to be an advertisement of sorts, though is directed to Laval University and includes an option for teaching, as well as services and rates.

     As to why a personal sales-pitch from Perrault to Laval University would be clipped into bookmarks and inserted into a Mi’kmaq Catholic service and prayer book must remain a mystery for now.  The question of Mi’kmaq shorthand, however, continues.

Silas Tertius Rand (1810-1889).

     The Rev. Dr. Silas T. Rand (Acadia, Hon. D.D.; Queen’s University, Hon. LL.D.) worked as an anti-Catholic evangelical missionary among the Mi’kmaq for most of his life.  He achieved only a single convert after more than forty years of effort, but his contributions to the preservation of the Mi’kmaq langauge, as well their customs, legends, etc., are widely recognized and appreciated.  With only a short time spent at the Horton Academy studying Greek and Latin as a young man, Rand continued to study languages informally and is said to have become fluent in at least thirteen.

     According to the catalogue of the Esther Clark Wright Archives of Vaughan Memorial Library, Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., several personal diaries contain entries of various lengths written in Pitman shorthand.  In a 1870 diary, he wrote material which was later included in his Legends of the Micmac (Rand 1894).  The brief entry was written in Mi’kmaq, English and Pitman shorthand.  Whether the shorthand expresses a phonetic approximation of the Mi’kmaq language, or is simply Rand using shorthand for speed and the entry expresses English, remains to be demonstrated.  [Note: Canadiana.org, formerly the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions, provides reproductions of several of Rand’s publications.  Click here for more.]

Mi'kmaq, English and Pitman shorthand by S. T. Rand (Diary: Oct. 5, 1870).

     It might be that shorthand was never actually applied to Mi’kmaq.  I could inquire if any modern stenographic equipment is used in any First Nation meetings of related Mi’kmaq peoples, or tribal and court proceedings, but I’ll be gracious and save something for another researcher.


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Many maples were tapped to produce this syrupy (read: thick) article, but several sources deserve notable mention: the online web-sites of Wikipedia, Omniglot, and Suzanne E. McCarthy’s blog,  Abecedaria, as well as the offline collections of the Boston Public Library, Boston College’s Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Library and the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium.   For providing material and answering questions--Cornell University was gracious and I was humbled in the wake of the thoroughness of the Oxford University Archives; my thanks for your time and efforts.  Thomas Gilchrist forwarded my request for help to Mark Pollak and I’m grateful.  Tom’s commitment to community and Mark’s translation of the Perrault assisted this article immensely.  Thank you, sirs.  I’ll credit the “leading alphabetologist” when it’s appropriate. 

Note: Originally the above contained an Addendum, which was subsequently removed and posted online as “Shakespeare and Shorthand.”  Those interested in such matters might find amusement in the short article.  Also, a related piece, "Passing the Texts: From Script to Print" follows writing from its earliest times to the invention of printing.

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