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Under this complication of embarrassments, the subject has hitherto received but little attention in the United States. 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.
It is a fact, that very few persons are aware of the simplicity and practicability of this art; and there are fewer still, who know any thing of the facility with which it may be acquired, otherwise it would soon emerge from its obscurity, to assume its rank in the constellation of human improvements.
To convey a more just idea of the present state of this art, it is necessary to go into a brief review of its former character and merits. This recapitulation will prepare us not only to account for the long neglect of the subject, but to appreciate more fully, the triumph of modern improvement over the rude attempts of former times, whilst it furnishes a reasonable ground of hope, that a general standard of stenography may yet be established, notwithstanding the numerous attempts which have hitherto proved abortive.
Short-hand formerly consisted in the use of almost innumerable hieroglyphics and arbitrary characters, which could not be learned without 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 and sciences, rendered their multiplication necessary to the representation of new words and ideas; nor could such a system, by the constant aid of human invention, ever approximate perfection, while resting as it did, on this false foundation. Every appendage to the already overgrown structure, only served to make it more unwieldly, and to hasten the downfall of the whole fabric; as the characters were some of them so seldom used, that the utmost powers of human memory could scarcely retain them, and if recalled by memory, they could not be made with sufficient facility to answer the great end for
which they were originally intended. At the same time, the expense and labor of acquiring the art, must have ever confined it to a limited number--while the necessary introduction of new marks, completely unfitted it for correspondence, and the mutual perusal of even that limited number, or of any other, than the identical writers themselves.
We have thus far traced the subject of short-hand wri. ting simply as an art, without beholding one beauty, or one solitary feature which can justly claim our admiration, or fairly escape our disapprobation and contempt. But we will now proceed, by the light of reason, philosophy and experience, to unfold some of its beauties as a science and 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 like. wise 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 no other interpretation than that afforded by the visible signs themselves. And though individuals may be antipodes upon this earth, and totally ignorant of each others 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 can hold communion, at the distance of thousands of miles, and drink as it were from the same sublime fountain, the rich melody of borrowed sounds with which their ear and heart had never before been greeted.
It is also evident, from the confined and limited nature of our vocal organs, that very few simple sounds are distinctly and audibly uttered, in the pronunciation of any language, notwithstanding the infinite number of combinations, which are known to be produced by the organs
of speech, through the medium of the human voice. Hence the practicability of assigning to each distinct sound a particular representative, which shall be as readily understood as arithmetical figures, or musical signs, by all people, and at all times, without regard to the language in which they may be 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 by increasing the signs to 26 hundreds, or as many thou. sands, although the modes of expression which may be produced, by the use of 40,000 words, is beyond all human computation.
It is also a fact of notoriety and philosophic interest, that our alphabetic signs are now enjoyed in common, by the inhabitants of England, France, Spain, Italy, &c. &c.
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 to the purposes intended. 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 re. porter of speeches it is in fact a science as well as an art; and as such, it claims degree of attention from even those who may never employ it as an art.
As a science, it views the powers and faculties of the human voice and human ear, the leading organs of communication, or medium of spoken language-it traces the various modes which have been pursued for preserving and transmitting words and ideas through a written language, as presented to the eye by the means of acknowledged visible signs, for the letters of which syllables, words and sentences are composed—and, in conformity with the dictates of philosophy, experience and common sense, it determines upon the use of alphabetic charac
ters, for the purpose of swift writing, and not upon the employment of numerous arbitrary signs for words, sentences or ideas.
In the next place, it procceds to lay down rules, which if reduced to practice, will enable us to record language with the least possible time, labour and space, which may be found 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 entirely superfluous, and none of them well chosen, as they contain unnecessary crooks and curves, which tend only to perplex and embarrass the learner, while they occupy time and space, to the sacrifice of ease and facility.
In this system, the alphabet consists of twenty letters, instead of twenty six. These characters are extremely simple, easily made, and readily combined with each other without loss of time, labour, space or legibility. They are employed 1st. To represent in their individual capacity 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.
It has also been considered an object worthy of attention, that there should be not only a symmetry in the adaptation of these visible signs to each other, so as to insure the greatest brevity, perspicuity, simplicity and beauty; but, that the elementary rules should themselves harmonize with each other, according to fixed scientific principles.
It has been thought an important object also, 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.
This work has passed with unparalleled success through six large editions, and is now presented to the public in a seventh, with a number of corrections and improve
ments, and seventeen new copper-plate engravings. And although the theory remains nearly the same, it is believed that the superior arrangement, and general accuracy of this edition, will be found valuable improvements by those who seek a knowledge of short-hand through the book alone.
It is therefore earnestly recommended to the attention of teachers, who may, at a very trifling expense, acquire the theory from the book, and communicate it to their schools.
It is a source of no small gratification to the author of this work, that his past labours have been so extensively patronized. He has the satisfaction to know, that his system is now used in the Pulpit, at the Bar, and in the Legislative Hall, by many gentlemen who do honour to their respective professions—that it is introduced into numerous Academies and Colleges throughout the United States, and that its practice, serves to enrich the common-place-book of thousands, who would not descend to the drudgery of writing by long hand in hours, what they now record in minutes by short-hand.
Although the value of short-hand can never be duly appreciated, except by those who have acquired it, still they must be wilfully blind who will not acknowledge its utility, as a labour and time saving art; especially when the time necessary to its acquisition is reduced to a few hours, and the expense brought within the ability of all. It is not however to be supposed, that every individual who acquires a knowledge of the theory of short-hand, will be able to report the language of the most rapid speaker. Nor is there one in ten thousand, who will ever be called to the station of a Gurney, or a Gales, still, most persons may find it pleasant and convenient, to write two, three or four times as fast as they are enabled to, by the common method. And such degrees of facility may be easily obtained, in the course of a few hours or days.
With these introductory remarks, this seventh edition is submitted to the American public, By their humble servant,
MARCUS T. C. GOULD. Philadelphia, May 18th, 1829.