Guide to the Research Collections



The shorthand collection is one of the outstanding collections of the Research Libraries, with strong historical coverage from the earliest period to 1940.4 Approximately 8,600 entries covering the subject are listed in the Public Catalog. The collecting policy is comprehensive for historical works but representative for current items, the intention being to provide examples of the latest publications on the established systems, and to include coverage of new systems and developments in the field.

Although a considerable amount of shorthand material was included in the Ford collection (received in 1899), the subject first became of real importance in the library when the National Shorthand Reporters' Association deposited the Charles Currier Beale collection, together with its own library, in 1912. Beale's interest lay principally in the history of English systems. As a result, his collection emphasized works in the English language, and was particularly strong in the textbooks of John Byrom and Benn Pitman. Beale also acquired many curious little books written in shorthand, and he made notable collections of shorthand journals and reports of trials and debates. His interest in manuscripts centered on Phinehas Bailey. The National Shorthand Reporters' Association collection is particularly strong in periodicals and shorthand society publications. It contains some early English and American titles, and makes a larger contribution in textbooks relating to the principal European systems.

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In 1913 a bronze tablet in honor of Sir Isaac Pitman was placed in the Public Catalog Room of the Central Building by the Isaac Pitman Shorthand Writers' Association of New York, "to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Sir Isaac Pitman and in recognition of the important collection of shorthand literature in the New York Public Library." At that time the association and Clarence A. Pitman presented collections of Pitmanic works to the library.

In the early 1920s John R. Gregg, personally and through the Gregg Writer and the Gregg Publishing Company, initiated the presentation of important gifts of material, including publications on the Gregg system, various American and foreign periodicals, and works on other systems of shorthand. Dr. Gregg checked the holdings of the library and generously supplied from his own library important works not present. Gifts from the Gregg Company and Gregg's widow continued through the 1940s.

With the cooperation of the National Shorthand Reporters' Association, five other notable American collections were acquired by gift and purchase. The David O'Keefe collection of general works, valuable for the addition of many representative works on American systems, came to the library in 1923. The Jerome B. Howard collection, acquired in 1924, was believed by its owner to be the largest collection of English shorthand works in the world. Its rarities are predominantly of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The collection also includes most of the important histories and literary works about shorthand. The Norman P. Heffley collection, acquired in 1925, included European, and particularly German, systems and literature. As Heffley was one of the first American collectors in the field, he was able to secure representative works of considerable diversity. The Julius E. Rockwell collection, acquired in 1927, was notable for its rarities. Rockwell collected particular distinctive, curious, or rare titles, rather than systematic series of editions; these include textbooks, Bibles, Testaments, and prayer books in the various systems of shorthand. William D. Bridge's collection, which was acquired in 1928, contained many of the representative works of earlier English systems but was richest in Pitmanic titles. A large portion of the works published by Isaac Pitman from 1837 onward is included, together with strong holdings of the works of Andrews and Boyle and other early exponents of the system in the United States.

In 1937, John J. Healy gave the collection of manuscripts described below.


Books and Periodicals

The collection is strongest from the earliest period to 1940. Both general periodicals and those dealing with particular systems, together with the publications of shorthand, stenographic, and reporting organizations, are held in strength. The present collecting policy calls for a representative selection of current materials: eight periodical titles on shorthand are received at present from the United States, England, France, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.

Among the systems, the English and American are more fully represented than the European. The early English representation is very rich, lacking few works, with sets of editions of most of the systems virtually complete. This is equally true for American systems; as these are for the most part reprints and adaptations of English systems, they are less important from the point of view of shorthand history. The catalog adopts the conventional date of 1837, which marks the adoption of Pitman's "Phonography," for the beginning of "modern" shorthand. The representation of both Pitman styles (the English Isaac, and the American Benn) is very full, as is that of the numerous reprints and adaptations. Holdings related to the Gregg system are rich in both historical and contemporary works. An interesting feature of the collection is the manuals of systems, both old and modern, which had little or only local vogue.

Works in shorthand, particularly Bibles, constitute a strong collection. More curious than useful to the student of shorthand are such works as those in Chinook Jargon, an adaptation of the Duployan to this American Indian dialect.

As shorthand is not a subject in which most college and university libraries are interested, the Research Libraries have assumed a continuing collecting interest in the field. There is a heavy reliance upon gifts to maintain the collections of contemporary textbooks and other material.


In 1937 the library received from John J. Healy, of Buffalo, New York, the correspondence and documents of the Standardization Committee of the National Shorthand Reporters' Association -an accrual of opinion and knowledge, based on experience, which was published in the committee's The Reporters' Phrasebook of Standardized Shorthand [Pitmanic] (1934). In addition to the large file of committee correspondence, the collection contains several copies of the dummy used in the final shaping of the shorthand symbols, a large number of clipped magazine articles by members and others prominent in the reporting profession, and other materials relative to this important work. The correspondence has been arranged by Arthur R. Bailey to present in logical form the progress of the movement. A continued attempt is made to collect both original and printed materials covering the standardization from its inception in 1909.

Other manuscripts are, for the most part, related to the English and American systems: many came with the Beale collection described above. A gift from the Gregg Publishing Company of New York City in 1938 included 40 packages of company papers from about 1910 to 1938. Associated with this gift is a purchase of 25 letters written by John Robert Gregg during the period 1924 to 1946. Representative of the other noted system of shorthand, the Manuscripts and Archives Division has the diary in Pitman shorthand of Frederick Pitman, covering roughly the period from 1845 to 1884. Additional materials consist of manuscript shorthand transcriptions of the New Testament, the Book of Common Prayer, etc., in various systems dating from the sixteenth through the early nineteenth centuries. A series of sermons in shorthand transcriptions include some by the Rev. Phinehas Bailey which date from the early nineteenth century. There are also transcripts of court proceedings,5 autographs of noted shorthand

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writers, manuscripts of books written on shorthand, and many other items. A separate card file, which is not reproduced in the published catalog of the division, records manuscript holdings- in this field.