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The Pitman Plaque

Pitman Plaque

Found in Wotton

I was cycling through the backstreets of Wotton under Edge for my lockdown cycle ride and came across this plaque on the side of a house.

“Pitman invented his system of shorthand know as Phonography here”

I can remember well my sisters learning shorthand at college and I would assume that many people in Stinchcombe remember learning as well. But who uses it now? Does anyone still learn it? Does anyone under 30 know what it is?

First, what is Pitman?

It’s fair to say that Pitman shorthand was the first widely used method of shorthand. Invented by Sir Isaac Pitman, himself a fascinating character, It is a system of writing just using symbols using symbols to represent sounds. This allowed a much greater speed of writing.

Pitman Sample
From the 1897 book Eclectic Shorthand by Cross. Scanned by Marlow4 and placed in public domain. It shows shorthand method of Isaac Pitman Cropped

So, does anyone use Pitman now?

Good question. A quick search of the Internet says that according to the BBC website and the article “Is the art of shorthand dying?“, Pitman, or at least one of its newer variations, is alive and well. It is still used by journalists and court recorders. Well it was in 2016.

Comments and Retrospective Reminiscences are welcome for this article in the comments section of this post on the website. Look forward to reading them.

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  • Reminds me of when I worked at BAC in Filton in the late 70’s during summer vacations. There were two comptometrists that I had to ask to check my calculations. I doubt anyone under 60 would know what a comptometrist is! According to one article I read there were 16 individuals who had comptometrist in their job title on LinkedIn out of 500 million users in 2017. I visited IBM’s HQ in the US in 2012 and there was a comptometer in their museum, made me feel a bit old!

  • It is well known that Sir Isaac Pitman invented his system of phonography/shorthand at Wotton-under-Edge and his name gave rise to places in the Town such as Pitman Place. Pitman’s Shorthand has been part of my life for the last 60 years and has played a major part in my career. I first started learning it at School well before taking any other exams, along with touch typing on very old Imperial typewriters where our hands were covered with a handkerchief and we typed in time to music! In those days we took Pitman Exams followed by RSA. One of my Ancestors also used it and I have his Manuals going back to the 1800s. Anyone who could take shorthand was well sought after in London and paid extortionate wages (but not me!! – I stayed and worked locally). It did become out of fashion at one time but I believe it’s now making a comeback. At my first Secretarial job there was a whole Department allocated to the Comptometrists, sadly another skill which has died. Thank you Richard for printing a section in shorthand – for those who can’t read it, it’s The Lord’s Prayer.

    • I didn’t know that! Fancy that “The Lord’s Prayer”. Just shows that you never know what something actually says…takes me back to “The Fire Storm” episode of the Waltons, where John Boy stopped the townspeople from burning German Books because of hatred and made someone in the mob actually read the book they were burning….It was the Bible! That episode made a great impression on me…

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