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Pen, print and communication in the eighteenth century$
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Caroline Archer-Parré and Malcolm Dick

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789622300

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789622300.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 27 June 2022

‘The most beautiful hand’

‘The most beautiful hand’

John Byrom and the Aesthetics of Shorthand

(p.59) 4 ‘The most beautiful hand’
Pen, print and communication in the eighteenth century

Timothy Underhill

Liverpool University Press

Shorthand is a significant area in early modern palaeography, with systems widespread in the eighteenth century. Some aspired to a place in the gamut of hands taught by writing-masters at a time when multi-script literacy was a necessary accomplishment for many. John Byrom’s ‘Universal English Short-hand’ was one of the most important prior to Isaac Pitman’s. In contrast with those of rivals such as James Weston, Byrom promoted it to potential learners and patrons as a way of writing ‘in the most … beautiful Manner’. In considering some of its manifold uses by his pupils –effectively a scribal community before its publication in 1767 – this chapter focuses on Byrom’s concern for how shorthand looked on the page. This arose from his near lifelong ambition to print in shorthand – a project which at one stage involved William Caslon – and the chapter sketches some reasons why this ambition was thwarted.

Keywords:   James Weston, John Byrom, palaeography, scribal community, shorthand, William Caslon, writing-masters

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