Curator Pick: Favorite Item from the Alice 150 Exhibit

Shorthand1My favorite item from the Alice 150 exhibit is a small, bright yellow booklet – a transliteration of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland into Pitman shorthand. This version of Alice was printed in 1965 and is written in New Era Pitman, a style of shorthand soon to go out of fashion with the introduction of the “shorterhand” Pitman 2000 in 1975.

Pitman shorthand utilizes a set of symbols that represent phonetic sounds. These sounds are then strung together to create a words, phrases, and punctuation. Reading shorthand is sort of like playing the game Mad Gab, but a LOT harder.

Let me clarify that I do not know how to read shorthand. It does, however, have a very distinct visual appearance that I recognized instantly when I saw this version of Alice. I’d seen this strange language before.

Back in 2014, we digitized a few Brooke Family letters from Special Collections that contained mysterious notes written in shorthand.

We harnessed the power of the internet via Twitter and Tumblr to try and translate them, but so far haven’t been able to read the notes. They remain an archival mystery…

I’m hoping to teach myself stenography one day. Perhaps I’ll start with Chapter Five, Advice From a Caterpillar:


Visit the Alice 150 and Counting exhibit in Hornbake Library to view more curious versions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, or explore our online exhibit.

Audrey Lengel is an intern for Hornbake Library’s ‘Alice 150 Years and Counting…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll’ exhibit. She is graduating this December with her Master of Library Science from UMD’s iSchool and is interested in library outreach. Prior to attending the University of Maryland, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and Public Advocacy from Temple University.

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