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VMs: Peering into the Stenographic Dark Ages...

Hi Jeff,

At 22:36 07/11/2003 +0000, Jeff wrote:
All tests I ran against English, French, Latin etc seemed to fair badly. It was only when I used Italian text from 1550 that I started to get promising results. Though these are still not 100% conclusive they are nearer than anything else. If Nick is right about the VMS being in a short hand I feel that my results may be wrong in many respects. Unless of course the structure of the underlying Italian is not destroyed during the production of the shorthand.

Don't worry too much - I don't think anyone has really properly thought through all the implications arising from what a lost Italian shorthand put through a verbose cipher might look like... certainly, I I haven't yet. :-) But all this is just one of my many theories, & I would still be delighted if you were to break it from a completely different angle. ;-)

It would be interesting to obtain a sample of the shorthand of the period in text form to make comparisons with the plain text Italian. Anyone got any handy? :~)

If I knew of any, I'd have scanned them and posted them already... but I don't, so haven't. :-(

All these centuries later, there are probably only four likely sources for shorthand produced during these 1350-1588 Stenographic Dark Ages:-
(1) Collections of shorthands by later authors on the history of shorthand
- GC and I have both looked for these without any notable success.
- FWIW, Pitman mentions Radcliff's abbreviatory system, but that's it.
(2) Marginalia added to existing manuscripts
- The few world authorities on marginalia haven't returned my emails. :-(
- Even if they eventually do, I still don't hold out a lot of hope here. :-(
(3) Scrape-marks on the wooden backs of wax tablets
- Can the back surface of a wax tablet be scanned (with infrared, etc)?
- Even so, it would require approaching a lot of European museums
- Even so, no guarantee of any significant results
(4) Shorthands misclassified as unbroken ciphers
- Unfortunately, extremely few early ciphered documents still exist. :-(
- All the same, this is probably the best option for finding these lost shorthands?

Does anyone have any better suggestions?

Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....

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