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Shorthand Bible baffles buyer

25 October 2019

GRAEME PATFIELD

AN UNUSUAL version of the King James Bible has surfaced in a West Sussex secondhand bookshop. The 800-page volume is written entirely in shorthand.

The system used is one devised by Sir Isaac Pitman nearly 200 years ago and universally used for decades by secretaries, journalists, and those making official records of public events such as court hearings and parliamentary debates.

The book, which dates from the turn of the 19th century, was found by a former journalist, Graeme Patfield, in Kim’s Bookshop, Arundel, in West Sussex. Mr Patfield, who is now a PR consultant, said that he was unable to read it.

“Only God knows why someone decided it was a good idea to convert it into shorthand,” he said.

One reason might be that the book was produced by Sir Isaac’s own company, which became one of the world’s leading educational publishers. When he first revealed his system of phonetic shorthand in 1837, in a pamphlet, Stenographic Sound-Hand, the examples included Psalm 100 and the Lord’s Prayer.

The Bible Society described the book as “a fascinating piece of history” that might reflect “a coming together of the commercial and spiritual worlds”.

A spokeswoman said: “Secretaries or journalists wanting to improve their shorthand might have seen this as killing two birds with one stone.”

Copies of the book can be found today on specialist bookseller websites.

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