A Brief History of Court Reporting – Volume 2 (Shorthand)

By February 12, 2014 No Comments

The changes in shorthand reporting that occurred from Tiro’s time (read about his contributions in last week’s Volume 1 post here) to the end of the 18th century had to do with the quality of the tools (finer papers and clearer inks), and the nature of the symbols and language that recorders used. The concept of true reporting had not yet been born; people in this profession were considered to be scribes or secretaries. They employed whatever methods were practical for their time and place.

The job title changed from secretary to reporter much later, in 1772 when Thomas Gurney became the official shorthand reporter to the English Parliament. Most of the individuals engaged in court reporting were men, and most of the proceedings were either legislative or courtroom. Shorthand reporters crossed the Atlantic with the founders of this country and recorded for posterity the proceedings of the first U.S. Congress.

During the 19th century, shorthand reporting underwent some dramatic changes. Formal training in shorthand reporting was available to more people, including women. Sir Isaac Pitman (1813-1897) and John Robert Gregg (1867-1948) developed standardized forms of shorthand in the 19th and 20th centuries that were to be used by reporters through the 20th century. Pitman Shorthand has been translated into almost forty languages. Gregg, whose name may be a familiar one, created a method of shorthand from years of experience as a reporter and from the shorthand languages of many other countries. Both men set up schools in the U.S., and Gregg Shorthand became the standard here and was taught worldwide.

Miles M. Bartholomew patented the first stenographic machine in 1879. The mechanical revolution in shorthand reporting was not welcomed by the pen-and-ink school, but the stenographic machine managed to prove itself the equal of any pen-wielding shorthand expert.

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