One of the finest collections in Britain in the field of shorthand, comprised of approximately 650 printed works, including journals and 20 manuscripts.
The earliest works date from the sixteenth century and virtually all of the main systems in use from that time to the twentieth century are represented. The books and periodicals reflect the different cultural, commercial, legal and political applications to which stenography (close, little or narrow writing), tachygraphy (swift writing) and brachygraphy (short writing) have been put.
The shorthand material is based mainly on two private collections, that of the poet John Byrom (1692-1763) which was donated by his descendants in 1870, and the collection of John Harland of the Manchester Guardian, acquired on his death in 1868.
The collection is notable for the number of very rare, and in some cases possibly unique, editions of the seventeenth century or earlier, of which John O’Donnell gives some impression in his British shorthand libraries (1906).
There are also a large number of books, many of them very rare, on cryptography, spelling reform, and universal languages.