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Alexander Tremaine Wright - William John Carlton Collection

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS305

Collection-level Scope and Content Note

"Happy are the dead and their biographers who have left materials for the building of their monuments"

A.T.W. Alexander Tremaine Wright's correspondence (1909-1915) to William John Carlton offers a unique insight into research characteristic of a small English fraternity intrigued by the literature and history of shorthand. This practice of the educated, beginning with Englishman John Willis' alphabet-based system in 1640, remained the domain of writers and reporters until American Isaac Pitman's development of a phonetic system in 1837. The Pitman system is still used in many parts of the world today due to its adaptability to foreign languages. The Gregg system of 1888 broadened the usage of shorthand through the simplicity of its cursive, not geometric, abbreviated characters. Alexander Tremaine Wright, a partner in the shorthand writers firm, Counsell & Wright of 22 Chancery Lane, W.C., London was like his correspondent a collector and writer of shorthand. The letters discuss almost exclusively their shared research and reading interests. Only in Wright's letter from Ocotber 31, 1914 does he discuss the impact of World War I on his research and offer his thoughts on how to cope with the grim daily news to Carlton. Wright published many books on significant figures in the history of shorthand. Among his publications are: The Purton System of Shorthand [London: s.n., 1887]. The two Angells of Stenography [London: Truslove & Bray, Ltd., Printers, West Norwood, 1919] Thomas Shelton, tachygrapher [London: H.W. Haslip, 1896] Thomas Shelton, translator [London: s.n., 1898] Josiah Rock and his characters [London: s.n., 1898]. Brachygraphie, post-writt: or, the art of short-writing. Folkingham, W.; Wright, Alexander Tremain [London: s.n., 1898] Samuel Taylor, angler and stenographer...To which is appended a facsimilie reprint of the first American edition for Taylor's system [Boston, MA: Willis-Byrom Club, 1904-1905] "Mr. Ratcliff of Plimouth" and Thomas Cross [London: s.n., 1907] Jeremiah Rich, semigrapher of the Commonwealth: and his continuators. [London: G.Barber, Furnival Press, 1911] John Willis, s.t.b., and Edmond Willis [New York: The Willis-Byrom Club, 1926] Alexander Fraser and some of his contemporaries. Wright, Alexander Tremaine; Fraser, Alexander. [London: Truslove, 1927] William Folkingham: Mathesios et Medicinae Studiosus [1898] Addenda [1906] His correspondent, William John Carlton, was born March 8, 1886 at Sutton in Surrey. His early career was spent as an editorial assistant at the Amalgamated Press, London from 1902-1907 and then as manager of the Press Illustrating Company from 1907-1914, the time of his correspondence with Wright. From 1915 to 1919 he fought with the British Expeditionary Force, where he was noted in dispatches. After the war he became sub-editor of the National Trade Press from 1919 to 1921. In 1921 he joined the International Labour Office in Geneva as first an English language parliamentary reporter, and later as Registrar and Librarian. Carlton married in June of 1940. In 1946 he retired and returned to England. Carlton wrote extensively during his retirement on Charles Dickens as well as on shorthand. An excellent list of his work can be found in W.J. Carlton, A Tribute With a List of His Writings on Dickens, by K. J. F. (London, Dickens Fellowship, 1973). Carlton's collection of shorthand literature was given to the Library of the University of London in 1960, an account of which can be found in the Times Literary Supplement of April 22, 1960. The remarkably vast collection contains over 15,000 works. At the time of its donation it rivaled the New York Public Library and the Stenographisches Landesamt in Dresden is breadth and depth. Among the notable works in Carlton's collection is a first edition of John Willis' Art of Stenographie ( London, 1602), four editions of Jeremiah Rich's shorthand New Testament and three editions of 1687 publication of William Addy's complete shorthand Bible. Carlton wrote 60 articles on Charles Dickens, published mostly in the Dickensian. This body of work illuminates the least known period of Dickens life, his childhood and early career when he worked as a court reporter and newspaperman in London. K.J.F., Carlton's biographer, describes him as " the very last person to exhalt his own claims" but "none of the [Dickens bographers] has been more scrupulous and exact or by actual research has discovered more about him". Carlton wrote "inspired by a love of Dickens and a fascination in tracing the continuity between what happened and what survives in recond". ( K.J.F., 1973) Among his works on important figures in the history of shorthand are the following books and manuscripts: Timothe Bright, doctor of physicke: a memoir of "the father of modern shorthand" [London: Elliot Stock, 1911] A shorthand "inventor" of 300 years ago [Aylesbury: G.T. De Fraine & Co., Ltd., 1921, 1920] Charles Dickens, shorthand writer. the 'prentice days of a master craftsman [London, C. Palmer, 1926] Lawrence Steel, an oldtime Quaker stenographer [London: Ashford, Kent Headley Bros. Printers, 1928] Samuel Pepys: his shorthand books [London: The Bibliographical Society, 1933; Oxford: University Press, 1933] and "The Library" [London, 1933. Fourth ser., vol. 14, no.1, June 1933, p.73-84.] Links with Dickens in the Isle of Man [Douglas (Isle of Man): Victoria Press, 1958, 1858] Janet Barrow's portrait miniatures: an Australian epilogue [London, s.n., 1972]


  • 1909 - 1915

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Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.


0.25 Linear Feet (1 box)

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Related archival materials note

The Wright-Carlton Correspondence joins a collection of more than 400 books on the history and practice of shorthand at Georgetown University. Special Collections also houses the Ziegler-Dickens Collection of first edition books, monographic studies of Dickens and his work, original illustrations and other supporting materials.

Alexander Tremaine Wright - William John Carlton Collection
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Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
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