I have just returned from a pleasant morning walking through the gardens at
In several places beside the fish pond are some papyrus plants, growing tall and thick, with a spray of little stems and flowers at the top, in an umbrella shape. I instantly recognised these as larger versions of one that is growing at the shallow end of my pond at home, called Cyperus Papyrus or Egyptian Paper Reed. It is shapely and decorative but unfortunately it seeds profusely, just like any other* grass, and so I do my best to remove it whenever it appears, or at least snap off the flowering head to prevent it spreading. I love* paper but I don't love papyrus seedlings everywhere!
* Dot Hay and stroke S for "house" enable a join to be made
* Omission phrase "any oth(er)"
* "I love" not phrased, as this would look the same as "I will have". In normal writing, you would probably not need to vocalise "love". If you had already phrased it, then you would need to go back and insert the vowel for clarity e.g. "I love to do the housework/I will have to do the housework."
In another part of the* park, there were some bamboo clumps and on the grass a few wing feathers from crows and geese. It occurred to me that here was almost everything necessary to get writing, and all that was missing was some charcoal and maybe some grease to mix it with to make ink.
When I got home, I toyed with the idea of rescuing my papyrus plant and letting it grow in isolation in a pot somewhere, so that I could* see if it was possible to make a papyrus sheet of my own. Having read up on all the time needed in cutting, soaking, splicing, gluing, hammering and polishing it, I quickly abandoned that idea.
* Omission phrase "part (of) the". Writing "of" as a hook is avoided, as it would look too much like "number of".
* "I could" is not phrased, to prevent misreading as "I can". "Could not" can be phrased safely, as "cannot" is written differently.
I did once buy a piece of "papyrus" with Egyptian hieroglyphs* on it - human* figures, birds, beetles, obelisks and other shapes, in vertical rows, and a drawing or two of colourful seated personages. It was a very cheap seaside souvenir, and I think it was made of bits of flattened English straw woven into something that looked like a small place mat, with the picture printed on and a thin coating of glue to hold it all together*. It was not long before it fell apart, and this made it look even more like a fragment of antiquity, as the shreds came away. I think it may have had a small label stuck on the back - souvenir of
* "hieroglyph" is the noun, "hieroglyphic" is the adjective.
* Special outline, above the line to accord with 2nd vowel, to differentiate it from "humane"which is on the line.
* This is not the same as the word "altogether" which has its own short form.
|Home grown bamboo pens|
Did they prefer to keep a large supply of papyrus rolls and spare tablets to hand, or did some of the less conscientious ones get down to the end of the roll, only to be requested to take more notes with space rapidly running out? Did they keep on hand a supply of good quality ink cakes and reeds, or did some of them think they could get by with lumpy ink blocks and a blunt reed pen? And did the novice scribes ever have one of those days when the words required did not seem to match the symbols that they had learned, and they were wishing that they had paid more attention in their classes. I think that, just like us, it only took one of these glitches to jolt them into being better prepared for future tasks.
* Omission phrase "short(hand) writer"
* Insert one of the vowel signs, so that it cannot be misread as "tables"
With shorthand being less well known nowadays, people like to muse on its secrecy value for those who can write it, hoping that it will be as obscure as a monument or scroll full of hieroglyphs. The Egyptian scribe could definitely count on this, as literacy and schooling was only for officers in the upper ranks of society, with the general population* being illiterate and needing only to know their own trade or craft. However, maybe present-day diarists should not think they can rely on any traditional shorthand system to hide their writings, as it is very easy to present any discovered scribbles (with or without the owner's permission) on the internet and request a translation. So please do not write your computer passwords or credit card pin number in Pitman's, Gregg or Teeline!
* Ensure the shun hook is well formed and open, so that this does not begin to look like "populace" which has the same meaning.
|Roman girl with|
booklet of wax tablets
* You can also write this above the line, if you pronounce it "dye-rectly"
|I think Pitman's is faster,|
but The Seated Scribe has
had 4,500 years to practise
(see link below)
* Inserting the dash marks is textbook correct for this, the rule being "A dash in the longhand is always shown in the shorthand where the outlines cannot be joined" but in actual use it is perfectly readable without them.
* Omits the R "administ(r)ative", similarly derivatives and similar words - administration, ministry, demonstrate etc.
|Sphinx seats, London Embankment|
"By day write with your fingers; recite by night. Befriend the scroll, the palette. It pleases more than wine. Writing for him who knows it is better than all other professions. It pleases more than bread and beer, more than clothing and ointment."
And later on: "You are dressed in fine clothes; you own horses. Your boat is on the river; you are supplied with attendants. You stride about inspecting. A mansion is built in your town. You have a powerful office, given you by the king . . . Put the writings in your heart, and you will be protected from all kinds of toil. You will become a worthy official."
* Short line struck through the last stroke of a contraction is an advanced method to show past tense, where the context could mean either.
We already know how to read and write, so our shorthand is much quicker to learn, needing less than* a year, maybe six months, to get to a good speed, and we have better and more abundant paper, and instant ink in fountain pens that do not need dipping or sharpening. I think we can also be grateful for soft adjustable seats and ergonomically designed desks, and that we do not have to sit for hours cross-legged on the floor using the standard Egyptian linen kilt stretched across our knees as a table, on which to balance a writing board and paper. I hope that your shorthand studies are proceeding as swiftly as the scribe's pen, and that the only hard manual labour involved is that of practising until you can produce your streamlined hieroglyphs at a hundred words a minute and beyond. (1419 words)
* Downward L is used, to enable this phrase to be made, "less" on its own has upward L
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hieroglyphs/Y Item Y3 shows the hieroglyphic sign for "scribe" showing 2-hole palette for black and red ink cakes, water bottle and reed pen holder.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wax_tablet One of the illustrations shows a scribe with his laptop tablet on his knees, looking remarkably modern.
www.brooklynmuseum.org/community/blogosphere/2010/09/22/pigments-and-inks-typically-used-on-papyrus Interesting closeups of inks and pigments on the surface of the papyrus.
http://musee.louvre.fr/oal/scribe/indexEN.html Photos, text and narration describing in detail the 4,500-year-old statue of The Seated Scribe in The Louvre, Paris. His intense expression is the same as countless shorthand writers over the centuries, as they fasten their attention on the speaker, ready to start writing immediately.
www.u.arizona.edu/~afutrell/w%20civ%2002/paplansing.html Full text of Papyrus Lansing "Beginning of the instruction in letter writing", with many details of life at that time.