Browse Exhibits (1 total)

Decoding Dickens: The Shorthand Mysteries

A side profile black and white image of a middle-aged man in an oval mount. His dark hair is swept forwards curling at the temples and a thick dark moustache curves down towards his jawline. A collar, voluminous neckties and collared jacket cover his throat and neck.

'I bought an approved scheme of the noble art and mystery of stenography (which cost me ten and sixpence) and plunged into a sea of perplexity...' (David Copperfield, chapter 38)

Before Dickens became a novelist, he was a shorthand writer, mastering the fiendish script he called the 'devil's handwriting'.

Welcome to 'Decoding Dickens: The Shorthand Mysteries', a free online exhibition that explores the role of shorthand in Dickens's life and work, as a learner, practitioner and teacher, and how he left behind the stenographic mystery of his own shorthand - the Dickens Code.

Exploring the exhibition

As you explore the exhibition, click on the images to find out more about individual collection items. You can also listen to a variety of audio recordings performed by Dominic Gerrard.

You can also visit the 'Deciphered Shorthand' exhibit, which spotlights the crowd-created transcriptions produced by the Dickens Decoders as part of the Dickens Code project (2021-2023). Here you can view the shorthand and the transcripts in detail. Some of the transcripts are from unknown sources. Where do you think they come from?


Curated by Dr Claire Wood (University of Leicester) and Professor Hugo Bowles (University of Foggia, now University of Buckingham).


Please click on individual collection items for rights information.

Enter the 'Decoding Dickens' exhibition

, ,