Carlton Shorthand Collection

The collection

One of the most comprehensive shorthand collections known, with an estimated 18,000 books, periodicals, and pamphlets on all aspects of stenography, many thought to be unique. Items date from the sixteenth to the twentieth century and are of all countries and systems in nearly sixty languages and dialects. Works include examples of applied shorthand such as early sermons, trials and speeches printed from shorthand; works by well-known authors (e.g. Dickens; Shakespeare) printed in shorthand; books on the history and bibliography of shorthand; and manuals of various systems of shorthand. Periodical literature comprises 780 titles of the collection (approximately 15%) and provides sources for rapidly changing office practices of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the role that women played in them. About 40 items formerly belonged to the stenographer James Henry Lewis (1786-1853).


The collector

Largely put together by the Dickens scholar and shorthand bibliographer William J. Carlton (1886-1973), author of Charles Dickens, Shorthand Writer (1926).



Primarily bequeathed by Carlton, with some later donations from the shorthand teacher Peter Dorey.



Books printed before 1800 are listed on the online catalogue. To gain an overview of these, do a mixed classmark search on [C.S.C.] or an author search on “Carlton, William J.” as former owner. A complete list of the collection is available from Special Collections staff and as PDF files below. Post-1800 books and periodicals are held off-site and require three working days’ notice to be fetched.


Related archives

Carlton Collection of manuscripts written in and about shorthand from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. The archival Carlton Collection includes the Peter Dorey papers of correspondence on shorthand and press cuttings.


Select publications

‘The Carlton Shorthand Library’, Times Literary Supplement, 22 Apr. 1960, p. 264.

A PDF version of a ‘Catalogue of books … relating to shorthand, secret writing and kindred subjects in the library of William J. Carlton’ (typescript with manuscript annotations, 1946-1966) is available here:

A – Gowers
Graham – Polakiewicz
Poli – Zwierzina, and Books by Isaac Pitman and his successors