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A: Roma, Lazio, Italy

Tironian Notes, Possibly the Earliest System of Shorthand

63 BCE
Tironian Notes Codex Casselanus

Tironian glossary in the 9th century Codex Casselanus. (Ms. philiol. pl. 2 1v).

Vindolanda Tablet 122 with Latin shorthand, possibly notae Tironianae, c.90-130 CE. (View Larger)

Plutarch records that in 63 BCE the system of shorthand known as Tironian notes was used to record Cato the Younger's denunciation against Catiline:

"This only of all Cato's speeches, it is said, was preserved; for Cicero, the consul, had disposed in various parts of the senate-house, several of the most expert and rapid writers, whom he had taught to make figures comprising numerous words in a few short strokes; as up to that time they had not used those we call shorthand writers, who then, as it is said, established the first example of the art."

"Tironian notes (notae Tironianae) is a system of shorthand said to have been invented by Cicero's scribe Marcus Tullius Tiro. Tiro's system consisted of about 4,000 signs, somewhat extended in classical times to 5,000 signs. In the Medieval period, Tironian notes were taught in monasteries and the system was extended to about 13,000 signs. The use of Tironian notes declined after A.D. 1100 but some use can still be seen through the 17th century" (Wikipedia article on Tironian notes, accessed 04-20-2009).

There are no surviving copies of Tiro's original manual and code, so knowledge of it is based on biographical records and copies of Tironian tables from the medieval period.[5] 


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