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What is this beautiful, flowing calligraphic script, I hear you ask? Perhaps you are murmuring in self-reply, "It looks like shorthand - but it's not like any shorthand I've ever learned." If so, have a cookie.


My cousin was having a clear-out recently, and came across some books by my grandfather, Montagu Butler, which (knowing my interests) she kindly passed to me. I must admit that this one - Raporta Stenografio - is my favourite, exhibiting as it so admirably does what I long ago dubbed the Curse of the Butlers, namely "the tendency of my (paternal) ancestors to choose some obscure, inkhorn subject, about which only half a dozen people in the world give more than a passing hoot, and then to devote their impecunious lives to it. [...] In its most aggravated form the Butler chooses two apparently unrelated (but equally obscure) subjects, and then shrinks the available audience still further by obsessing about them only in combination."

Here, then, we have a guide to shorthand, but shorthand adapted from the Pitman system so as to take into account the peculiar needs of Esperanto. Avo (as his grandchildren knew him) penned the introduction 96 years ago this month. I like to imagine that my father (a toddler at the time) would have been at his side:

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It's rather typical that he managed to squeak the name "Butler" into the illustrations:

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It will join the others on my Esperanto shelf. The only other one of Avo's publications that I feel the lack of (but watch this space) is First Lessons to Young Children, his account of bringing up my father and his siblings bilingual in Esperanto and English. Will it be drily linguistic, or will it offer some charming vignettes of life in Kingston-upon-Thames in the years during and after the Great War? We shall see...
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