Henry Wolcott, shorthand sermon notebook (Connecticut Historical Society)


No, I can’t read it either.

This is a page from Henry Wolcott’s shorthand sermon notebook at the Connecticut Historical Society. Thanks to the amazing work of Douglas H. Shepard, we have a full transcription of the sermon notes he took in this adapted shorthand system:

  • Shepard, Douglas H. “The [Henry] Wolcott Shorthand Notebook Transcribed.” Ph.D. diss., State University of Iowa, 1957.

This dissertation is well worth getting your hands on. In addition to the transcription, Shepard provides invaluable insight into the use of shorthand int he seventeenth century and plenty of context for Wolcott’s sermon attendance. Shepard also has what may be my favorite quote about deciphering manuscripts ever:

I can only suggest that colleges and universities set up courses that should have been in the curriculum for years–seminars in skepticism and lingering doubt: fallibility and the printed page. (13)

Wolcott’s notes are an excellent example of structural auditing. He rarely records full phrasing by the minister. Rather, his notes display such a complex, compacted form of structural auditing that he shows how the sermon structure can itself be an expressive form of spiritual experience.

Courtesy of the Connecticut Historical Society.

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