In the early 1800s, there was a petition sent to Parliament by shorthand writers practising in the courts of law. Unfortunately, the ear of Parliament was not receptive to the demands of a small minority; however, from 1849 onwards, attempts began at forming a group representing shorthand writers with such aims as “The maintenance of the respectability and the promotion of the interests of the profession”.
The current British Institute of Verbatim Reporters (“the Institute”) was founded in October 1865 and The Institute of Shorthand Writers practising in the Supreme Court of Judicature was registered with Companies House and incorporated on 20th January 1887.
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History of the court reporter
Harry M. Scharf’s in-depth article imparts the history of court reporting, which he traces back to 1588 in the modern era when Dr Timothy Bright published the first book in England on a shorthand system, which he termed a ‘Characterie’. Harry goes further back in history to explain how some form of abbreviation was essential in forensic matters. Tiro Tullius, a freedman of M.T. Cicero, invented a kind of shorthand system under the Roman Republic.
During the mediaeval period in England, a kind of speedwriting was used on the Latin plea rolls (e.g. bre for breve, Reg’ for Regis). The plea roll record was made up after the court hearing and the Year Book MSS were written up from rough jottings made in court.
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This is a publication written to direct attention to, and create an understanding of, the functions and problems of the verbatim reporter, originally addressing the concerns of the court reporter. The many issues raised cross over to all forms of modern verbatim reporting.
The systems of shorthand invented by Pitman and Gregg, augmented by machines such as the Palantype, Stenograph and Stenotype, are still in use today in many parts of the world for reporting lectures, meetings, court proceedings, parliamentary debates as well as Speech-to-Text for the D/deaf and hard-of-hearing community.