Past challenges


Our #SolveItDickens challenge for February 2023 comes from the notebooks of Dickens’s shorthand pupil, Arthur Stone, at the Free Library of Philadelphia. It is titled ‘Didactic’, meaning ‘intended to instruct’. We think it is likely to be a teaching exercise that Dickens set for his pupil, but in terms of content this means that the text could be anything – a piece dictated from a source text, or a prepared or improvised passage about any topic. Potentially it might not be one coherent text, but a string of separate practice sentences. Given that the title suggests an explicit pedagogic context, is this reflected in the choice of words? Did Dickens think that Arthur needed to practice particular shorthand skills? We’ll have to transcribe the symbols to find out…

A shorthand exercise titled ‘Didactic’. Image © The Free Library of Philadelphia.

Use our ‘Resources’ to help you decipher the text, look out for repeat symbols, and consider searching distinctive words/phrases to see if you can find a source text to assist with your transcription. Remember that it is unlikely that you will be able to solve the whole text, but even one new symbol can be useful. Anyone who successfully describes a new symbol with be credited as its discoverer on our Roll of Honour.

Please complete the entry form and email us with your solutions by 3 March 2023. We will aim to publish the results on 20 March 2023.

Entry forms

The entry form is available in .docx and .pdf formats for your convenience. Please let us know if you require an alternative format.

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