Past challenges

Easter ‘Nonsense’ Challenge

Our #SolveItDickens challenge for March-April 2023 comes from the notebooks of Dickens’s shorthand pupil, Arthur Stone, at the Free Library of Philadelphia. There is no longhand title and we suspect that, rather than a coherent text, Dickens is improvising sentences to test his student’s knowledge of Gurney arbitrary characters – hence why we’ve called this the Easter ‘Nonsense’ Challenge. Please treat each sentence as a separate item that is not necessarily connected with the other sentences. Once we can read this text, we will have completed transcription of Stone’s Notebook A!

Figure 1: A page from Arthur Stone’s Notebook A. Image © The Free Library of Philadelphia. The top half of this exercise is the last part of ‘Sydney Smith’, which has previously been deciphered. We are focusing on the symbols in the red box.
Figure 2: A page from Arthur Stone’s Notebook A. 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.

As this is a longer challenge, there is an extended deadline. Please complete the entry form and email us your solutions by 30 April 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.