Past challenges

‘The Two Brothers’: A festive #SolveItDickens challenge

This painting depicts an elderly man telling a ghost story to a group of enthralled listeners

‘There is probably a smell of roasted chestnuts and other good comfortable things all the time, for we are telling Winter Stories— Ghost Stories, or more shame for us—round the Christmas fire’

Charles Dickens, ‘A Christmas Tree’ (1850)

During our November and December #SolveItDickens workshops we explored ‘The Two Brothers’ – one of the dictation exercises among the shorthand notebooks of Charles Dickens’s pupil, Arthur Stone, in the Free Library of Philadelphia‘s collections. Our decoders, most notably Shane Baggs, who is responsible for much of the transcription work in the document, have made fantastic progress with this manuscript.

However, some of the symbols remain elusive and we would benefit from generating more hypotheses. As Dickens helped to popularise the tradition of the Yuletide ghost story – not least with his iconic A Christmas Carol, subtitled A Ghost Story of Christmas – we thought that it would be fun to set a festive challenge to fill in some of these gaps!

The challenge

Using our DC Alphabet and DC Lexicon, as well as the original Brachygraphy manual, we invite your suggestions for the gaps in the transcription, which can be downloaded below. The symbol to be decoded appears on the right of the gap in the text.

Please send your suggestions to Dr Claire Wood and Professor Hugo Bowles before the closing date of 31 January 2022. There is no monetary prize attached to the solution, although your efforts will be appropriately credited.

The ‘Two Brothers’ mini-challenge is now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered!