Roman Shorthand Scribes
Preservation of Spoken Thought
World’s First Shorthand System
Cicero – statesman, lawyer, senator, great orator of Ancient Rome – invented the first system of shorthand. He called it Notae Tironianae, or Tironian Notes, for his slave, Marcus Tillius Tiro. Cicero saw great significance in the deliberations taking place in the Roman Senate, and believed these should be preserved for future generations.
Tiro wrote Cicero’s own speeches. Then, responding to the entreaties of Senate colleagues, Cicero freed Tiro from slavery and together they taught Tironian Notes to the saves of other Senators. These scribes would work in different parts of the Senate. And so was born the first corps of reporters.
Tironian shorthand writers used a stylus to write notes on wax tablets, and erased their carvings after use; thus, there exist no documents written in original Tironian Notes. The term “a clean slate” derives from the Latin “tabula rasa” – make the slate clean for a new writing.
Much of what we know about Roman Senate deliberations – which would become the framework for America’s government – were preserved in the Latin transcriptions inscribed on parchment by other scribes.