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The Shorthand of Robert Willis, Physician-in-Extraordinary to King George III

Timothy Underhill (notes) and Timothy Peters (notes)

Abstract

The shorthand used by Robert Willis in documents within the Library’s Willis Papers collection is identified as a system similar to William Fordyce Mavor’s late eighteenth-century Universal Stenography but departing from it in some key respects. Transcriptions are provided of BL, Add. MS. 41734 –  Willis’s memorandum of events between 5-8 November 1810, the time of his politically controversial appointment to work alongside official members of George III’s medical household –  and also the shorthand contained in his 1810-12 medical notebooks (Add. MS. 41733). A more complex textual relationship than might have been supposed emerges between the latter and the better known longhand medical registers (Add. MS. 41696-41732), with the shorthand furnishing further details about aspects of the King’s behaviour and treatment during this period of relapse into chronic mania with accompanying dementia.

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