steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Ironically, It Has No Thorn - ETA, now with solution

I bought a book at Hay-on-Wye the other day, which was written (at least on its verso pages) in the following script:


Any idea what it is? (There's a clue in the post title, but probably not a very helpful one if you don't have some idea already.)

sovay was tantalizingly close with Higgins' Universal Alphabet. In fact it's a page of Androcles and the Lion, written using the Shaw Alphabet. Here it is again, with the English facing it:


When Shaw died in 1950 he left a substantial sum of money towards the development of an alphabet for English that would match letters to sounds in a consistent, one-to-one manner, thus avoiding the ghoti problem. Specifically, the will instructed his trustee to "employ a phonetic expert to transliterate my play entitled Androcles and the Lion into the proposed British Alphabet assuming the pronunciation to resemble that recorded of His Majesty our Late King George V and sometimes described as Northern English..."

Much of that money was lost to legal wrangles - was it possible to leave money to a project, rather than to a person or group of persons? - but the remainder was used to fund a competition, with a £500 prize, for the person who came up with the best solution to Shaw's challenge. Eventually the entrants were whittled down to four. Let history record that Mrs Pauline M. Barrett (of Canada), Mr J. F. Magrath and Dr S. L. Pugmire all fought valiantly for the prize, but the eventual winner was Mr Kingsley Read, whose design you see before you.


reading key

This copy of Androcles and the Lion looks to all intents and purposes unread, and judging from the British Library catalogue it never made it to a second edition. Shaw's handsome cursives have become yet more bleached bones scattered about the cavemouth of the Giant Usage.
Tags: language
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