Rich, Jeremiah (DNB00)

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RICH, JEREMIAH (d. 1660?), stenographer, was probably of good family, as he dedicated his ‘Semigraphy’ to ‘The Rt. Hon. the Lady Mary Rich,’ and in the preface he says: ‘It will be welcome, and especially to your Ladyship, because you have spent some houres in the knowledge thereof when I was in the family,’ doubtless as a tutor. His uncle, William Cartwright, taught him shorthand, and he became an eminent practitioner of the art. John Lilburne offered to give Rich a certificate, under his own hand, that he took down his trial at the Old Bailey with the greatest exactness. In 1646 Rich was living ‘in St. Olives parish in Southwark, at one Mris Williams, a midwife,’ and in 1659 he occupied a house called the Golden Ball in Swithin's Lane, near London Stone. He probably died in or soon after 1660.

The first work issued by him is entitled: ‘Semography, or Short and Swift Writing, being the most easiest, exactest, and speediest Method of all others that have beene yet Extant. … Invented and Composed for the Benefit of others by the Author hereof William Cartwright, and is now set forth and published by his Nephew, Ieremiah Rich, immediate next to the Author deceased,’ London, 1642, 16mo. It will be observed that Rich made no pretence that he was the inventor of the system, and in the preface he states: ‘Now as for my commending of the worke, I know not why any man should expect it seeing it is my owne; for although I am not father to it, yet I am the right heire, for my uncle dying left it to me only.’ Rich, however, makes no allusion to his uncle Cartwright in the next book he published only four years later, under the title of ‘Charactery, or a most easie and exact Method of Short and Swift Writing. … Invented and exactly composed by Jeremiah Rich,’ London, 1646. In other books published by him he claims the merit of being the sole author and inventor of the system, viz. in ‘Semigraphy or Arts Rarity,’ London, 1654, 16mo; in ‘The Penns Dexterity,’ London, 1659; and in ‘The World's Rarity,’ published before 1660. Hence the fact that Cartwright was the original inventor of the system called after Rich's name has been obscured. It was entirely overlooked by Philip Gibbs, the earliest shorthand historian, and the recognition of Cartwright's claims is due to a communication made to the ‘Athenæum’ in 1880 by Mr. Edward Pocknell.

The first edition of the Cartwright-Rich system, which appeared after Rich's death, bears the curious title: ‘The Pens Dexterity Compleated, or Mr. Riches Short-hand now perfectly taught, which in his Lifetime was never done by anything made publique in print, because it would have hindred his Practice,’ London, 1669, 12mo. The sixth edition of this work was published in 1713, the fifteenth in 1750, the nineteenth in 1775, and the twentieth at Leeds in 1792. Among Rich's editors or ‘improvers’ were William Addy, Samuel Botley, Nathaniel Stringer, and Philip Doddridge, who made the study of the system obligatory in his theological academy at Northampton [see art. Doddridge, Philip]. John Locke was among the admirers of Rich's shorthand, which has had a very wide vogue.

Rich's tiny volume of the Psalms in metre, written in stenographic characters, was published in 1659, and the companion volume, the New Testament, appeared in the same year, with the names of many of his patrons.

Rich's portrait was engraved by Cross.

[Athenæum, 4 and 18 Sept. and 27 Nov. 1880; Biogr. Brit. (Kippis), i. 538 n.; Bromley's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, p. 107; Gibbs's Hist. Account of Compendious and Swift Writing, p. 45; Gibson's Bibliography of Shorthand; Granger's Biogr. Hist. of England, 5th ed. iv. 77; Journalist, 1 April 1887, p. 397; Levy's Hist. of Shorthand; Lewis's Hist. of Shorthand, p. 69; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. vi. 7, 115; Pocknell's Legible Shorthand, p. 75; Rockwell's Teaching, Practice, and Literature of Shorthand.]

T. C.