John McVey professes design in beverly, and lives in cambridge, mass


several biographical episodes are detailed or alluded to elsewhere in these pages — freeway, hardware, ea, radioaves.

lobang2 dalam penceriteraan ini juga ada, termasuk bertahunan silam saya coba mendalami Indonesia — sasteranya, sejarahnya, musiknya (kroncong yang paling kunikmati) tapi akhirnya tak lulus – sama sekali gagal – dan ngambil jalan lain.

married, Kuniko Yamada
two sons, Euan Ryuta (b.1990) and Chisaku Pramoedya (b.1997)

presentations, exhibitions, etc.

  • Language engineering and lexicography, 1870-1930 : a case for telegraphic codes
    Dictionary Society of North America, 18th Biennial Conference, McGill University, Montreal, 8-11 June 2011

    proposal —
    Telegraphic codes were lists and tables of phrases and other message components, whose respective codewords or figures were to be assembed for safe transmission by landline or submarine cable. Thousands of codes were compiled: practical and impractical, published and private, as thin as a single panoptic sheet or as thick as Webster’s Unabridged. Their purposes included economy (at a time that messages were charged by word) and secrecy. They were an integral part of telegraphic practice.

    The codes were designed to serve the needs of message senders and receivers, and thereby offered two look-up systems. Phrases and message components were arranged thematically and/or alphabetically, usually a combination of both, but sometimes in pragmatic sequences whose coding more closely resembles faceted classification formulae than it does words.

    The compilation of specialized codes — e.g., for cotton, mining, missionary work, cargo and passenger transport — required deep practical knowledge in their respective domains, including an understanding of what might need (and not need) to be expressed. Their design also took into account the background knowledge of expert users.

    I will discuss the codes as a special branch of lexicography, giving particular attention to typical arrangements of phrase and other message molecules, and to one or two compilers’ theories about classification and even language. The codes are arguably a distant precursor to NLP and LE work.

    This proposed paper/presentation is one that I would like to have given to Werner Hüllen (1927-2008), whose work on early and onomasiological dictionaries is highly pertinent.

  • Indexing as autobiographical practice in the 19th century : an examination of copies of John Todd’s Index Rerum
    Material Cultures 2010, Edinburgh, July 2010
  • Codex/Code : Book and Procedure at the Center of Telegraphic Reading and Writing
    CBAA Biennial Conference, University of Iowa Center for the Book —
    Art, Fact, and Artifact: The Book in Time and Place January 8-10, 2009
  • Telegraphic Codes and Message Practice, a Selection from Harvard Library Holdings
    curated exhibit
    Cabot Science Library, 9 February – 26 May 2006
  • Ekphrastic Telegraphy
    lecture at Montserrat College of Art, 5 April 2006
  • Thesauruses, codes and mundane telegraphy 1870-1930
    paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Society for the History of Technology (Minneapolis, 3-6 November 2005)
  • Elementary Types : Not-so dead-end ideas in telegraphic printing of letters and pictures, 1900-1925
    paper presented at Temporary Type Conference, St Bride Library (London, 10-12 October 2005)
    on elemental types for facsimile telegraphy and for letterform generation in printing telegraphy
    see elementary signs
  • Kalkzeep / There is a perfect understanding : Telegraphic clarity and Gertrude Stein's writing clear as mud.
    paper presented at Northeast Modern Language Association annual conference (Boston, March 2003)



jmcvey at