Sunday, June 21, 2015

Veltlang at the Esperanto Meeting

The Veltlang Alphabet
Not sure if you can use it to write Esperanto
Veltlang clearly got more press than it deserved. Chronicling America has thirteen articles on it, ranging from its introduction in May 1910 through 1913 (when journalists seemed to tire of it). Its creator, Frederick Braendle, was a translator for the Pension Office (and so his designation of “Professor” was undoubtably self-conferred), who spoke sixteen languages. For the world, he gave English, slightly respelled with a new alphabet.

Those thirteen article are a bit too much coverage because Braendle’s only publication on Veltlang is a twelve-page pamphlet which gives little detail about the language itself (which, once again, is really English), and goes into greater detail of the somewhat mystical implications that Braendle felt his language had.

There does seem to have been a language, since he told the press the he used it in correspondence with friends. However, his book World-English, A New World Language, Veltlang, with English Words and English Grammar, Subject to the limitations of the phonetic writing of Veltlang, together with a simple phonetic world-alphabet, Seuastikon is his only book. (This title brings to mind the long titles of eighteenth-century novels, which are typically chopped down in modern editions.)

Here, I must veer into questions of typography and layout. I have friends whose interest in these matters far exceeds mine, and while I’m not certain that they read this blog, I’m thinking of them as I write this. Braendle’s brochure has some interesting typographic quirks. First (and regrettably) every page has a border. There’s a style of amateur layout that was prevalent some twenty years ago that termed “Monkey on a Mac,” since the Macintosh offered better desktop publishing tools at the time than Windows did. One of the features of Monkey on a Mac was putting all text into boxes. You’d receive a newsletter and every single article was put inside some sort of box. It was ugly. Braendle put every page inside a box.

Like this.
As an odd bit, he uses the ct and st ligatures throughout, even though by 1910 these were long out fashion (I won’t include them in the text, since I can’t count on font and browser support, but you can have them as a graphic off to the side). They’re pretty, but sort of an odd thing to use in a text.

And what does this have to do with Esperanto? I’m not sure. But someone thought it did, and that someone was George H. Peterson, the corresponding secretary of the 1915 Esperanto Club. The club was founded in 1913 to secure the Universala Kongreso for San Francisco to coincide with the 1915 World’s Fair. Three years prior, at the 1910 Universala Kongreso in D.C., Sinclair Lewis presented San Francisco’s case for 1915. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on June 21, 1913 the plans for the meeting that coming later that day.

The 1915 Esperanto Club of San Francisco will meet today at the School of Commerce on Sutter street, between Gough and Octavia streets. A programme has been arranged by H. B. Weaver, president of the club. G. H. Peterson will explain the new language, Veltlang, showing how it will help instead of hinder Esperanto. The club has re-elected all its present officers—H. B. Weaver, president; J. Landrum, vice-president; Miss M. D. Van Sloun, secretary- treasurer, and George H. Peterson, corresponding secretary, 1362 Webster street.
It’s not clear which George Peterson it is; in 1913 San Francisco was home to several men of that name. Shortly after, in August 1913, Amerika Esperantisto reported that George Peterson was conducting an Esperanto class for thirty children. The location was 1362 Webster, but its not clear if that was his home or business office. He was also (in 1915) a member of the socialist and freethinker section of the congress, which held its meeting, according to Amerika Esperantisto, “sur la pinto de Mt. Tamalpais, Aŭg, 24an, 1915, je la 2:30a horo” (on the peak of Mt. Tamalpais, August 24, 1915, 2:30). I hope that wasn’t 2:30 a.m.

But what about Veltlang? Veltlang never became much more than a proposal, which is certainly true of many planned languages. A few months ago, I encountered one, which the creator said would transform life on the planet, ushering in a new, vibrant civilization. (This person also said that Esperanto had failed.) After a while the (anonymous) creator said that the language would be released this summer. Then pushed things back. Then released a partial version and a call for collaboration. Veltlang had this, as Braendle said in his brochure:
Space does not permit to detail at length all the features of this proposed world idiom of English, as a three-fold missionary medium, in the field of—Belief, Thought and Action.
Peterson said that this would, in some way, help and not hinder the Esperanto movement. It’s not clear what he might have thought. As it was, the 1915 Club had to deal first with the disappointment of learning that they would not be hosting the 1915 Universala Kongreso, and then to gear back up for hosting it, when a European congress became impossible.

By 1915, Veltlang was well on its way of being forgotten.
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