The Training of a Secretary:
An Ancient Profession
Secretary In Literature
Universality Of The Vocation
Other Duties As May Be Assigned By The Board Of Directors
Taking The Minutes
Preservation Of The Minutes
Minutes, Meetings And Manners
Read More Articles About: The Training of a Secretary
An Ancient Profession
( Originally Published 1922 )
Someone ought to rise and make remarks about the Secretary. Nobody seems to have done it, at least in a connected way, there-fore, I will attempt it, but briefly withal, and as impersonally as may be possible. I have searched the catalogue of one of the largest libraries of the United States with-out finding a line about the secretary or his duties. This is all the more strange as the vocation is not without honor, and the position is an ancient one. Perhaps it goes too far back to require comment. I look upon it as a dignified profession, ennobled by service, and I shall prove it so, beyond peradventure.
Secretary, which in French is secrétaire and in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese,
secretario, is derived from the Latin word secretarius, which comes from the noun secretam, a secret. Originally a secretary was a confidant, a person who was entrusted with secrets; from which it appears that the first quality to be desired in a secretary is the power to keep to himself such information as may come within his knowledge. No secretary can be successful, can fulfil his task adequately, who does not possess the golden gift of silence.
As I have said, the position goes back to the early days of civilization. Long before Rome ruled the world, or the Latin tongue was spoken, secretaries were doing their work in much the same manner as at present. Nebuchadnezzar had a score or more of them in Babylon, about 600 B. C. He called them Scribes. Tablets are in existence containing their minutes. How entrancing to see and have someone else read the records of a meeting on a clay tablet about as big as a bath-mitt or a shredded wheat biscuit, and somewhat resembling those useful articles!
For example take the meeting between the king and " the magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and the Chaldeans", the day after Nebuchadnezzar's dream. O king live forever!" would occur many times, and all the proceedings, including the failure of the Chaldeans to remember the dream for the king and to interpret it, as well as Daniel's success in doing both would not fill more space than the palm of a lady's hand; quite different from some minutes I know of.
There is a superb description of a secretary in the reign of Jehoiakim the, son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the thirty-sixth chapter of Jeremiah.
Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son. of Neriah; and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book.
Therefore go thou, and read in the roll, which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the Lord in the ears of the people in the Lord's house upon the fasting day: and also thou shalt read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities.
And Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in the book the words of the Lord in the Lord's house.
Then he went down into the king's house, into the scribe's chamber and, lo, all the princes sat there, even Elishama the scribe, and Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, and Elnathan the son of Achbor, Gemariah the son of Shaphan, Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and all the princes.
And they said unto him, Sit down now, and read it in our ears, So Baruch read it in their ears.
And they asked Baruch, saying, Tell us now, How didst thou write all these words at his mouth?
Then Baruch answered them, He pronounced all these words unto me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book.
News of Baruch's readings naturally reached the ears of the king. The roll was taken to the chamber of Elishama the scribe whence it was fetched by Jehudi who read it to the king; and because of statements there-in which were displeasing to him, he did a most reprehensible thing, as you shall see.
Now the king sat at the winterhouse in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him.
And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the pen-knife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.
Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire.
I submit that this is a feat which not many presiding officers or secretaries of today would care to undertake. Perhaps they had fewer things to think of in the time of Jehoiakim king of Judah, than at present, and therefore, they did them more thoroughly.
The last six magnificent chapters of the Proverbs were saved to the world by scribes. Chapter XXV begins
These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, copied out.