Major Beniowski and the Major System

I think it could be a different book Josh. The table of contents in the image shown matches the main sections in the handbook but it then refers to a whole load of practical applications which are not mentioned in the handbook.

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Interesting. I wonder if there are any copies somewhere.

I wonder too. None of the few beniowski books I have seen in the last few weeks have a table of contents like that and yet the suggestion is that book was in circulation. Do you know of any other beniowski psfs sort from this site, goggle books, Internet archive, and scribd?

I searched a few times but didn’t find any.

This one can be found online. But it’s simply a paraphrase of the biblical book of Genesis using Major Beniowski’s—in my opinion—bizarre shorthand spelling. (That’s apparently what’s meant by “phrenotypic orthograpy.”) I’m assuming I’d need to start with an earlier book of his to understand what it is he’s hoping to accomplish, but at first glance I just don’t get it.


Josh, can I be pushy and ask again if you’ve looked into Bruno Furst?

He was well-known in the UK, but apparently not elsewhere. As far as I can tell, he was teaching the “Major” system before Lorayne (though they’re certainly close in time).

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I don’t think I have any of his books.

Is there anyone here who has any of his books or other materials who could check?

I don’t think I have a PDF version, but I have 2 copies of one of his books. I’d be happy to send you one.

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It seems that Furst’s ‘Memory and Concentration Studies’ was founded in 1929. His book, ‘You CAN Remember’ was first published in 1939.

That seems to place him before Lorayne?

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I used to own one of Bruno Furst’s books. Pretty sure it was Stop Forgetting. (Hmmm. Maybe I still do. I will look around when I have the time.) Truth be told, I didn’t find his methods interesting. They seemed rather primitive. Anyway, as far as I recall, he wasn’t using anything like the Major system. It has been a long time since I looked at the book. I would be curious to know if there is something I would find useful if I looked at it with fresh (albeit much older) eyes.

As for Harry Lorayne, I learned the Major system from his books. That said, I am not really sure whether or not he ever called it the Major system. Somehow, I had the impression he did call it that at some point or other, but I wouldn’t swear to it. As far as I know, he is still alive–in his 90’s.



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I’ve not read ‘Stop Forgetting,’ but both ‘The Practical Way to a Better Memory’ and his correspondence course teach the Major system.

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It’s very possible that he did mention the Major system in Stop Forgetting and that I have been misremembering all this time. I just ran upstairs to check if the book is still in my library, but I didn’t see it. Probably threw it out. Too bad, because now I am curious.

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Thanks, I have a backlog of other memory books that I’ll probably get to before that one. I might pick up an ebook at some point just to flip through it and check though.

This page refers to it as “‘the hook method’ for remembering numbers”:

PROFILE of Dr. Bruno Furst, a memory expert, mental telepathist, hypnotist, & professional graphologist, & founder of the School of Memory & Concentration. Dr. Furst is the author of two books, “Use Your Head,” and “How to Remember.” He has worked out a dozen or so new methods of teaching mnemonics. Tells about the “chain method,” which, according to mnemonic historians was invented by a Greek poet, Simonides, circa 500 B. C. The “hook method,” for remembering numbers, has been in process of development ever since 1492, when a German scholar Conradus Celter conceived the idea of using letters & numbers as an aid to memory. Dr. Furst practiced law in pre-Hitler Germany, & remembered the entire German Civil Code. Article mentions the only other mnemonist in this country, a Mr. Nutt, inventor of the Nutt Mental Filing System.

I don’t think I’ve heard of Conradus Celter. Does anyone know anything about his number system?

A book entitled, ‘Memory Culture,’ states:

‘Celetes promoted a system which achieved much success and which was practically a modification of Simonides’ plan except that letters of the alphabet were used instead of the apartments of the Greek poet’s system.’

Maybe some kind of Letter-Shape system?

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It sounds like some kind of alphabet peg list system. Shapes are one way to do it.

I spent some time last night quickly skimming through my copy of Bruno Furst’s You Can Remember (a home study course in 12 booklets, rather than a book) and copies of How to Remember (Greenberg, 1944; I’ve got the 1947 edition) which was later reprinted as The practical way to better memory. In all of them he’s pretty consistent in using the phrases “The Basic List” (for 0-9 letter/numbers) and “The Number Code” to refer to the functionality of the Major System. That I can see he definitely doesn’ t use Major system to describe the idea.

Furst doesn’t make any references to prior art or work in the historical record except
the one which @Graham has mentioned. It appears on p131 of How to Remember as:

This numerical system has been used by Berol, Roth, Loisette and other writers on the subject, and it seems pointless not to avail ourselves of a tested method which has proved satisfactory for many years.

There’s also a reference on page 56 of How to Remember:

Books of modern times dealing with association-laws, for instance those by Loisette and Poehlmann, are divided as follows in respect to the differences in concepts from a purely practical point of view

I’m digging up copies of David M. Roth’s Roth Memory Course, Felix Berol’s Berol System (which may have included work by his brothers William and Max), and Christof Ludwig Poehlmann aka Christopher Louis Pelman about whom I’ve found a nice trove of material on a related method at I don’t have much hope that any of these references will credit any of their prior sources as most of them seem to have made their livings on their courses and writing and wouldn’t have wanted to “give away their sources as potential competition”.

There is a chance that Major Beniowski was the source of the system for all of these authors given the relatively wide spread nature of his work during his life, his international travel, and the fact that he spoke multiple languages. But at the same time there’s a large number of people using this or similar methods in the 1800’s. Having more direct evidence would be useful. I only became aware of the moniker by seeing it on the Wikipedia page, and previously used the “number system” as Furst did to describe it.

I do notice that Furst uses the phrase “Furst Method” at least once in his correspondence course, but it’s in reference to the Major System and several other peg and related systems (notably not the method of loci in You Can Remember). It seems fairly regular for practitioners of this time period who were writing books to use their surname and call it their method.

One interesting case seems to be that of Marcus Dwight Larrow alias Silas Holmes alias Alphonse Loisette (referenced by Furst) who peddled a system for inordinate sums (including to Mark Twain who gave him a testimonial at the time). His system was exposed in a book in 1888 and was interesting or influential enough to have garnered a book review in the journal Science (see: “Loisette” exposed, together with Loisette’s Complete System of Physiological Memory . By G. S. FELLOWS. New York, The Author. 8‡ 25 cents published 20 July 1888).