A Brief History of Paper: Craftsmanship, Then and Now

The recent history of paper in European manuscript and print culture was the subject of our second meeting. We had the chance to compare the feel of parchment (animal skin) to rag paper, and looked at some watermarks through a lightbox.

But first, the Collective had the opportunity to listen to Anne Dutlinger Kahn, our very own manuscript-inspired artist of Penn to Press fame, explain her creative process. Anne integrates the artistry of the manuscripts themselves into her own artwork; in a way, she is continuing an ancient practice. This was especially evident in a workshop oriented around the craft of paper making.

I gave a short presentation on the background of paper making:

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Next, we did some watermark exploration! One of our members, Martin Smith, graciously shared his work on a seventeenth/eighteenth century manuscript play with us. The Collective gathered round to look at some of its pages through a lightbox, which illuminated at least two different watermarks–signaling the use of at least two different sheets of paper. A seemingly insignificant feature of the manuscript, such as a watermark, can in fact greatly add to our understanding of the work. Watermarks can sometimes suggest a date when the paper was produced, allowing a work’s date of origin to be estimated.

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A Recipe for Success: The Manuscript Collective Returns

After a summer hiatus, the Manuscript Collective reconvened in October. We went through a brush-up on Secretary Hand, then dove straight into a transcription exercise. The result: a paged transcribed from an exceptionally difficult manuscript.

The manuscript, Ms Codex 1601, is a collection of recipes inscribed in different hands, dated roughly from 1600 to 1825. Such a long span of use for one book is unusual, at least in my limited view, and I’d love to see someone tackle a project to inquire into the provenance of the manuscript. The Franklin record states that some of the recipes are linked to publishings by Elizabeth Grey (1653 and 1687), and later Doctor Short. However, little is known about the array of hands, or the relationships of one owner to another. Is it a family recipe book? Did earlier recipes influence later ones in the book? Interesting questions, worth pursuing.

For the majority of the meeting, which was revelrous, we reviewed the basics of Secretary Hand. (Because who doesn’t need a brush-up?) Next, we completed a group transcription exercise of the table of contents of this manuscript. The hand was particularly difficult for novice transcribers:

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Here is our partial transcription of the first page:

for boild meats

To boile browne

To boile in gamond of bacon

To boile veale

To boile a capon in

White broth

To boile a capon or chickens

in w[hi]t[e] brothe w[i]th almonds

To boile a Rabbett

To boile a Mallard

W[ith] cabbage

To boile a ducke w[i]th turneps

To boile chickens

on sorrell sopes

To boile a pike in

white broth

 

Three Transcriptions!

After a productive initial meeting exploring the letter as a physical object, we decided it was a good time to read some. In our March meeting, the Penn Manuscript Collective worked on a number of transcription exercises on the same Buckley Ferguson letters that we had looked at during the previous meeting. We ended up transcribing the entirety of three letters.

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Ms Coll 762 Folder 1

New Jersey April 25th 1788.

My ever Dear Aunt

I now set to write thee, I hope for the last Time

for this trip, as we look for thee Daily. Thee will

be much disappointed if thee waits for Captain

Decator, as he does not mean to return. I was much

disappointed in thy not coming, in some of the

late Vessels. Oh! now my Dear Aunt, what a

pleasing Sight would it be to see thee, once more,

& I hope I will be favoured ^[with] it soon.—

I remain with Love, dear Aunt, thy

ever Affectionate

Please to give my Love to all

friendly Friends.                      Nephew

Anthony M Buckley

Pompey gives his Love to all the Negroes, Sophia

in particular.

————————————————————————–

PS. Please to give my Love to Jemmy & Moses & all

the rest of the Negroes

frontback

MS Coll 762 Folder 2

Rebecca Buckley

Demerara

————————————————————————–

Coopers Ferry.  November:12th:1787

Dear Aunt,

 

I wrote thee not long since, in order to go by a

Vessel, from Burlington. but she sail’d sooner than we expected[.]

And I am not willing there should be any Conveyance to Demerara

without embraceing it. therefore write again; & shall enclose the other[.]

I cannot express the Satisfaction it afforded me; to hear thee had in

some measure regain’d that Inestimable blessing, Health. which thee

has so long been a stranger to. May thee my dr Aunt be favor’d to En

joy it—            I cannot help looking for thy return with Captai^ n

Decator. if thee does not, shall be disappointed, as it was not thy

Intent to make a long stay. when thee left us[.] Doubt not but thee

is very happy among thy old Friends, I should like much to see them

once more, but it is a satisfaction I do not look for—

Our Friends in Philada are much as usual. We spent the greatest

part of last week, they inquir’d particularly after thee, & desir’d

to be remember’d—

Please to remember me to all my Friends as if nam’d, & tell

Fanny I should have wrote her but time will not admit—

With wishing thee Health, Happiness & a speedy return shall

conclude thy ever Affectionate Neice. E M Buckley

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MS Coll 762 Folder 4

Rebecca Buckley

Demerara

————————————————————————–

Coopers Ferry November 12th 1787

Dear Aunt

We receivd thy agreeable favour, a few

Weeks ago which afforded me ^[the] greatest pleasure to hear

thee has regain’d thy Health—

I am great hopes thee will return with Captain

Decator, but as there is a probability, thee will not am

not willing to miss so favourable an Opportunity—

Cousin Susan, Barker, spent a few Days with us; she

is a very agreeable Woman; tho I do not think her equal

to her Sister Betsy—I wish thee could prevail upon

some of our Friends, to accompany thee out—

We have not heard from Bristol lately; but expect they

will write by this Conveyance. they are very anxious for

thy return—I am very sorry to hear that Mrs Ha =

milton, is no more, I wish she could have been spared

to the Children; a little longer she must be a great

loss to them—Mama, is much pleas’d to hear thee is better,

and desires to be remember’d to thee as well as our Friends,

in which she is join’d by thy ever

Affectionate

Neice

Sarah P Buckley

PS Mrs Claton and Mrs Wells desires to be remember’d to thee

likewise Pompey, to his Friends—

 

Poems by John Syng Dorsey

When I first saw MS Coll. 251 during our November 2014 meeting, I was struck by the elegant hand, both looping and precise, that filled the pages with neat lines of poetry.  As we deciphered the pencil markings at the bottom of the first page, we discussed the poet’s life: born in Philadelphia on December 23, 1783, John Syng Dorsey graduated from the University of Pennsylvania medical school at 19, spent two years in London and Paris studying medicine, and returned home to teach and practice surgery at Penn and continue assisting his uncle Philip Syng Physick, a renowned physician who mentored Dorsey in his teens.  In 1818 he became a full Professor of Anatomy but died of typhus after giving his introductory lecture.  In addition to this illustrious career, between 1805 and 1818 he produced the 40-page manuscript of Poems, which I had the pleasure of transcribing from photographs during the summer of 2015.  The large notebook he used contains dozens of blank pages after his poems, which his son Robert Dorsey edited in the 1850s, in a poignant reminder of what he could have accomplished in the sciences and the arts had he lived longer.

Dorsey

Although Dorsey is mainly remembered today as the author of Elements of Surgery (1813), the first American surgery textbook, and does not appear to have published the poems I transcribed,  his contemporaries may have known him as a poet as well as a doctor.  John Agg’s 1819 collection The Ocean Harp: a Poem, in two Cantos, with some smaller pieces; and a Monody on the Death of John Syng Dorsey, M. D. contains an elegy about Dorsey (an interesting tribute given that Dorsey writes several elegies in MS Coll. 251).  Either the publisher or Agg, an English immigrant to Philadelphia who was best known as the author of two Byron apocrypha, thought this poem significant enough to include on the title page.  The poem imagines Dorsey’s urn joining those of the other eminent Philadelphia physicians Benjamin Rush, William Shippen, and Caspar Wistar and describes Dorsey’s inclinations toward philosophy, poesy, music, morality, and piety.  The elegy’s heroic couplets and imagery about death, darkness, and the heavens recall Dorsey’s own poems such as “Reflections on the Incomprehensibility of God etc.”: like his subject, Agg celebrates poetry, which he portrays as just one of Dorsey’s many gifts, “whose magic wakes the thunder, and unbinds / The forked lightnings, and the warring winds!”  In the May 1819 issue of the Analectic Magazine, which Moses Thomas published in Philadelphia in addition to The Ocean Harp, a reviewer wrote that “the ‘Monody’ is not in good taste; a part of it is much the reverse, and is worthy of neither its subject nor its author,” hinting at Dorsey’s fame and skill as well as Agg’s.

“Dorsey was not a poet but he wrote good verse and what is more on deep subjects, for his mind was never frivolous” -Bulletin of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Volume 19 (1908)

“his whole soul was wrapped in in his chosen calling and no claims, even those of music and poetry, were superior to those of his profession”-he expresses a conflict of interest perhaps contradicting this in “Valedictory Address to my Muse” but then he stops writing for years

Robert (1808-1869) also had a medical degree from Penn the year of his death but never seriously practiced as a physician, never married, was paralyzed for last 10-15 years of his life (during which time he edited father’s poems)

catchword at bottom of page-feature of early printing

I have italicized the notes in graphite which Robert Dorsey added after his father’s death.

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[Page 31]

In Memory

of Alexander James Dallas[1]  writ in his diary & ?

                                                           [memoriam ?] on hand

                                                   fill’d with [poetry]

 

Mid the gay flowrs that here display their bloom

Aloft the solemn cypress [seans] his head

And casts a melancholy withering gloom

O’er the cold precincts of the silent tomb

Where Dallas now reposes with the dead.

 

Beneath this shade the muse inscribes a page

With the brief record of departed worth

For oft her smiles had beam’d upon the sage

Whose worth redeeming a degen’rate age

Evinc’d it gave one honest statesman birth*[2]

 

Genius did all her energies impart

To store with Science his capacious mind

And honour stampd her image on his heart

So deep, that not its latest throb could part

The lov’d impression she had left behind


[Page 32]

That heart replete with love for human kind

Polish’d his manners with resistless grace

Each social virtue in his bosom shrin’d

Shed the mild lustre of a soul refin’d

O’er the bright beamings of his manly face

 

Persuasive eloquence in deep debate

And wit that sparkled never to offend

And wisdom’s maxims that sustain’d the state,

When war had urg’d the crisis of her fate[.]

These stamp’d the patriot his country’s friend.

 

What Dallas was the muse could still rehearse

And bid our unavailing sorrows flow[:]

But vain—the dirge of dull funereal verse.

The death bell sounds;—rolls heavily the hearse,

And leaves our aching bosoms lasting woe.

Aug 1817[3]

[Page 33]

  1. Christian Honour  addressed to ? ?

Whilst others sing the hero’s fame

Whose blood-stain’d banner floats afar,

And crown with loud applause a name

Splendent[4] in victory and war!

Be mine the task in humbler verse

The Christian’s monument to raise

The good man’s virtues to rehearse

Whose modest merit shrinks from praise[:]

Yet I will praise thee man of GOD

Above the illustrious proud and great[;]

Thy soul now prisoned in its clod[5]

Is heir to more than regal state.

A crown of glory brighter far

Than ever grac’d a monarch’s brow

Thine honour’d tempter soon shall wear

Tho’ bleach’d by cares and sorrows now.

Who can discern this man of GOD?

describe the livery[6] he wears?

‘Tis he who dreads his master’s nod

And trembles at temptation’s snares.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_J._Dallas_(statesman) ; interesting that Dorsey writes this in memory poem then John Agg does it for him when he dies (assume all these people didn’t know each other personally?)

[2] This asterisk, probably written in graphite, does not correspond to a revision or note at the bottom of the page

[3] Inside the curlicue he uses the mark the end of poems-no other poem dated this way (usually year after title or no date-why was this given specifically and ornamentally?)

[4] Archaic word-“shining brightly”

[5] Look up this word

[6] So men of God are servants; also unusual that “describe” is lowercase starting the line b/c continuing previous ln’s question

Letters as Physical Objects: A Hands-on Exploration

The sky was sunny, the room was packed, and the smoke detectors were (luckily) not too sensitive during our club meeting on February 5th to explore the physical aspects of some late 18th century and 19th century letters in the Kislak Center‘s Collection. In meetings from previous years, we had only discussed some of these traits (see our Anatomy of  a Letter series of blog posts), but this time around we took a hands-on approach, creating our own letters. As a template we used some business letters from the John Rowe Parker Correspondence, which feature several different kinds of folds, sender and recipient markings, and traces of wax sealing. It is important to remember that while folding and writing styles show patterns, they do change over time–there is no one “18th century” or “19th century” technique. Rather, we chose a specific and prolific businessman, John Rowe Parker, who folded all of his many letters in the same way.

To begin, we wrote on one whole sheet.

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Next, we folded the top and bottom of the same sheet down over itself to make a smaller rectangle.

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We then folded this in thirds from the the sides.

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Then we addressed the letters.

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All of John Rowe Parker’s letters, and many letters through the 18th and 19th centuries, were sealed with wax, so we tried our hand at this too.

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The Hand of John Baranik trying not to get burned!

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Next we exchanged letters and opened each other’s letters, breaking the wax seal. Up to this point we had created letters which match the writing style and sending folds of the John Rowe Parker Correspondence.

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Bacon Sample 1 - Copy (2)

Impression from wax seal and rip caused by opening in letter from Allyn Bacon to John Rowe Parker, October 31, 1817.

There was one final step: the letters in the Correspondence featured filing folds, which meant that the recipient folded them again after receiving them in order to store them more efficiently, adding the name of the writer at the top.

Filing fold on letter from George Willig to John Rowe Parker, Dec 11, 1820

We copied this technique as well.

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Professor Stallybrass was eager to remind us that although we had been able to imitate one style of writing, folding, sealing, opening, folding, and storing, there exist many other styles in archives at Penn and around the world. Some writers folded margins before they wrote, some writers pre-folded their letters before they wrote, and some folded their letters so as to write the smallest amount possible. Being able to imitate on style made us curious to explore others–perhaps we will cover this next time!

An Afternoon with the Early Books Collective

On Wednesday, November 11th we spent an afternoon with some research librarians from Penn’s Early Books Collective. Working in partnership with the Text Creation Partnership (TCP) and the Early English Books Online (EEBO) database, this group is working on transcribing The Booke of Pretty Conceites using the TEI encoding language.

The main challenge in such digital transcription work, as we quickly found out, is faithfully representing the book: the typography, the section divisions, and mis-en-page can all be described by various tags. As the excerpt from some of our work below shows, the majority of this sort of transcription is occupied by tags, not text.

——–

<TEXT>
<DIV1 Type=”book”>
<DIV2  Type= “version” lang= “eng”>
<Front>
<DIV3 Type= “title”>
<P> THE Booke of pretty con|ceites, taken out of Latine French, Dutch and English.
</P>
<P>
Very merry, pleasant and good, to be read of all such <HI> as doe delight in new and </HI>
merry conceites </P>
<P> Newly inlarged, corrected and amended </P>
<Figure></Figure>
<P> LONDON </P>
<P> Printed by R <HI> alph Blower </HI>, dwelling on Lambert hill neere old Fish streete. Anno Dom. 1612. </P>
</DIV3> <PB>
<DIV3 Type=letter
——–

Some of the “very merry, pleasant and good” conceites that the title alludes to include “An easie way to procure Fire speedily,” “A speedy remedy for a prick of thorn in one’s foot, or elsewhere,” and directions “To make that no dog shall bark at you,” to name a few.

Our group did not get a chance to transcribe much more than a few pages in our short time together but we look forward to more collaborations with the Early Books Collective soon!

 

 

The EMMO Exploration

For our October meeting, we delved into the world of Secretary Hand, a writing style that crops up in 14th-16th century England. This hand was the focus of my studies at the Folger last summer, and I was eager to share its wondrous glory with the Collective.

We began with an alphabet lesson. Some letters in Secretary Hand look a lot like modern cursive; some feel completely alien to our eyes.

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We also talked about some important abbreviations: “es” graphs, “er” graphs, thorns, superscript letters, special p’s (an elaborately drawn p that stands for “pro,” “per,” “pre,” or similar), and a few others.

Next, we tried out EMMO, Folger’s transcription software, which contains a wealth of untranscribed samples of Secretary Hand. It was a great exercise to do as a group, because reading Secretary Hand can feel a lot like puzzle solving. The more people there are to help, the better!

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Secretary Hand can feel daunting at first–it definitely was to me–but I hope this meeting made it less intimidating for people. I had a lot of fun!

And we’re off!

On Wednesday, September 16th the Penn Manuscript Collective met for the first meeting of this school year. Our goal for this meeting, as for all our work, was to make working with special collections fun for new and old students alike. We began with an introduction to the club, gave some tips for reading manuscripts, and then dived into some transcription.

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We studied a manuscript of the genealogies of the Earls of Lecestre and Chester to practice reading medieval manuscripts, enjoyed the illustrations in a late 18th century book of astrology, but the centerpiece of our work together was a transcription of a recipe book from 18th century England. Included in this recipe book was the following cure for the “Bite of a Mad Dog”:

ms coll thig

An infalliable Cure for the Bite of Mad Dog

Brought from Tonquin by Sir Geo Cobb Bart.

Take twenty four grams of

Native Cinnabar Twenty four grams of

Fictitious cinnabar, sixteen grams of

Musk Grind all these together into an

Exceeding fine Power & put into a small

Tea Cupp of Arrack, Rum or Brandy let it

Be well mixed & give it to the Person as

Soon as Possible after the Bite a second

Doce of [the] same must be Repeated thirty

Days after and a third may be taken

In thirty Days more ; but if the symptoms

Of madness appear on the Persons they

Must take one of the Doses Immediately

And a second in an hour after & if wanted

A third must be given a few hours after wards

The above receipt is Calculated for full

Grown Persons, but must be given  them Children

In Small Quantities in proportion to their

Age this medicine has been given to

Hundreds of people & Dr George Cobb himself

Cured many who had the simptoms of madness

Upon them

This recipe for the cure of madness, or the “Tonquin Cure,” as is it called by Vincent DiMarco in his book The Bearer of Crazed and Venomous Fangs: Popular Myths and Learned Delusions regarding the Bite of the Mad Dog, circulated widely in Europe in the mid and late 18th century. DiMarco cites a 1738 article in the Gentleman’s Magazine as the first printed occurrence of this recipe. The above manuscript we studied dates from the late 18th-century, so it is possible that the recipe was copied out of a magazine or journal. Cobb’s remedy came from Tonquin, a region of Southeast Asia that is today in the north of Vietnam.

tonkin

Dr. Cobb’s death in 1762 occasioned several mentions in London magazines, including the London magazine or Gentleman’s monthly intelligencer and the British Magazine, Or, Monthly Repository for Gentlemen & LadiesWhat seemed an absurd and entertaining recipe to our group was, in the late 18th century, a well-traveled and well-known “cure.”

Our next meeting will be Wednesday, October 21st at 4pm. Nicole, fresh of a summer at the Folger Shakespeare Library, will conduct a tutorial on secretary hand. Until next time!

 

Transcription (and Tea!) at the Folger

I am so excited to be back at Penn for another year of manuscript shenanigans! We are back and better than ever–our first meeting will take place Wednesday September 16 at 4 (Van Pelt 623). I am returning from an incredible summer experience interning at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. I was an intern for the EMMO project, a transcription software developed at the Folger.

EMMO4n

This software truly revolutionizes the field of transcription, allowing for a much more nuanced portrayal of a text. On a Word document, we have to make all kinds of clunky approximations for structures not used in English any more, everything from thorns to “e-s graphs.” EMMO gets rid of all of these distractions.

EMMO also provides a base for images of manuscripts to be stored in, allowing easy access to anyone who would want to find them, and potentially opening up scholarly research and data collection.

I was working mainly with sixteenth and seventeenth-century manuscripts (letters and other documents), often in secretary hand, which was tough but a really fun puzzle. Without close examination, secretary hand can look nothing like English at all, with all of its peculiar letter forms and nonsensical abbreviations. This year, I hope to create a lesson for the PMC to share everything I’ve learned about tackling this enigmatic hand. (Thankfully, reading secretary hand 7 to 8 hours a day for five weeks improved my skill set just a bit. Toward the end of the internship, my fellow interns and I were writing and dreaming in secretary hand. Still, there is so much I need to learn!)

I certainly found EMMO easy to use and would recommend it to any organization. Although EMMO is still under development at the Folger, the plan is for it to eventually be offered to universities and other academic institutions.

Beyond all this, the Folger is a wonderful and welcoming place, further confirming my observation that book people are the best people. We had tea every day (a Folger tradition) and went out for gelato or milkshakes quite a few times. A huge thanks to all of my bosses, Paul Dingman, Heather Wolfe and Sarah Powell, for an amazing experience.