Monthly Archives: January 2017

A Short Introduction to Palaeography

As today is National Handwriting Day in the United States, we have decided to provide a short introduction to palaeography – an essential skill for any budding historian or archivist!

What do we mean by palaeography?
Palaeography literally means ‘old writing’ from the Greek words ‘paleos’ = old, and ‘grapho’ = write. The term is now generally used to describe reading old handwriting.

Handwriting of Anthony Ashley Cooper, seventh Earl of Shaftesbury

Handwriting of Anthony Ashley Cooper, seventh Earl of Shaftesbury

How we read

The human mind deos not raed ervery lteter by itself, but the word as a wlohe. The order of the ltteers in the word can be in a toatl mses but you can still raed it wouthit any porbelm.

We expect to recognise words and letter shapes but this doesn’t happen with unfamiliar handwriting. Instead we need to look at the individual letters separately and break the words into their most basic form.

Some tips for reading documents

While you’re reading:

  1. Try to identify individual letters:
  2. Compare them with similar-looking letters on words you have already deciphered.
  3. Look at the adjacent letters, considering which letters are likely to sit together. For example –act would be more likely than –acx.
  4. You don’t have to start at the beginning. When faced with a difficult or unfamiliar style, look through the document for a passage you can read (more) confidently.

Why not have a go at reading the Duke of Wellington’s handwriting:

Letter from Arthur Wellesley, later first Duke of Wellington, to Henry Bathurst, third Earl Bathurst, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies [MS61 Wellington Papers 1/373]

Letter from Arthur Wellesley, later first Duke of Wellington, to Henry Bathurst, third Earl Bathurst, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies [MS61 Wellington Papers 1/373]

Things to look out for

Abbreviations

The most common form of abbreviation is by contracting a word by missing out letters from the middle:

Words: "Should" and "Lord"

Sometimes a horizontal dash, or other mark, would be made over or under the missing letters to highlight the omission.

Words: "received" and "the"

Spelling

Spelling was not standardised until the eighteenth century. Spelling of names and places can vary greatly, sometimes in the same document. Often phonetic spellings were used. However, this becomes less of an issue over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Words: "To morrow" and "Catholick"

Numbers

Numbers changed shape for example 8, often when used in dates, could be an old-fashioned form where the top loop was to the right of the lower loop, making it tilt over.

Number: "18"

Letter forms

When a word will not fit onto a line, it will be split onto two lines – sometimes without hyphenating the two bits of the word, or using = on the second line.

Word: "communicating"

The long s, resembling an f, is usually the first used in a double s word, such as “expression” here. To avoid getting the long s and f mixed up, the f will have a cross stroke, even if it’s hardly noticeable.

Word: "expression"

With more formal language, there might also be an unusual use of capital letters, often emphasizing important words.

Words: "Detachments" and "Right"

Changed letter shapes: for instance the letter h was sometimes written with the stick above the line of text and the letter p (particularly on the end of words), could often look like an f.

Word: "help"

Handwriting
Styles of handwriting have been influenced by the challenges of writing with pen and ink. The way the shape of the letters flow results from the shape of the quill or nib. The downstrokes were usually heavy, with the upstrokes lighter as the pen pushed against the paper, rather than scratched into it.

The example below is a document drafted in the hand of Prime Minister, Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston:

Heads of proposed arrangements for the future government of India, drafted in the hand of Prime Minister, Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston [MS 62 Palmerston Papers CAB88B]

Heads of proposed arrangements for the future government of India, drafted in the hand of Prime Minister, Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston [MS 62 Palmerston Papers CAB88B]

So, palaeography is not a theory. It is a skill which will improve with practice. It is often just a case of “getting your eye in” and becoming familiar with the handwriting.

Interested in exercising your palaeography skills a little more? Then be sure to check out The National Archives’ online palaeography tutorial at:
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/

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Testing Times

MS310/9 A816 Photo showing University students sitting final examinations in St Mary’s Drill Hall, Southampton, 3 June 1959; from the scrapbook of Isabel Syed, 1958-60. Due to the large increase in student numbers in the ‘50s there were too many finalists to seat in the University Assembly Hall; exams were sat off-campus in 1958 and 1959.

MS310/9 A816 Photo showing University students sitting final examinations in St Mary’s Drill Hall, Southampton, 3 June 1959; from the scrapbook of Isabel Syed, 1958-60. Due to the large increase in student numbers in the ‘50s there were too many finalists to seat in the University Assembly Hall; exams were sat off-campus in 1958 and 1959.

This week we post an Archive photo for all those students commencing Semester 1 exams. It’s a familiar scene:  final examinations at St. Mary’s Drill Hall in Southampton, almost 60 years ago.  Note the dress code – shirts and ties for the gentlemen – quite formal by modern standards but positively relaxed compared to earlier times.  The University College of Southampton ‘Rules of Conduct and Discipline’ from 1924-5, required all students to wear full academic dress at lectures and written examinations [LF 783.2]  At that time the academic gown was the uniform of the student – not the badge of success reserved for graduation day.

With sartorial considerations out of the way, how to succeed at examinations?

WP1/984/9 f.3v. Printed ‘Standing Order of the Master-General and Board of Ordnance, dated 21st July 1824’, from the papers of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, Master General of the Ordnance from 1818-27. The Ordnance Department was a very large government department employing many staff.

WP1/984/9 f.3v. Printed ‘Standing Order of the Master-General and Board of Ordnance, dated 21st July 1824’, from the papers of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, Master General of the Ordnance from 1818-27. The Ordnance Department was a very large government department employing many staff.

We find some helpful tips in this 19th-century standing order of the Master General and Board of Ordnance.  It states that every person nominated to a post in the Ordnance Department must undergo examination, which should include the following points:

1st  – His* handwriting must be clear and legible in every respect, of which a specimen is to be produced.  [* no equal opportunity at the Ordnance in 1824!!]

2nd  – It is expected that he will be perfect in the common rules of Arithmetic, viz. – Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division; and when the Office to which he may be nominated shall particularly relate to Accounts, he will be required to pass a further examination of his abilities in the Rule of Three and Fractions.

3rd  – Every person nominated as above, will be required to write grammatically in the English language and to be correct in his orthography.

Handwriting, mental arithmetic and spelling apart, the final hurdle was age: candidates should produce a certificate “in order to verify that the age of 16 years has been attained, and that he is not beyond thirty, though in the latter case, a latitude of a few months will be allowed, and not considered a disqualification for the Office”.

We can see these rules as part of the rise of professionalization in the 19th century – it was now accepted that employees should be competent – and a reminder that the history of examination and education is long and interlinked.  Exams are a test and a rite of passage; a shared experience that ties together students past and present.

Strenuis Ardua Cedunt   [The heights yield to endeavour – University motto.]

“Sans peur and sans reproache”: Emily, Lady Palmerston

Writing from Paris in 1826, Emily, Countess Cowper – later Lady Palmerston – described herself as “without fear and without reproach”: while the city is full of gossip “if you should hear anything of me you may not believe it” she assures her brother Frederick. [BR30/6/13]

At a time when government appeared ostensibly to be a male domain, Emily’s life illustrates the significant role played by women in the political arena of the nineteenth century. Beautiful, charming and intelligent and although not a political thinker, she was astutely aware of the realities of the political system and a great believer in the power of social influence. She was the première political hostess in London of her time – a leading lady in Almack’s, an upper-class social club – and anyone who was anyone attended her parties.

ms62_br28_11_3_0002

Lady Palmerston and her daughters Fanny (right) and Minny (left) BR28/11/3

Emily was born to Peniston Lamb and his wife Elizabeth in 1787. She had three brothers, William (twice Prime Minister), Frederick (a diplomat) and George (a playwright).  Her first marriage was to Peter Clavering-Cowper, fifth Earl Cowper. In 1839, two years after his death, she married her long-term lover Lord Palmerston.  Emily had three sons and two daughters, all born during her marriage to Lord Cowper, although unlikely to all have been fathered by him: George Cowper, sixth Earl Cowper (Fordwich); William Cowper-Temple, first Baron Mount Temple; Charles; Frances (Fanny) Jocelyn, Viscountess Jocelyn and Emily (Minny), wife of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, seventh Earl of Shatesbury.

The University’s archives holds a collection of Emily’s letters; the bulk of the correspondence is to Emily’s brother, Honourable Frederick Lamb; from 1844, there is also correspondence with her second husband, Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston. Emily covers a wide range of topics in her letters.  In terms of political affairs, the Reform Bill and Catholic Emancipation Act feature heavily and she usually includes society gossip.  As she is writing to her brother, it is natural that she should frequently discuss their parents, siblings and her children: “whatever else may be said of me nobody shall ever doubt my being a good mother and a good daughter” she comments in March 1820. [BR29/3/7]

The letters make reference to Emily’s brother William’s marriage to Caroline Lamb. Their son George Augustus was born with severe mental health problems.  Unusually for an aristocratic family of the time, William and Caroline cared for their son at home; his “fits” are often mentioned.

LadyPfuneral

Lady Palmerston’s funeral at Westminster Abbey, 1869

The letters shed a little light on Emily’s first marriage to Earl Cowper. Married in 1805 aged 18, Emily is remembered as beautiful and charming, In contrast, her husband is described – in the more favourable portraits – as quiet and shy, and less sympathetically as dull and slow.  When advising her brother Frederick about affairs of the heart in 1821 she comments how “at best [marriage] must always be a lottery.”  She still, however, recommends that he should marry:

From a man’s comfort it is almost better to have a bad wife than to have no wife. Besides it is always a man’s own fault if his wife is very bad.  [BR30/2/3]

The following year, 9 November 1822, she wrote to her friend, Fanny, Lady Burrell “I well know how unpleasant (and often hurtful to the tranquillity of a ménages) a third person is and I well know if you cannot get rid of her now you never will.” [BR2815/10]. A few years later, circa 1826, she wrote to Frederick:

Dear Ld C. in the most sheepish way asked me the other night if I had any objection to [?Lady] Sarah coming to P[anshanger] [BR30/6/18]

Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston

Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston pictured at his country residence, Broadlands

While Emily’s affair with Lord Palmerston was long standing, she was discrete about these matters in her correspondence. She reported to Frederick in 1825 that “Lord Palmerston went to call upon Fordwich in the course of his canvass and was quite delighted with him.” [BR30/5/14]. Being her eldest son and heir, she was anxious regarding Fordwich’s education and future prospects and expresses these concerns in February 1827:

Ld C. takes no trouble about him tho’ he is very fond of him[…] Ld Palmerston whom I have consulted for want of better advice says he might go back to Cambridge now…[BR29/13/2]

Emily lived during a time when women were not permitted to vote let alone serve in Parliament. Her social status would likely have afforded her considerable independence and influence.  Despite commenting in 1822, “women in general may be wise for keeping out of politics” [BR29/7/14] that same year she was happy to intercede with the King on Frederick’s behalf: “for so shy a person as I am it is astonishing how bold and determined I can be when it is worthwhile”. [BR29/8/4]

In later letters the support Emily provided for her husband Lord Palmerston is referenced. In November 1840 she tells Frederick she has come to Brighton for the sea breeze having spent the last “two months doggedly to help fight [Palmerston’s] battles”: at this point Palmerston was Foreign Secretary. [BR29/15/3]. A few months later (February 1841) she comments how her “brilliant Saturday parties […] do much good”  [BR30/13/3].

Wellington_portrait

Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington

Emily refers frequently to the victor of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington; the highs and lows of his career are charted through her letters. Rather acerbically in 1821: “he is better seen at a distance when the glitter looks like gold”, with reference to his concern at his waning popularity. [BR30/2/4] She clearly has a soft spot for the Iron Duke, however, and ensures that Mrs Arbuthnot has been invited to a party in July 1825 because “there is nothing I would not do to please him, he is such a love’. [BR30/5/6]”

Emily’s correspondence, held by the University’s Special Collections, provides an insight into her life, influence and opinions. Recently listed at item level, these letter-by-letter descriptions will facilitate greater access to a resource detailing the life of this fascinating nineteenth-century aristocratic woman.

2016: Year in review

In this week’s blog post we take a look back at some of the highlights of 2016.

The bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo meant that 2015 was a big year for Special Collections. While we were not involved in anything quite on the same scale in 2016, it was still a highly productive year for the division.

Items from the exhibition The Book The Object in the Special Collections Gallery

Items from the exhibition The Book The Object in the Special Collections Gallery

As a result of the recent building project taking place in the Hartley Library, the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery was host to only one exhibition during 2016. The Book The Object ran from February to May and celebrated the culture, the manufacture and the artistry of the book, from the 15th to the 21st century. We are now happy to confirm that, after a hiatus of almost a year, the Special Collections Gallery will be reopening this spring with an exciting line up of new exhibitions on the way!

The neighbouring Level 4 Gallery was host to three exhibitions over the course of the past year. Re: Making, which ran from February to March, was a documentary exhibition of three PhD seminars at Winchester School of Art. The following month saw Proof, an exhibition providing a snapshot of work produced within the Publisher Hub since its conception in 2015. Finally, the autumn brought Archive Senses, an exhibition looking at Archives as a part of the wide-ranging conversation around materiality, and emphasising the continuing importance of the archive object — not just as a less accessible alternative to the digital object as sometimes perceived, but as a critical resource that runs alongside and underpins the digital.

Image from Archives Sense in the Level 4 Gallery

Image from Archives Sense in the Level 4 Gallery

Archive Senses is currently on an extended run so be sure to drop by and have a look. You can also view Elastic System, an interactive artwork produced by Richard Wright whilst he was Artist in Residence at the British Library, which is currently on display in the foyer of the Hartley Library.

Special Collections continued its series of Explore Your Archive events in 2016. The first of these took place in April and focused on philanthropic sources among the collections. The event included a talk by David Brown, Professor of Modern History at the University of Southampton, discussing his work on the diaries of the great Victorian social reformer and philanthropist, the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury (which form part of the Broadlands archives). Later in the year, to tie in with the official launch of the 2016 Explore Your Archive campaign, there was a series of three open afternoons from October to December. The first of these took place ahead of the 28th Wellington Lecture, delivered by Bernard Cornwell, and focused on the papers of the first Duke of Wellington. The following month’s event focused on health and welfare sources and included a talk by Dr Brenda Phillips discussing her research on the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley. The final Explore Your Archives event focused on the Arts – specifically music, theatre and the visual arts – and included a talk from Eloise Rose from the John Hansard Gallery.

Visitors at the Exploring the Wellington Archive event

Visitors at the Exploring the Wellington Archive event

2016 was a big year for the Arts in Southampton. Activities taking place at the University and across the city included the launch of Arts at University of Southampton; the coming of British Art Show 8 to the John Hansard Gallery and Southampton City Art Gallery; and the development of Studio 144, Southampton’s new arts complex in Guildhall Square. To mark the occasion, Special Collections also launched an online exhibition looking at some of the key developments in the history the Arts at the University.

As part of our ongoing outreach and student engagement activities Special Collections continued to hold a series of sessions for students eager to learn about our collections and services. In addition, a number of this year’s second year history group projects focused on subjects relating to the collections, including Jewish immigration, Catholic emancipation, the Duke of Wellington, the Mountbattens and the travels of William Mogg. The division was also involved in the Parkes Institute’s 1st International Workshop on Jewish Heritage which ran from 11 to 13 July.

Cataloguing material from the Broadlands archives

Cataloguing material from the Broadlands archives

Cataloguing continues to be a key activity of the Archives with cataloguing projects over the past year focusing on a broad range of material from across the collections. Blog posts highlighting recent cataloguing activities focus on Sir William Temple, Jewish Friendly Societies, Ian Karten, S.G.P. Ward and the Peninsular War, the Cope Handbills, the World Archaeological Congress, and the Programme for Promoting Nuclear Non-Proliferation.

Other blog posts from the past year mark a range of anniversaries which tied in with the collections. These including: the first flight of the Spitfire; the 1916 Easter Rising; the end of the Crimean War; the General Strike of 1926; the Battle of Jutland; the beginning of the Spanish Civil War; the Suez Crisis of 1956; and the Battle of Cable Street. 2016 also saw celebrations taking place across the country for the Queen’s 90th birthday; Shakespeare’s quarter-centenary; and the 300th birthday of Lancelot “Capability” Brown.

Hops and Hopping from the Perkins Agricultural Library

Hops and Hopping from the Perkins Agricultural Library

Material from Special Collections recently digitised by the Library Digitisation Unit include parts of the Perkins Agricultural Library and the Gladstone collection of music. Also digitised were audio recordings from the archive of Revd James Parkes which are now available to access in the Archives and Manuscripts reading room.

Additional activities during the year included the launch of the Special Collections Facebook page; filming material from the Mountbatten Papers for an upcoming documentary on 100 years of the Windsors; and providing photographs of material for Hull’s UK City of Culture 2017 celebrations.

2017 looks set to be another busy year. So keep an eye out for details of all upcoming Special Collections activities and events!