Monthly Archives: December 2017

Christmas wishes

Watercolour from a commonplace book, 1820s, MS 242 A800 p.77r

Watercolour from a commonplace book, c. 1820s,
MS 242 A800 p.77r

We wish you all a very merry Christmas and share a snowy scene from 200 years ago. This little watercolour appears in a lady’s commonplace book, which records the author’s travels to Scotland and the East Indies, c. 1820-1825. It is filled with beautiful sketches and watercolours of places and scenes that she had visited.  Perhaps these children were playing in the Scottish snow at Christmas?

The giving of gifts has always been a priority at this time of year – and not just in modern times – as shown by the following examples from the Broadlands Archives:

BR11/24/6 Mary, Lady Palmerston, to the second Viscount Palmerston, 23 Dec 1797

Mary, Lady Palmerston, to the second Viscount Palmerston, 23 Dec 1797 MS 62 BR11/24/6

In 1797, Mary, Lady Palmerston, wrote a letter from her home at Broadlands to her husband, sending a list of Christmas presents that he might buy for their children in London. The letter is dated “Saturday night, 23 Dec 1797” so this was to be a last-minute shopping spree!!

“With respect to the children’s presents, the things they would like the best I believe would be as viz. – Harry a small tool box, Fanny a small writing box, Willy the same, and Lilly a little gold necklace. If these are too expensive, then Harry a Spanish Don Quixote, Fanny the same, Willy the Preceptor [a book of instruction] and Lilly an atlas …. with a clasp.  They know nothing of your intention but we were supposing that if we were to have the offer of presents, what we should all like.

I will not trouble you to buy any thing for me except some shoes and a book which I shall write to Walsh about – without you see a nice plated nutmeg grater which would be a great treasure.”

The list gives an insight into the characters of Mary and the children. (Was the “nutmeg grater” the fashionable gift of the day?!) And we all know how difficult it is to buy the perfect present – and keep it a secret at the same time!

Twenty years later, the question of Christmas presents was also on the mind of Emily, Countess Cowper, (who later married the third Viscount Palmerston). This time it was her brother, Frederick Lamb, who had been charged with the shopping:

Emily Cowper, Countess Cowper, to her brother Honourable Frederick Lamb, 4 January 1820, MS 62 BR29/3/1

Emily, Countess Cowper, to her brother, the Honourable Frederick Lamb, 4 January 1820, MS 62 BR29/3/1

“My dearest Fred. I got a letter from you today and a large collection of cards, some very pretty, and last week I received a very pretty gold cup, the saucer of which puzzled us a great deal.  We could not think what it was meant to represent till by daylight next day we saw the reflection in the gold. Thank you for all these things. I am sorry George sent my letter of commissions after you and that you should have taken any trouble about it for they were really not things I absolutely wanted but I could not let people go to Paris and return empty handed.  I thought it was too good an opportunity to let escape and was obliged to sit down and think what I could want, however, if they come I shall be very glad to have them and particularly the ormoulu candlestick: three candles is handsomer but I said two because I had just then seen one of two which Lady Jersey generally uses….”

I wonder what he made of that letter from his sister – and how much trouble it had been to buy all the gifts?!

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy 2018.

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The not so commonplace – commonplace books

Commonplace books have been described as the ancestors of our blogs or our list of favourites. They are essentially handwritten notebooks or scrapbooks that contain collections of quotations arranged in some way, perhaps topically or thematically, for easy retrieval and as an aid of reference for the compiler. Despite their name, there was nothing commonplace about such books, as each was unique to its compiler, reflecting their particular interests and providing an insight into people’s habits of mind.

Illustration and poem from A lady's commonplace book, 1820s [MS242 A800 p.32]

Illustration and poem from A lady’s commonplace book, 1820s [MS242 A800 p.32]

Commonplace books had their origins in antiquity in the idea of loci communes, or “common places,” under which ideas or arguments could be located in order to be used in different situations. They flourished in early modern Europe and continued to develop and spread during the Renaissance period, as scholars were encouraged to keep them. By the seventeenth century, commonplacing had developed into a recognised practice that was taught to university students.

John Locke

John Locke

The philosopher John Locke began keeping his own commonplace books in 1652, the year that he became a student at Oxford University, and in 1685 he published “Méthode nouvelle de dresser des recueils,” which appeared in 1706 as A new method of making a common place book. In this Locke explained his method of indexing and gave advice on how to arrange material by subject and category, using a ‘head’ word.

Commonplace book of poetry "Poems on several occasions by several celebrated authors",c.1739-19th century [MS7]

Commonplace book of poetry “Poems on several occasions by several celebrated authors”, c.1739-19th century [MS7]

The production of commonplace books continues to the present, providing a rich and diverse array of examples, from the uniquely individual to the ready-to-use commonplace books that could be bought with topics and categories already written at the tops of pages just waiting to be filled in. Whilst some examples, such as the volume MS 7, focused exclusively on poetry, others were much more wide ranging in terms of subject matter and formats used.

‘Personalia’ commonplace book of Revd F.N.Davis [MS269 AO155/3]

‘Personalia’ commonplace book of Revd F.N.Davis [MS269 AO155/3]

The ‘Personalia’ commonplace book kept Revd Francis Neville Davis (1867-c.1946), rector of Rowner, Hampshire, between 1919 and the late 1930s, included not only literary material, but extracts from newspaper articles, family history, brief extracts from diaries, lists of manuscript volumes of Revd Davis, obituaries and a list of receipts from fetes. The focus here reflected the interests and preoccupations of Revd Davis as he considered his family and its antecedents, his legacy and his role in church life.

The lady’s commonplace book compiled between 1820 and 1825 [MS 242] illustrated a preoccupation with the literary and artistic. The volume contains poems, short stories, watercolours, pencil and pen and ink sketches of plants, landscapes and individuals. With entries in a number of hands, it was probably compiled for an individual who spent time in Scotland and in the East Indies.

Illustration from A lady's commonplace book, 1820s [MS242 A800 p.56v]

Illustration from A lady’s commonplace book, 1820s [MS242 A800 p.56v]

The commonplace book has played a role in the way that we organise information. And whether we are aware of it or not, the techniques that they engender continue to influence us as we move into the digital world of information organisation.

SUSU Sport – making history

Are you a member or supporter of Team Southampton ? You are making history!

Generations of students and staff – men and women – have built a strong sporting tradition at Southampton and you are following in their footsteps. In 2017, SUSU has 93 sports teams competing at a national level.  How will your team be remembered?

Netball team, 1928-9, MS1/7/291/22/2/62

Netball team, 1928-9, MS1/7/291/22/2/62

Team photos record more than names and faces – they often detail trophies, mascots, special occasions and successes, the sports-wear and sports equipment of the day. Are they formal or informal? What do they show about team spirit and pride? What about the setting – they may be taken on the pitch or show University locations and sports facilities. How does the past link to the present?

In Special Collections we hold many records relating to University teams and their achievements, from the earliest days of the Hartley Institution at the end of the 19th century – to the modern sports teams of today. They include photos, programmes, fixture lists, match reports, accounts and papers – even a rugby shirt worn by R.E.Brown, captain of the first XV in 1933-4!  Together they tell the story of sport at Southampton – an important aspect of University life.

The University Boat Club, 1962-3. MS1/7/291/22/4/125

The University Boat Club, 1962-3. MS1/7/291/22/4/125

This is the University Boat Club, 1962-3. The caption reads: “1st VIII were placed 12th out of 150 crews in the Reading Head of the River, and for the first time the University entered for Henley Royal Regatta in the Thames Cup division” MS1/7/291/22/4/125.

We have recently contributed to a project to celebrate the UK’s sporting heritage.

The aim is to bring together information about sports archives and the people who care for them. By adding details of our collections to this website we are helping to build a national list of all the sporting heritage collections in the UK.  You can use it to search by sport or location; discover what’s on; read featured articles, and more.

The Special Collections also holds manuscript and printed material relating to sport in the county of Hampshire; the sporting interests of individuals – such as Earl Mountbatten of Burma (a famous polo player) – and the sporting activities of Anglo-Jewish youth groups. You can see details of our sporting collections here:

https://www.sportingheritage.org.uk/content/collection/special-collections-hartley-library-university-southampton