Exploring Early Modern Kent in the Archive (Part 1): An Introduction to the Ronald Baldwin Collection

SC&A are delighted to present the first of a series of blog posts by one of our volunteers, Dr. Daniella Gonzalez.

Having finished my doctoral studies and eager to get back into the archives to kick-start my career in the archival sector, I began to volunteer at Special Collections & Archives (hereafter SC&A) at the University of Kent in February 2020. There is nothing I like more than uncovering the mysteries that lie in the records before me. It is these materials that tie us back to the past and to the people who lived it. We get an insight into their experiences, thoughts and those they interacted with, as well as the processes that governed their everyday lives. In this piece I want to tell you a bit about what I’ve been doing and what I’ve learnt.

Ronald Baldwin in 1986

As a volunteer at SC&A, I had the fantastic opportunity to work with the early modern indentures that form part of the Ronald Baldwin collection, a selection of pre-1900 material that focuses on the county of Kent and which was collected by Baldwin, a local historian. The items in this part of the collection span the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, informing us about the lives of those that lived in the county of Kent under the Plantagenet kings of England up to the first Georgian monarch. My task was to sort and list the documents into a spreadsheet so it could be uploaded into the online catalogue; to transcribe and translate the documents; and to repackage them into archival quality enclosures to ensure their long-term preservation.

As soon as I laid eyes on the documents I would be working on I knew that this was the perfect project for me. Opening the box was the familiar sight of vellum, parchment and paper, as well as the script that is typical of early modern legal documents – to my delight there was even a late medieval document dating to 1 July 1425!

Indenture dated 29 May 1609 RB/DOC/IND/9

Those utilising these records will also notice that some are written in Latin and others in English. Some, like in the document below, produced on 10 February 1645, whilst Charles I was still king, are even written in both (as you can see the document is divided into two section, the Latin section, which is a preamble of sorts is at the top, and below the document continues in English), so be ready to put your Latin skills to the test!

Indenture dated 10 February 1645 RB/DOC/IND/15

Several of these items are in relatively good condition seals that have been slightly damaged and some slight staining of particular records.

Indenture dated 14 July 1718 RB/DOC/IND/19

As part of my introduction to the project, the University Archivist explained to me how archive catalogues are structured as a hierarchy, with different levels representing different aspects of the collection. Whilst I’ve had my fair share of visits to archives, I’d never realised that there is a catalogue hierarchy of sorts.

Knowing this was key in order for me to carry out my work on the early modern legal records I had before me. Thanks to the introduction, I knew that when cataloguing material, archivists need to capture several key bits of information, such as the level of these records – in this case ‘item’ – the repository they are held in, the collection they belong to and their reference number, which uniquely identifies these records as particular items. Other essential information to include are the date they were produced, the language they were written in, the condition of the record, what type of record it is and a description of the records that describes its content.

Detail of indenture dated 22 May 1626 RB/DOC/IND/10

Whilst sorting them into chronological order and cataloguing these records has been the central part of this project, I have also been able to put my palaeography skills to the test. Palaeography is the study of old handwriting and, whilst a medievalist by trade and having studied palaeography previously, some of the early modern handwriting was a little tricky at times. Totally worth it though when you encounter such beautiful illustrated initials like that on the right, dating to the reign of Charles I!

I have also been putting my palaeography skills to good use and producing transcriptions for researchers and the general public alike, which will be made available soon!

I’ll be producing some posts about my archive experiences with SC&A, so watch this space for more on early modern indentures and the daily lives of Kent’s early modern communities!

The catalogue entries for this collection are now live and can be viewed here: https://archive.kent.ac.uk/TreeBrowse.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&field=RefNo&key=RB%2fDOC%2fIND

 

Tiffin Scrapbooks

Jon Shepherd, Assistant Archivist in Special Collections & Archives until December 2017, writes:

The Tiffin Scrapbooks is a small collection of scrapbooks containing several hundred black and white and coloured images of windmills and cuttings mainly from around the county of Kent but also elsewhere in the UK and even from further afield in Europe.

The first scrapbook is titled ‘Windmills In Kent-past and present’ including photographs from the villages of Aldington in Mid Kent to Worthin East Kent.

This card is pasted into the front of MILL/TIFF/2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secondly there is a miscellaneous scrapbook which contains newspaper and magazine cuttings and postcards dating from the 1930s and covering the following English counties; Kent, Sussex, Essex, Yorkshire, Surrey, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire, Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Yorkshire, Bedfordshire, Suffolk, Oxfordshire as well as Anglesey, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Germany, USA and Mykonos.

Articles from Tiffin scrapbook MILL/TIFF/3

Scrapbook three again covers the Windmills of Kent and was assembled in around 1935. It includes cuttings, photographs, maps, poems, lists, postcards, typescript text and cartoons. It includes items on windmills from the villages of Acrise in South Kent to Yalding in West Kent, as well as images of some other subjects.

This image is pasted into Tiffin Scrapbook MILL/TIFF/3

The fourth scrapbook contains a photographic record of all of the windmills in Kent that remained standing in the year 1931 taken by A. W. Tiffin This includes examples from the Kent villages of Ash in East Kent through to Woodchurch in South Kent.

The last scrapbook is known as the Lancaster Burne Album and includes 261 pages of cuttings, postcards, adverts, photos and manuscript notes regarding windmills that can be found from Argos Hill to Zoandam. It includes windmills in Kent, West Sussex, East Sussex, Surrey, Holland, Belgium and France.

The collection can be browsed via the online catalogue via https://archive.kent.ac.uk/TreeBrowse.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&field=RefNo&key=MILL%2fTIFF.

If you would like to take a closer look at any of these five items and their fascinating images of windmills then please get in contact with us on specialcollections@kent.ac.uk or +44 (0)1227 82 3127.

Political History is Not My Forte; or, How to Learn History Through Political Cartoons

Many sides of Stalin – as drawn by Cummings

Starting work on new collections is always fun. For a start it means you’re decreasing the number of items that need working on, but you also get to go through something that’s completely new to you. Most recently, I have started cataloguing artwork by cartoonist Michael Cummings, who worked mainly for the Daily Express for a period of nearly fifty years. This particular selection of artwork dates from the early 1950s, a time that seems to be far away in the past, at the beginnings of the Cold War.

Now my first reaction was something along the lines of ‘oh no, I’m not going to know who anybody is’. As it turned out I was wrong. I recognized Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill and Stalin. This didn’t really give me a lot to go on. The 1950s are not exactly my strong point. I enjoy my history, but I enjoy my history quite a lot earlier than that. When I turned to the very first image and had literally no idea what was happening:

My first Cummings cartoon

My first reaction was, ‘this must be a Tory,’ based entirely on the caption. I had one other thing to go on, as somebody had very kindly written on the back of the artwork when the cartoon was published, and even what page it appeared on. As I knew all students and staff at Kent have access to UK Press Online, I decided to hop along and find the appropriate issue of the Daily Express. The cartoon was precisely where the artwork said it was, which was great. What was less great was the fact that there was nothing surrounding the image, no helpful arrows saying ‘this man is so-and-so’, and no articles relating to the image, as far as I could see, anywhere in the issue. So I hit a dead end. Extremely early on. Now what?

Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, Google searching ‘Conservative 1950s NHS’ didn’t get me very far. I had a look on Lexis Nexis but even narrowing down the date range produced more results to check than was feasible. I was almost on the verge of taking a photo on my phone and seeing if my Dad knew who it was, when I decided to check copies of the Express from the surrounding time period. This turned out to be the right thing to do – I came across a cartoon head of the very same man, this time with a caption telling me it was Aneurin Bevan.

Ok, so I basically got everything wrong. Bevan was a well-known Labour Politician, and at the time of the cartoon Minister of Health. At least I knew what the greenhouse was…

Getting the dimensions – featuring my tape measure, Colin

Establishing who people are in each of the cartoons is probably the hardest aspect of cataloguing them, for me. When I’m cataloguing I look out for specific information every time. First we need the basics: a title, artist, publication, date and size. Next comes recording anything that’s written in the cartoon, which we refer to as embedded text. This text and the image itself provides us with the information to assign subject matters to the item. This would be relevant political parties, or any celebrity and sporting news, or government policy mentioned. Other subjects can include setting, items or animals in the picture or emotions you think the people depicted are feeling. And then comes the time to add the people themselves to the record. This is also significant for the subjects; you can’t add the Chancellor of the Exchequer unless you know he’s actually in the picture.

When I first started cataloguing political cartoons, around two and half years ago now, I began with the more modern items. Part of our collections here at the British Cartoon Archive include the newspaper versions of cartoons that appear in the daily papers. This means our collection grows every day, and it’s partly my job to keep on top of this. I won’t pretend that I’ve ever had much of an interest in politics, (I knew next to nothing when I started), but I’ve definitely learnt a lot working here. I could at least recognise most of the Labour and Conservative politics, but my first big stumbling block was Danny Alexander. I think I found him by searching for ‘ginger Liberal politician.’

‘This is a Coalition Budget’ by Peter Brookes

In current cartoons, the colours actually plays a surprisingly large role in identifying who people are. It’s fairly obvious what party a politician is from based on what colour their tie is, (this is obviously a problem for women). This doesn’t work in artwork from the 1950s, which is done in black ink, with a blue wash which would appear grey in the published version. Another clue could be who the person is interacting with and how. If two politicians are having an argument about something it’s likely (although not definite) that they are from opposing parties. This also didn’t help me initially, as Aneurin Bevan was the only person in the first cartoon I catalogued, but it’s certainly helped along the way.

Once you get to know who someone is, there’s usually characteristics that most cartoonists exaggerate when they’re depicting them. For example, Theresa May is always wearing leopard print shoes, whilst Boris Johnson is mainly made of hair. Back in the 1950s, Winston Churchill always has a cigar. This wasn’t strictly speaking helpful, after all if you don’t know what Churchill looks like, where exactly have you been since the start of the 20th century?

….and Strachey

Gaitskell…

Noses and eyebrows are also quite often notable. Aneurin Bevan always has large black eyebrows paired with his neat white hair. Emanuel Shinwell, (“Who on earth?” – me about a month ago), has a very prominent, bulbous nose. Unfortunately, John Strachey and Hugh Gaitskell seem to have the same long, pointy nose, so initially I had to check which hairstyle any pointy-nosed men had to establish who they are. Here the differences seem obvious, but when you don’t know who they are and their images aren’t next to each, it’s not so easy.

There is an odd enjoyment in all this hunting for people and discovering who they are, even though I often sit there in mild despair when all my methods have failed. I wonder if Poirot ever felt like that.

This brings us to my favourite Cummings cartoon:

‘The New Elizabethans’ by Cummings

I love this for two reasons. 1. It is genuinely a fabulous cartoon. I love the detail and the period costume. Elizabethans are much more my style. 2. The published version of the cartoon has a key that tells you who everyone in the picture is. That was a happy moment for me.

I’m going to let you all into a little secret now. One of the reasons I have particularly been enjoying my work with the Cummings Collection is that it’s a nice break from cataloguing the cartoons of today. Sometimes working on this kind of material can get a little wearing. Recently there’s been a lot of cartoons focusing on terror attacks, and a lot about Brexit and the US presidential elections, and for the most part these cartoons aren’t overly positive. This is because the cartoonists genuinely believe what they’re depicting, and the whole point of them is to draw your attention to things that they consider need changing. But it can get very repetetive, so the 1950s is like a little holiday in history for me.

Now obviously terrible things happened in the 1950s. The Korean War and the Cold War for a start, and Stalin certainly did some terrible things. But it’s strange how the distance of time can weaken the effects of this in the present day. If it wasn’t something you lived through, or even something your parents lived through, it’s very difficult to get a proper grasp on how it must have felt at the time. If it does affect you, then you know you’ve just come across a powerful cartoon.

So far, this has happened to me only once whilst cataloguing this collection, when I came across the cartoon on the left. Published in early 1953, initially I didn’t have a lot to go on. It was obviously the shadow of a soldier, and that was enough for me to know if was referencing World War II. I don’t know how common this is generally, but in my head the 1950s and World War II are very, very separate. Even though I knew that 1953 was only eight years removed from the end of the war in Europe, and rationing was still ongoing. Even though I knew that war criminals were being tried, it never really occurred to me that this was something I would come across working on this collection. And that’s what this cartoon is depicting, the trial of men accused of taking part in the massacre of the village of Oradour.

For once the published cartoon actually stood alongside a relevant article in the newspaper, which allowed me to identify what it referenced easily. I had not heard of Oradour before, so I had to read the article to establish what exactly happened. I also used the internet to read more about it, and I was shaken. It wasn’t news to me that this sort of atrocity took place, but I wasn’t prepared for finding it amongst the cartoons.

I do think it’s extremely important that this cartoon, and others like it, exist. Sometimes images can convey more than words, particularly at a distance of seventy years, and cartoons certainly have their place amongst records of history, alongside sources like written accounts and photographs.

But it’s also important to keep things light. So here’s Churchill dressed as a goose:

A Politician’s Panto

All cartoons (c) Express Syndication Ltd, except Peter Brookes, (c) News UK

Upcoming Exhibition: Treasures of Rochester Cathedral Library

I am very excited to announce a one-off opportunity for you to get up close to some of the most beautiful, unique and culturally significant books from Rochester Cathedral Library.

After some months of cataloguing these books, as part of a collaborative project between Rochester Cathedral and the University of Kent (funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund), I am thrilled to be able to share these books with you for the very first time!

Register to join us on Monday 7 March 2016 at the Drill Hall Library, Chatham Maritime

Book of Hours

15th century illuminated ‘Book of Hours.’

This guided exhibition will give you the opportunity to explore the treasures of the library and find out more from experts who will be on hand to answer any questions on the day. The books and manuscripts being exhibited date from c. 1150 to the 18th centuries, with highlights from the collection including:

  • Tudor Bibles (such as Henry VIII’s ‘Great Bible’ (1539), the Geneva Bible (1584) and the Bishop’s Bible (1568))
  • an excellent example of a John Reynes Tudor binding with royal armorial decoration
  • a fifteenth century illuminated Book of Hours
  • manuscript items including an 11th century St Augustine’s ‘De Consensu Evangelistarum’ and the 13th century Lombard’s ‘Sentences’
  • early modern maps of Kent

So come along and join us for this one-time opportunity to discover more about the collections and Rochester Cathedral, and to speak to members of the project teams from the Cathedral and the University of Kent.

Please register for this free event via Eventbrite at www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/treasures-of-rochester-cathedral-tickets-21555859155.

Geneva Bible

Geneva Bible, 1584

 

Rochester Cathedral Cataloguing: The mystery of the missing title page

The book cataloguing for Rochester Cathedral has been going very well and has been a fairly smooth process to date, but sometimes a book presents itself that turns out to be a bit of an enigma.  Sometimes it can be something small that stops you in your tracks for a short time, but on the odd occasion something bigger turns up, and the need to don a proverbial deer stalker hat whilst bearing a spy glass in one hand may indeed be necessary.

I always start, with every book that passes though my hands, by running a series of checks using a range of databases to find out if any other organisations or institutions hold the same copy.  These organisations can range from universities from around the world, to libraries such as those at Lambeth Palace and the British Library.  This not only helps me to work out if the copy I have in front of me is what I think it is, which is especially useful when my book lacks a date of publication, but also allows me to see if my copy has any unique attributes, such as bindings that vary from other copies or editions. This is for the most part a successful process.

However, the problem with rare book cataloguing is that the book I am looking for isn’t always available anywhere else. They are not always held by other institutions and are not held on any of my usual ‘go-to’ databases.  Even my back-up checks of auction houses fail to generate results in some cases. This is never a huge problem as I tend to be able to work with what I have in front of me, until I met this inconspicuous little number.

Front cover

From the outside it offers very little in the way of aesthetically pleasing design or any clues as to what may lay within.  It is somewhat plain and quite unremarkable in appearance, particularly when compared to other ornate bindings within the collection.

I opened the front cover not expecting anything out of the ordinary, and was greeted by what appeared to be a dedication to Her Majesty Queen Anne, as well as a preface to the reader and an engraving.  Not an unusual grouping of items in themselves, but where was the title page?

First few pages

Finding a place to start was going to be difficult, but I had to start somewhere.  After checking the entire book for supplementary title pages (of which there were none), I began reading the text within the first two pages to look for clues as to what this book may be.

My first clue came from the dedication to Queen Anne.  One sentence stated that “It is (Madam) The History of the Holy Bible.”  I also noted that the dedication was signed by Richard P…. so kept in mind that this was most likely going to be the author or publisher of the work.

Title and author clue

I started exploring all the usual databases and uncovered a few close matches, but nothing concrete.  As a cataloguer, my need to source the most accurate information available needs to be satisfied before I share it with the world.  So, although still lacking the full knowledge as to the definite identity of this book, I set off on a page by page exploration.  This text is very fortunately full of Biblical images created by a range of well known engravers. This, I hoped, would help me on my way to discovering the true identity of the text, and to start building a catalogue record containing the details of every single engraver with responsibility for one of these beautiful illustrations.

Engravers

This process helped me to identify nine engravers.  Although I still lacked the title, author and publication, it was a reliable start.

I then worked on building a catalogue record where the information I could source about my book was easily available.  Sometimes even the simplest of details, such as how the page numbers are structured within the text (which isn’t always straight forward with rare books), can help in identifying a particular edition or imprint of a publication.

Engravings and provenance

I was well on my way to completing my record. I’d referenced everything from the page numbers and subject matter, to the condition of the item, its binding, provenance and the presence of any inscriptions and signatures. But still without a title, I returned to the drawing board, optimistic that my metadata was sufficient to cross-reference with my favorite data sources. I used the information that I had gathered so far and started my search once more.  Here I had a breakthrough and sourced several versions of the same title, ‘The history of the Old and New Testament extracted out of sacred Scripture and writings of the fathers‘ by Nicholas Fontaine, and was delighted with this discovery.   However, I needed to establish if it was indeed the given title and if so, which edition.

I headed over to EBBO (Early English Books Online) to view their digitised content of rare books. Here I found five potential matches, but after thorough checking I concluded that these were not exactly the same in every way (variant dedication, note to the reader and frontispiece image).  However, I had concluded that the above title was correct in its basic form and that this would be sufficient for my catalogue record. I also had an author I was certain was correct.

My record was almost complete. However, one mystery remains even to today. When was it published and who published it? Because I’ve not been able to source any absolute confirmation that my copy is exactly the same as any other copy, it would be inappropriate to rely on other sources for the name of potential publishers,booksellers, or a date of publication. To overcome this, the best that can be done is to calculate the likely date of publication based on all other evidences, ensuring this is appropriately referenced as an estimated date in the catalogue record.

For the most part, the majority of the books within this collection have had in tact title pages, making life much easier from the cataloguing perspective. But becoming a detective for a while adds another level of interest to the job.  When you love rare books as much as I do, getting to discover more along the way that you wouldn’t have otherwise encountered is an added bonus.