Memoranda and Mutual Friends: Dickens and his practices of note-taking in the Book of Memoranda

When asked about the role of note-taking in his compositional practice in 1839 edition of The Knickerbocker Magazine, a young Charles Dickens asserted:

I never commit thoughts to paper until I am obliged to write, being better able to keep them in regular order on different shelves of my brain, ready ticketed and labelled to be brought out when I want them.[1]

In this case, the mythology doesn’t seem to stack up to the material. Examining the handwritten culture at the heart of Charles Dickens’s compositional practice pulls the researcher in many directions. In what material evidence we have remaining, we do not find ‘regular order’, the ‘ready ticketed and labelled’ shelving system of the brain, artfully and systematically laid bare on paper.  Oftentimes, rather than fullness, one finds fragments, rather than surety, one finds scribbles. Continue reading

Cambridge, University Library, MS Ff. 5. 35: Some Structural Observations

Cambridge, University Library, MS Ff. 5. 35 contains The Travels of Sir John Mandeville and Piers Plowman. Both works were copied by a single scribe, and are relatively uniform in terms of layout, decoration, abbreviation, and use of catchwords. These two texts are also found in close proximity in several other manuscripts (Cambridge University Library Dd. 1. 17 and San Marino, Calif., Huntington Library MS HM 114), suggesting that despite differences in genre, form and style, the combination was a somewhat popular and apparently logical one for medieval audiences.

This manuscript features two separate sets of quire markings: a series of quire numbers, likely made by a later binder, loosely resembling Roman numerals; and a series of leaf signatures, apparently scribal, visible on the bottom outer corner of the recto of the first folios of many quires, consisting of a letter marking the quire number and a Roman numeral indicating the number of the folio within that quire. Continue reading

An ex libris puzzle in Cambridge, University Library, MS Ee. 4. 30

Cambridge University Library, MS Ee. 4. 30 is a copy of Walter Hilton’s contemplative treatise The Scale of Perfection. Dating from the late fifteenth century, the manuscript is a good quality production by a single scribe, with some careful decorations. It was produced in the London Charterhouse, a major centre of book production and circulation.

Cambridge University Library, MS Ee. 4.30, fol. 4r. Copyright Cambridge University Library

Cambridge University Library, MS Ee. 4.30, fol. 4r. Copyright Cambridge University Library

Indeed, the presence of an ex libris inscription in the manuscript indicates its provenance, one which follows the standard Latin phrasing from this house: ‘Liber domus salutacionis Matris Dei ordinis cartusiensis prope London’ (‘a book of the house of the Salutation of the Mother of God, of the Carthusian Order, near London’). This formulation appears in several other volumes from the Charterhouse, including at the very end of Cambridge University Library, MS Ff. 1. 19 (fol. 134v), where it is heavily abbreviated. However, in MS Ee. 4. 30 the formulation appears in an unusual and, as far as I have been able to determine, unique format. The inscription appears one letter at a time in the central lower margins of each recto in Part One of the Scale text (fols. 4r – 62r), meaning that the reader has to decipher the text gradually. Continue reading

The Elision of Mark Pattison in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure

Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure. © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure. © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum holds both the original manuscript and first edition proofs for Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure (Object Numbers MS 1-1911 and PB 9-2008). The novel was published in 1895 and follows the tragic tale of Jude Fawley, whose impassioned ambition to become a scholar is repeatedly thwarted by a troublesome blend of social impediments and regrettable personal decision-making. The novel transpired to be Hardy’s swansong in literary fiction, and is an astonishingly rich vision of the troubled philosophical and political conditions in the fin de siècle.

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Cambridge, University Library, Hh. 1.13: fols 71v-72v

CUL, Hh.1.13, fol. 71v

CUL, MS Hh.1.13, fol. 71v. Copyright Cambridge University Library

Cambridge University Library, MS Hh. 1. 13 (Hh.1.13) is one of over 50 extant copies of the Speculum Christiani, a popular pastoral compilation dating most likely from the first few decades of the fifteenth century. The Speculum almost always consists of eight sections or tabulae, each of which expounds on certain aspects of the Christian faith, in keeping with Pecham’s basic syllabus of religious instruction. The Speculum, however, is often combined with other religious texts of diverse provenance.

Fols 1r-71v of Hh.1.13 contain a unique version of the Speculum (G. Holmstedt (ed.), Speculum Christiani, EETS: OS, 182 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1933, p. cxlii).

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