Short one this week- still quite busy.
Speaking of maids, I thought I’ll introduce you to a very special person among the early St.Mark’s staff- Mrs.Harvey. She was the head of the servants in St.Mark College and a long-time employee of the Coleridge family. Coleridge’s daughter, Cristabel, mentions her in Memorials of St Marks College. She was a vigorous person, somewhat of a substitute mother to the young men of the College. It is said that once there was a rumour of burglars in the school and she, being a lady of eighty at the time, would walk the corridors with a fire poker in her hand checking under beds just in case. When asked about a ghost that supposedly was haunting the College halls, she would respond that ‘me and master never allowed nothing of the sort’. She must have been a fearless person, with her feet firmly on the ground.
The old lady in this picture is her; this image is also one of the oldest in our collection. She was a kind lady, but she knew her stuff and ran the household and the servants well. Funny, how we know nothing of the kitchen maid, but we know who Mrs Harvey was, what she was like and what she looked like. History is a fickle element, remembers some and forgets the others. And how about you? Will it remember you or drop you into the sea of oblivion?
I am back finally. Life gets in the way of archives but the archives are always victorious in the end.:-)
I’ve probably said that before, as a creative writing student I didn’t have any contact with first hand historical sources. And in a way I am still blown away by the sources we have in the archives. I am talking notes and reports that are so old that you can’t say if they were written in a brown ink or it just faded to be that way. It is going page by page minutes of meetings that were held long before you were born. Or chasing the entries in the catalogue that turns out to be defunct. And being a person that is prone to making strange analogies, the archival research seems to me like digging for potatoes.
Sounds crazy I know, but imagine if you will the archives as a field. You know that the ‘potatoes’ are there- the things you want to know, you just need to dig them up. Sometimes you dig and dig and there is nothing. Just random information that you don’t need right now. But just as you are about to give up on this patch- there is a potato. Here is what I dug out recently, all concerning the library/books.
- The amount that library books cost in 1846, just after St. Marks College was open. It was £60, under ‘extra requirements’.
- ‘ … books to the value of one pound be presented to college kitchen maid on her departure to Australia, in acknowledgement for her long and faithful services.’
- In ’45 the library is barely mentioned in the prospectus. I guess it wasn’t deemed as important as it is nowadays.
- In ‘71-‘72 Librarian Report mentions a significant book donation from British National Book Centre Exchange Scheme and London Institute of Education Library.
All those little potatoes might be used in the project about the history of our library. They may be transformed from loose information into something coherent. In other words, the potatoes are going into a salad.:-)
So next time you read historical book, know that you’re ‘eating potatoes‘ somebody had dug out for you.:-)
Sometimes the archives offer significant discoveries, such as lost poems of a well-known author or information about somebody who was first at something. But sometimes the discoveries can be quite small and seemingly insignificant, but that doesn’t mean that they are worthless. On contrary they might be the ones that bring the most joy.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of exlibris or bookplate. Those are small labels, prints or stamps that are sometimes put inside a book to mark them as somebody’s property. Some of them can be quite elaborate and beautiful. Many libraries used to have their exlibri and the library of Marjon had one too. After the merger of the two colleges a new bookplate was designed to replace the respective exlibri of the two colleges. There were at least two designs, but both included the lion and the lamb of the Evangelists. Here is one that is the most common in the books of the archive collection.
But one of the books had escaped the change of the bookplates. It is a dictionary of the Middle-English and it boasts this beautiful, pre-merger bookplate:
A small thing, but made my day.