End of an era

April 30, 2017 at 2:19 pm (diaries, history, jane austen, research) (, )


Ten years ago I began on the journey, looking into the lives of Two Teens in the Time of Austen. An early blog post or two will explain for those interested in the seeds of this flowering and flourishing research.

BUT: had one thing been missing, this never would have gotten off the ground.

The one thing was the filming of Mary’s adult diaries in the microfilm series “Women’s Language and Experience” by Adam Matthew Publications [scroll to the bottom of that page to see the links to the series].  This was a major undertaking. Filming archival records from UK repositories took six series:

series 1: Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire County Record Offices [16 reels]
series 2: Birmingham Central Library and Birmingham University Library [24 reels]
series 3: Suffolk County Record Office and Cambridge University Library [25 reels]
series 4: National Library of Scotland and National Library of Wales [26 reels]
series 5: Essex Record Office [20 reels]
series 6: Wiltshire, Somerset, and Hampshire Record Offices [26 reels]

mary_emma_entry

You do the math: a huge undertaking for any library to BUY (and store) 137 reels of microfilm!

Now, as of April 12, 2017, the company is no longer filling orders for microfilm; Adam Matthew’s digital arm is aiming for those “primary sources with a board appeal”. Uh-oh… I would be the FIRST ONE to say ‘yay’ for “digital” – it’s easy to search, the images are (potentially) photograph quality rather than microfilm quality, and presumeably a subscription is how they are purchased: no special machines or storage required.

BUT: the same information isn’t going to be available. Which means no one ELSE will be obtaining such a series as Women’s Language and Experience.

I first put a diary from Duke University archives written by Mary Gosling together with diaries from “Lady Smith of Stapleford Tawney” because Adam Matthew Publications put a little bit of information about Lady Smith online. She was the daughter of a banker. Well, I had a visit by Mary Gosling to the Bank of Ireland, in company with her father! The Goslings left from Roehampton; Lady Smith’s father was known as “of Roehampton and Fleet Street”.

It took a trip to Virginia (who has FIVE series? very few libraries) to confirm my suspicions and an interlibrary loan of the three reels from Duke University to work on obtaining every word Mary Gosling, also known as Lady Smith, had written as an adult; her diaries now housed at the Essex Record Office. These microfilms were invaluable, as each entire diary – from cover to cover – was filmed. So all of the ‘extras’ that are PRINTED in the purchased diaries, from Birthdays of the Royal Family to tax tables, were included. I’ve never paid nor photographed these materials. But I printed them out in their entirety from the microfilm.

Women’s Language and Experience offered up some wonderful diarists, including Edith Baring-Gould (series 2), Hester Thrale Piozzi (series 4), Clarissa Trant (series 5). SOME are so tantalizing, for instance a 1790 “Travel Journal of a Young Lady” (series 4) – SO many in the Smith and Gosling family could have written such a journal! But with no library within easy driving distance, it is not like I will ever find out more about this “unnamed” writer.

There’s simply too much one could research within Women’s Language and Experience.

And a downside to digital: it’s not like individuals can now access any more material than before. Even “trials” are only open to faculty and libraries. So don’t think that a small cri de coeur didn’t escape my lips when I first spotted the news of the demise of microfilm from this company.

I am firmly convinced that without Women’s Language and Experience, I would never have found HALF of what I have found about Mary Gosling and Emma Smith. Thanks go to the Essex Record Office for letting the diaries be filmed in the first place!

It was reading Mary’s entry (above), sitting in the library of Old Dominion University, that made me wonder who Emma was – And anyone reading this blog will know what a major player she has become.

Emma’s baby was christened at
Tring Church by Mr Austen, “Cholmeley”
Mr Knight, Charles, and Mrs Ligh [sic?]
Parrot [sic?] were the godfathers & godmother

Readers who know their Jane Austen will recognize (as I did back in 2007)

Mr. Knight = Edward Austen Knight, Jane’s brother
Mrs. Leigh Perrot = the owner of Scarlets; Jane’s aunt
Mr. Austen = James Edward Austen (James Edward Austen Leigh), Jane’s nephew
Cholemely = Jane Leigh Perrot’s maiden name; Emma’s first-born

 

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