Paper Conundrums

May 30, 2019 at 9:01 am (entertainment, history, research) (, , , , )

After reading about Karen Ievers’ Photo Album (once belonging to Lord George Hill) having some bound-in “manuscript” pages, I thought about all the paper bits I have seen.

It’s not usual for “paper” to be reused. As well as, of course, collected. Countless letters no longer exist, while their address panels were saved (often cut out). These are typically franked pieces, collected for their “signatures.” The *hard part* is when writing from the letter appears on the backside! Potentially “valuable” pieces of evidence, just gone.

Augusta Smith, Emma’s sister, was a talented artist. At least in her early years (ie, during the late 1810s), her portraits were often done on pieces of paper quite evidently cut out from programmes obtained at the Ancient Concerts. Augusta and Mamma attended the Antient Music concerts faithfully every week during the season.

(Full concert programmes have only been seen by me as bound sets, online on

Some of those pasted down squares show the portrait VERY CLOSE to the text of that evening’s performance – as if Augusta had taken her pencil from her reticle and sketched while she listened!

Others, although pasted down, you can see the heavily-imprinted text from the backside, as in the subscribers’ list below.

Here, the Goslings – mother, father and the two sisters (Elizabeth and Mary) – are found in the list of subscribers for 1823 (the above link):


The interesting thing about Augusta’s portraits is seeing the wealth of music offered in an evening. All the choruses, songs, glees, and concerti. These were the golden days of the Knyvetts, Miss Travis, and Miss Stephens, names which turn up in the Smiths’ diaries and correspondence with great regularity.

What I discovered recently (to my dismay) is that old letters could also be used for SILHOUETTE CUT OUTS. Turning one such cut out over, I could just detect handwrting. Old paper tends to be stiff, and obviously made a useful item to pillage when one ran out of silhouette paper. But like the franked letters above, and even the Antient Music programmes, a loss to posterity of the original.


Permalink Leave a Comment

How Much is that Paper in the Window?

June 8, 2010 at 8:17 pm (research) (, , , )

On Sunday, I led a lecture — called Austen/Adams: Travels with Jane and Abigail –that discussed the “correspondence culture” of the late 18th / early 19th centuries. We investigated postage rates (and how that compared to the price of meat!); how paper was made; how letters were folded so as to make their own envelopes – and that, of course, brought about a discussion of crossed writing (versus, as Austen most often did when she “filled” her paper: writing in between lines).

One question I had not thought to look into, however, left a couple people wondering about an answer (myself included): How much did (writing) paper cost?

As often with the “typical” of one’s life, there seemingly are no mentions in diaries of the Smiths or Goslings to answer this question (it may be I just didn’t note it down; when I couldn’t transcribe a diary fully, I put in what interested me: like the price of stockings or shoes or gloves).

Jane Austen’s Letters (the Le Faye edition) certainly makes mention of SEVERAL paper firms (their watermarks detectable), and there may be books out there that either quote from records, or make mention of prices.

Anyone with ANY information (please: only cited, authoritative sources), especially for the British firms the Smiths, Goslings as well as Austens would have easily been able to procure paper from, do let me (us!) know.

Permalink 1 Comment