Blog Archives

Nähesprache & Distanzsprache

Incorporating German theory in Anglo-American historical linguistic research: the Nähesprache / Distanzsprache-model.

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Jane Johnson’s Manuscript Nursery Library

While attending the Acts of Reading: Teachers, Texts and Childhood from the 18thc to the present day conference in Cambridge, I found out all about Jane Johnson and her nursery library. The Jane Johnson’s Manuscript nursery library consists of material devised by Jane (Russell) Johnson (1708-1759), wife of the Reverend Woolsey Johnson (1696-1756), between 1740 and 1759 for the instruction of her children. The materials consist of 438 items and are arranged in 24 groups. Included are alphabet, word and story cards, and secular and religous lesson cards, all hand-made. Some of the cards contain coloured illustrations and are decorated with multi-coloured Dutch paper. Set no.7 is of great interest since it has the largest group of materials. According to the Lilly Library, it includes "78 word chips denoting chiefly food products such as Ale, Almonds, Bacon, … , Veal, Water, Wild-fowl, housed in a small paper box decorated with playing card symbols cut from a Dutch-made paper".

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A two-penny loaf?

On 25 April 1750, Lowth reported to his friend Sir Francis Dashwood that he had visited the newly excavated site of Herculaneum. He had been most struck by the following:

"Among other things of the like perishable nature there have been found vessels full of wheat, & beans, a bottle of Oil, another of some Spiritous Liquor, pieces of bread, & one entire Loaf: it is about the size of a common two penny brown Loaf, has the same form & appearance, & does not look so very stale neither: it is kept in a Glass case to secure it. I did not ex::amine it very nicely, but a Gentleman that saw it since observ’d some Letters upon it, wch. he was told no body could make out; he viewd it very narrowly, and with supplying a few Letters at the beginning, wch. I shall mark, is confident that he has hitt it off completely & truly as follows: siligo c ranii e cicere."

Could it be that what he witnessed was the loaf of bread that is currently on display at the exhibition called "The last hours of Herculaneum" at the Museum ‘t Falkhof in Nijmegen?

As the picture on this website shows, there is a stamp on it, but I can’t read it. What does a two-penny loaf looks like?

Readership of the British Library (1753-1836)

Anthony Lowth has just sent me a link to a document of a text which analyses the readership of the British Library (formerly British Museum) between 1753 and 1836. Among much other information the text informs us that "in 1759 there were 135 readers. There were 17 clerics, 19 doctors, and 18 who were reverend doctors making a total of 54. Of the 19 who were doctors only, at least eight were physisians or surgeons, and one, William Blackstone, was traced to a law professorship at Oxford. The other ten remain unknown. Many of the clerics achieved outstanding posts later in life. Charles Lyttleton, John Ross, John Douglas, Robert Lowth, and John Green became bishops, while the Bishop of Norwich was a reader in 1759 … (pp. 104-5)".

I wonder what Lowth would have been reading in the library of the British Museum in 1759.

Call for Comics

You will probably have noticed that the Codifiers project members are keen on comics – check out the latest Fokke & Sukke contribution! We would therefore like to launch a call for comics that we can post on the weblog or create links to. All (English) language-related comics are welcome but in particular those that deal with letters, grammars, standardisation, and so forth!

Hannah Glasse: The First Domestic Goddess

On Wednesday 31 January the documentary "Hannah Glasse: The First Domestic Goddess" was shown on BBC 2. Hannah Glasse (1708-1770) was the author of The Art of Cookery (1747), a cookery book which was reprinted 33 times within 50 years and which was the best-selling cookery book of the 18th century. Glasse’s cookery book included the first curry recipe published in Britain!For those of you who missed the documentary, have a look at the following website: If you have access to ECCO you can even have a look at this popular 18th century cookery book yourself.


Dutch Grammar

Pepijn Hendriks drew our attention to the following website On this website there is currently a discussion going on about the grammatical status of  ‘het meisje met wie’ versus ‘het meisje waarmee’.

MIMAS Bibliographic Source

Nuria Yanez-Bouza has brought MIMAS to our attention, a national data centre which provides ‘access to key data and information resources to support teaching, learning and research across a wide range of disciplines’. Their bibliographic services are an excellent tool for our field, e.g. Archives Hub (descriptions of archives and manuscript collections held in UK universities and colleges), COPAC (a union catalogue of 24 of the largest university research libraries in the UK and Ireland), Zetoc (The British Library’s electronic table of contents), ISI Web of Knowledge (which includes citation indexes), or JSTOR (a unique digital archive collection of fully-text searchable academic journals).

The homepage is:

For info on the bibliographic services go to:

It is run by Manchester Computing at the University of Manchester and it is free for members of UK Further and Higher Education institutions, although subscription is required for some particular services. For non-UK institutions some services are freely provided (e.g. Archives Hub, COPAC) – it is certainly worth contacting them to find out about subscription!

Quest for Lindley Murray

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Anniversary of Lowth’s death

Coming Friday, 3 November, is the anniversary of Robert Lowth’s death in 1787. To commemorate this, we transcribed the obituray as it appeared in The Annual Register … for the year 1787 (London, 1789). Download file