Blog Archives

Best weblog?

If you think this weblog deserves to be nomintated for the Best of Blogs Award, please vote for it at

Practice letter transcription online

For anyone interested in learning more about paleography and letter transcription, or perhaps for recreational use, the National Archives has an online paleography tutorial. The letters are all English and mostly from the 16th and 17th centuries. There are ten letters to transcribe and the difficulty level increases with every letter. It was a very interesting tutorial for me, but it seemed that the ‘correct’ way to transcribe certain features such as full stops was not always consistent. Still, it is a useful exercise and especially the notes on the letters in each exercise provide enlightening information for those who have no experience in reading old letters. I have to admit that in the end I gave up after letter four and counted myself lucky that my research focuses on eighteenth century letters where the lettering has far less variation.

The URL for this tutorial is:

New project assistant

As from July 28 my work as project assistant for the codifiers and the English language stops. Patricia Chaudron will take over starting September 1.

I really enjoyed working as a project assistant, but the MSc in Business Administration I’m going to take at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, starting this September, unfortunately doesn’t leave me with enough time to continue this job. 

Learning through play the Georgian way.

On 7 June 2006, a copy of Ellenor Fenn’s Set of Toys (consisting of a Grammar, Spelling and Figure Box) was sold for £16,800 at Christie’s Valuable Manuscripts and Printed Books sale. See also Jim McCue’s article "Learning through play the Georgian way" which can be found here.

Family Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century England

While I was in London last week I bought Kate Redford’s book The Art of Domestic Life. Family Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century England (Yale University Press 2006). If you’re interested in eighteenth-century art, I am sure that you will love this book. According to the YUP " [Redford’s book] offers important insights into both the innovations and traditions in family portraiture of this period, drawing on in-depth research into paintings, the lives of the sitters depicted, and the domestic spaces in which portraits were hung" 

Oxygen – a play about Joseph Priestley and his scientific competitors

Details about the play Oxygen by Carl Djerassi and Roald Hoffmann can be found on the following website: Thanks to Christoph Roehrig for this information!

British Fiction, 1800-1829: A Database of Production, Circulation, and Reception

I recently came across an interesting website entitled "British Fiction, 1800–1829: A Database of Production, Circulation, and Reception" ( The website "allows users to examine bibliographical records of 2,272 works of fiction written by approximately 900 authors, along with a large number of contemporary materials (including anecdotal records, circulating-library catalogues, newspaper advertisements, reviews, and subscription lists)". It also includes an article on subscription lists:

P. D. Garside, ‘Subscribing Fiction in Britain, 1780-1829’, Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 11 (Dec 2003): <>.  

Dodley’s Select Fables of Esop (1761)

On 23 February 1761, Robert Dodsley published his Select Fables of Esop. This was a collection of fables by Aesop as well as contemporary writers, and Dodsley even invited several of his friends to write fables for his collection. One of these friends was Robert Lowth. Tierney, the editor of Dodsley’s letters, even suggests that the idea for the work came from Lowth. Be that as it may, Lowth ordered a number of copies, one for his son Thomas Henry who (he claims) was awaiting the book impatiently, and a number of others to hand round to the children of friends. He specifically orders "one neatly bound, [to be sent] in my Name … To Mrs. Galand at the Boarding School at Newington Butts". 

So far, I have not come across any references to this boarding school or to Mrs Galand in my studies of Lowth and his language, and any information relating to this school would be very welcome.

neither … nor + plural verb

The following question reached me yesterday. It was forwarded to me by Joan Beal on behalf of her colleague Neil Roberts from the Department of English Literature at Sheffield:

"Can anyone enlighten me about this sentence, which I have just been shocked to find in Pride and Prejudice?

  • ‘Neither Jane nor Elizabeth were comfortable on this subject.’

This is a sentence that we would consider illiterate if written by a student. Is the rule about ‘neither’ being followed by a singular verb more recent than the early 19th century, or did Jane Austen nod?"

Comments welcome!

Hyde Collection Catablog

For those of you interested in eighteenth-century books and their former owners why not have a look at John Overholt’s Hyde Collection Catablog ( As the cataloguer of the printed book portion of the Donald and Mary Hyde Colllection of Samuel Johnson, his friends, and contemporaries (at Harvard University), Overholt has created a blog to share some of his discoveries. The blog also contains a useful entry which tells you how to search the manuscript collections in the Hyde Collection.