Worcester, MA: c. 1822. Comprised of 79 handwritten pages and 16 original illustrations in color. Loosely bound in woven paper in self wraps, measuring approximately 8 x 12 inches. In addition to a significant number of copied and original poems, the commonplace book also contains penmanship practice and lessons on shorthand. According to Plymouth County records, the book's owner Kezia Holmes gave birth to her daughter Susan in 1822; given the book's preoccupation with poetry about children and motherhood, it seems likely that it was compiled near this time. Additionally, the American Antiquarian Society has only one record of paper with the present E. Burbank watermark, dating it at 1821.
Kezia Holmes took a level of pride in her copybook, as she placed her name throughout its pages. And her book, with its blend of penmanship practice, shorthand, and colored drawings suggests that she had an active and curious mind. The collection of verse she gathers ranges in topic and appears in no particular order; an organizing principle throughout, however, is that she uses poetry as an opportunity to practice a range of cursive sizes and styles, as well as occasionally transcribing the poems into shorthand on facing pages. At times having titles like Sunrise, Compassion, or The Rose the works seem to be copied from other sources. Some poems are religious in nature, focusing on piety, forgiveness, and virtue. Other works have much more specific titles that seem to relate to Kezia's personal experiences: Love and Duty to Parents, An Apostrophe to my Deceased Brother, For a Young Lady About to be Married, and To a Young Child on Getting Well, for example, all share a more simple, straightforward rhyme scheme and are likely originally written based on events in her own life, giving readers an opportunity to learn about the arc of friendships, marriage, and births shaping her world.
With research possibilities including but not limited to penmanship and paleography, shorthand and cryptography, historical approaches to femininity, women's education and reading, and the exchange and transmission of ideas through poetry. (Item #2675)