[N.P.]: [19th century]. Large manuscript commonplace book comprised of 146 pages in several hands and 6 original drawings and watercolors. Bound in quarter sheep over cloth measuring 254 x 203mm. Generally rubbed on exterior, but with contents holding tight. No ownership signature or bookplate within, making the elusive initialled signatures of the contributors -- and indeed, the content they record -- the only remanant of the writers' identities.
Ripe for research, this 19th century commonplace book appears to have been passed among a small circle of men and women, all with sophisticated literary and artistic taste. The various hands alone would delight a paleographer and open the door to studying the possible markers of gender and age of the contributors, who all write in a late iteration of secretary or cursive hand. Poetry is the main focus of the pages, though riddles, recipes, satires, and glossary definitions are also included. While some of the lyrics come from canonical writers -- Lord Byron and William Cowper, among them -- others come from women's education books, such as the poem "To spoil the roses soft perfume" from the Elizabeth Fitton's Conversations on Botany. Some of the poems also appear to be original, and are accompanied by botanical watercolors, and black and white sketches of music notes or landscapes. A wide range of themes are represented, including romance and marriage, friendship, the loss of pets, the separation between parents and children, infants sleeping, natural beauty, and grief. One of the contributors -- possibly the book's owner, as this hand is the most frequent in the pages -- has come back throughout to make pencil notations and corrections, including but not exclusively to their own contributions. While no specific dates or places are listed with the literary contributions or to the front of the volume, this makes the commonplace book an interesting research project for scholars. Likely originating in the U.K., because many of the writers and public figures (including Mrs. Siddons and The Brunswick Club) are British, we've been able to date pieces from as early the 18th century (Cowper), the early 19th century (Mrs. Siddons, Elizabeth Fitton, and Sir Walter Scott) up to the mid 19th century (Byron and Southey). (Item #2948)