[New York]: 1877-1899. Soft-bound sheep over card with rubbing to extremities and some loss to spine. Ownership signature to third blank: "Elizabeth B. Williams. 34 West 17th Street. January 1st 1877." Comprised of 32 handwritten pages providing a glimpse into the bohemian life of an educated woman living in New York at the turn of the century.
By the time of this notebook's use, New York's Greenwich Village had gained a reputation as a haven for artists, writers, and musicians to live and gather. Boarding houses and bachelor flats, like the well-known Benedick Building, made the Village an affordable place even for single people to find housing that was safe and affordable. The brownstone building that Elizabeth lists as hers in the ownership signature, in fact, still exists, allowing us to image the space in which this manuscript was used. While we've been unable to locate information on Elizabeth's history, the pages here reveal her to be a woman interested in history, reading, and music. 13 pages focus on a range of historical facts -- including historical timelines of the Hebrews, lists of British monarchs and American presidents, notes on the genres of authors from the Renaissance to Romantic period, and the history of landmarks in London. 4 pages, with her hand notably sloppier as if writing while working, make notes on musical scales and techniques for effective fingering while playing. And 9 pages reveal that for a number of years, Elizabeth was involved in a Book Club, as she keeps track of her reading lists for meetings by month and year (including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Annie Fields, and Edna Lyall as well as books on Victorian Literature, Social Life in Old Virginia, and histories of England and Korea -- 64 titles in all).
Elizabeth's life was not confined to New York, however. She dedicates 2 pages, for example, to a packing list for a voyage, detailing the clothes she'll need in her trunk. Another 3 pages list addresses for friends in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and Illinois to whom she'll send letters while away.
Within these pages exist opportunities for researchers to explore genealogy, practices of self-education through reading, book clubs and reading habits, lifestyles of women living in New York at the turn of the century, musical practice, and paleography. (Item #2984)