Enigmas in Editing Early Modern Manuscripts

As part of the 2021 IJBS Blog Series Vera J. Camden, Professor of English at Kent State University, explores the the trials and tribulations of editing the diary of the eighteenth-century Presbyterian widow of a London goldsmith, Hannah Burton.

Margaret Ezell has reflected that the survival of manuscript documents such as early modern women’s diaries are like insects in amber, occupying a ‘long since deceased literary landscape’ that yet offer a ‘continuation of that presence which survives destruction, that matter which the living are permitted still to embrace.’[1]  

Yet such ‘embrace[s]’ are by no means effortless. The challenges of transcribing early modern manuscripts are many, ranging from cramped handwriting, to idiosyncratic punctuation; from protracted notes to obscure biographical details; from pages left intentionally blank to ripped or blotted transcriptions of unknown authors. Such peculiarities faced me when I came to edit the diary of Hannah Burton (1723–1786), since published as She Being Dead Yet Speaketh: The Franklin Family Papers in the Other Voice series. In this blog post, I wish to explore the patience and persistence required when making such manuscript papers ‘press ready’.

The early modern diary of Hannah offers a rare insight into the inner life and outer experience of a destitute widow living at the height of the economic revolutions and dissenting religious resurgences of eighteenth-century London, but its pages require careful decoding.

Hannah’s manuscript diary presented what seemed at first glance almost impenetrable pages of anxious italic script, ink blots, stricken words, pinned portions, upside down insertions from foreign hands, and ripped page remnants, so characteristic of the ‘messy’ manuscripts of the ordinary early modern household (see Figure 1).[2] Hannah writes in the same notebook as her grandmother, Mary Franklin (d. 1711) had written in to keep an account of her own spiritual experiences  during the persecution of the Protestant Dissenters after the Restoration. Such intergenerational manuscripts of course contain many enigmas.

Figure 1. Pages from Hannah Burton’s diary illustrating various revisions and erasures.
Held at the Congregational Library, within the Dr Williams’s Library (DWL), London, CL MS 33 I. h. fols. 20v-21r. Reproduced by kind permission of the Trustees of the Congregational Memorial Hall.

In the case of Hannah’s diary, we know her name because she autographs nearly all of her daily entries in full or with her initials. Though her grandmother’s notebook contains the autograph signature of Mary Franklin on its front flyleaf, Hannah Burton goes to the extra effort of curating her grandmother’s narrative, adding its title in her own hand ‘The Experiences of my grandmother, Mrs. Mary Franklin.’ (see Figure 2) Naming herself and her grandmother holds a particular significance to Hannah. She explicitly invokes her family legacy of faith in the preamble to her diary where she writes, ‘Oh, may the unfeigned faith, and patient that dwelt in my dear grandmother Franklin, and in my dear and honored mother Ryland dwell in me also’ (p. 175). In titling the narrative of her grandmother and writing her own name, she connects to – and reminds others of—the history she has inherited with these family papers.

Widow of a London goldsmith, Hannah takes pen to paper in September 1782, following her husband’s death, to capture, Job-like, the contours of her sorrows and losses amidst the nearly unbearable economic realities of her destitute state living on a widow’s meager pension. Hannah Burton’s account of her days reflects the tension within herself between a devotion that fosters transcendence of worldly trials and a desperate particularity to record every debt, every conversation, and every dreadful disorder that poverty brings. While she is determined to identify herself as the author of this diary, she paradoxically omits any proper naming of her husband: he is repeatedly mentioned but only by monikers such as ‘wrestling Jacob’, ‘dearest yokefellow’, and, when he was sick, as a bruised and battered house, a crumbling ‘clay building.’ (pp. 206; 221; 196). Whether she was resisting naming her husband because of shame over financial ruin or merely a sense that his worldly identity had been superseded by being now numbered among the citizens of London, the fact remains that the editorial task of finding a biographical context for this spiritual chronicle entailed much sleuthing of the London archives.  More than once my then graduate assistant Valentino Zullo and I pleaded out loud and into the night: ‘who was your husband?’ ‘Who is this wrestling Jacob?’

Figure 2. Page showing the handwritten title Hannah Burton gave to her grandmother’s writings. Held at the Congregational Library, within the DWL, London, CL MS 33 I. h. fol. 3r. Reproduced by kind permission of the Trustees of the Congregational Memorial Hall.

How did we find out, finally, whom Hannah was married to?  We uncovered the truth by following the diarist’s habits of mind, for, throughout her diary, Hannah documents all anniversaries, from the day of the loss of her mother fourteen years ago, to the anniversary of a nearly fatal encounter with a bull on the streets of London! She also documents the details of her purchases and debts, telling us she has no money for cheese and candles and that she has reluctantly sold her husband’s ‘old coats’ and ‘old rags’ (p. 183).  It is the attention to these details that makes this document seem so quintessentially eighteenth century compared to her grandmother’s narrative where domestic details of such things as weaning of children, cradle fires and home intruders pointed to the Lord’s providences (pp. 135; 139). Hannah by contrast keeps to record-keeping, account keeping and mapping her travels, and thus leaves a neat, discernible trail which in the end led us to the Goldsmiths’ Hall, and to William Burton (d. 1781), London master goldsmith, and watchcase maker (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. William Burton’s incuse mark and small workers’ mark. Apprenticeship records of William Burton and William Burton, the younger. Goldsmiths’ Company, London.

The three clues that Hannah offers about her husband are also related to three preoccupying themes of her diary: time, money and death. She reminiscences that of the death of her husband occurred ‘sixty-five weeks ago,’ ‘sixty-seven weeks ago’ and so on and that his illness had been painful and prolonged (pp. 223; 242); she tells us that she has an eight-pound pension because of the charity of his business (p. 182); and, lastly, she tells us he is now among the clods of the valley in Bunhill Fields (p. 179). Thus, by searching pension records, death and burial records from Bunhill fields, and the names of possible apprentices within a span of several years, we were able to locate William Burton, apprenticed to his father, and thrice bankrupted, whose Last Will and Testament left all worldly goods to his widow, Hannah, who receives his small annual pension and other charities from the Goldsmiths’ Hall.

Sources

Hannah Burton, ‘The Diary of Hannah Burton (1782)’, in She Being Dead Yet Speaketh: The Franklin Family Papers, ed. Vera J. Camden (Toronto: Iter Press and the Arizona Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2020), pp. 173-266.

Footnotes


[1] Margaret J. M. Ezell, ‘The Posthumous Publication of Women’s Manuscripts and the History of Authorship’, in Women’s Writing and the Circulation of Ideas: Manuscript Publication in England, 1550–1800, ed. by George Justice and Nathan Tinker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 121-136 (128).

[2] Margaret J. M. Ezell, ‘Invisible Books,’ in Producing the Eighteenth-Century Book: Writers and Publishers in England, 1650–1800, eds. Laura L. Runge and Pat Rogers (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2009), pp. 53–69 (66).

IJBS BLOG SERIES 2021

The International John Bunyan Society (IJBS) is pleased to welcome submissions to its new blog series. Discussions can include any aspect of religious nonconformity in Britain and abroad from the period between 1500-1800.

Alexander Johnston; ‘John Bunyan in Bedford Prison’; Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery.

The Society especially seeks submissions from early career and PhD researchers working in the field of religious history, society and material culture. As a guideline, posts should ideally be comprised of:

  • A short title and one-line summary
  • 1,000 word discussion (including footnotes)
  • Centre round a particular religious theme, space, text, practice or discovery
  • Include images, photographs and graphs (with suitable permissions acquired).

Please send all submissions as a Word Document, including a brief bio (150 words), to: IJBSSecretary@outlook.com.  

The Recorder 2021

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

The annual IJBS newsletter The Recorder will be composited together close to the end of the summer, and is still looking for more pieces. We already have an excellent portion of content, but more pieces are always appreciated. Please share more of what you’re writing, reading, and hearing about.

We are happy to accept entries throughout July, but would prefer to receive confirmation of all entries by 30 June 2021. We’re looking for the following sorts of things, but anything in the spirit of interest to the society would be splendid: 

  • Notes
  • Short Articles
  • Meditations/reflections/strategies on teaching and researching Bunyan in the era of COVID-19
  • Reviews and/or descriptions of recent publications (yours or others’)
  • Reports on past and upcoming events (including the upcoming tenth triennial IJBS conference)
  • Calls for papers
  • Book and media reviews that have direct or indirect relevance to Non-conformist writing (if not already consigned for Bunyan Studies)
  • Interviews
  • Dissertations and post-doctoral research (abstracts, announcements, etc.)

We are especially interested in hearing about forthcoming books or edited collections! Images of all types should serve, though ones in JPG or .PNG with better resolution are preferred.


If you want to see how entries have functioned in the past, the previous issues are available at https://johnbunyansociety.org/the-newsletter/past-issues/. Please send your submissions to the following addresses, preferably with a subject heading referring to The Recorderrbergen@corpuschristi.ca; or richard.angelo.b@gmail.com.

If you have any questions, please let us know. We greatly look forward to seeing your contributions. 


Wishing safety and wellness to all!
Richard Bergen (Editor of The Recorder)

Reading Dissent and Dissenting Readers in the Reformation World, 1500-1800

The 10th Triennial Conference of the International John Bunyan Society

Northumbria University, Newcastle (UK) 7–9 July 2022

CALL FOR PAPERS

Plenary Speakers: Marie-Louise Coolahan (NUI Galway), Crawford Gribben (Queen’s University Belfast), Johanna Harris (Exeter), Nicholas Seager (Keele)

‘Reading Dissent’ is a major multi-disciplinary and international conference which seeks to investigate the multifarious ways reading proved vital, or potentially fatal, to the everyday lives of Puritans, Dissenters and/or Nonconformists, both to themselves, their households, wider communities and churches during the Long Reformation, 1500-1800.

POSSIBLE TOPICS INCLUDE:

  • Tracing manuscript readers (marginalia/interlining/erasing/re-copying/editing).
  • The buying, circulating & borrowing of prescribed/proscribed religious texts.
  • Dissenting academies/libraries (their sponsors/users/legacies).
  • Seditious reading (controversies/plots/debates/apologetics).
  • Communal reading (at conventicles/homes/prisons/chapels).
  • Ungodly reading (jestbooks/playbooks/romances/foreign histories/lewd poetry).
  • Reading the ministry (through clerical ‘lives’/diaries/church & court books/parish registers/wills).
  • Cross-confessional readers (of prayers/psalters/meditations/catechisms/devotional manuals).

Modest travel bursaries (on request via e-mail) are available for postgraduate students whose papers are accepted. Selected papers will form a special issue in the Society’s peer-reviewed journal: Bunyan Studies: The Journal of Reformation and Nonconformist Culture.

Please send a biography (100 words), along  with a CV, title and brief abstract (250-words) of a 20-minute paper, or for panels (3 x 20 minute papers) – no later than 15 September 2021 – to Robert W. Daniel: IJBSSecretary@outlook.com.

2021 IJBS Early Career Essay Prize

Featured

The International John Bunyan Society is pleased to announce that its 2021 Early Career Essay Prize has been awarded to Michelle Pfeffer (@michpfeffer) for the essay: ‘Mortalism and the Social Consequences of Religious Heterodoxy in Yorkshire at the Turn of the Eighteenth Century’. The winner’s certificate and cash prize of £300 has been sent to Michelle by Professor David Walker, IJBS President. The selection panel was chaired by David Walker, and its members were Rachel Adcock, David Parry and Robert W. Daniel.

Michelle Pfeffer is a Fellow by Examination (Junior Research Fellow) at Magdalen College, Oxford and a historian of early modern religion, science, and culture. The research project that this essay derives from is her PhD dissertation, entitled ‘Mortalism and the Making of Heterodoxy in Seventeenth Century England’. The dissertation seeks to understand why a series of lay writers brazenly denied the doctrine of the soul’s immortality in seventeenth century England. Through analysis of newly discovered manuscripts, the thesis uncovers a culture of lay scholarship and religious radicalism, revealing that religiously motivated historical-critical scholarship, not science, was shaping the agenda of these ostensibly ‘modern’ debates. Although mortalist books were written in the vernacular by laymen, they must be studied alongside the high-level, pan-European scholarship they drew on and the creative ways in which they engaged with it. This thesis therefore illuminates the intellectual and scholarly lives of non-specialists, reconstructing their working methods and bookish communities. 

The annual IJBS Early Career Essay Prize is open to all international PhD students and to post-doctoral researchers within the first two years after their viva. Applicants must be members of IJBS. The prize is for outstanding scholarly work in the field of early modern religion and Dissent, including its literature, history and reception.

Review of the year

Dear Members,

This is my third and last Christmas message and, like all past Presidents before me, I hardly know where the time went.

The year has been even busier than usual for the committee members. At long last, we have delivered one of our early promises : to make it possible to join the IJBS, and renew our subscriptions online, with Paypal or credit card. I would especially like to thank our General Secretary, Bob Owens, who has liaised for months with the banks, our treasurers, and an IT developer to secure the website and install the payment buttons. This should make it easier for our membership to grow.

BunyanXmas

A few months ago, we welcomed our 100th member. It’s a real pleasure to witness the steady growth of our Society, but at the same time this makes it difficult for us to operate along the lines we have known in the past and to make sure all our members are regularly appraised of new developments.

We have therefore taken the opportunity to have the website professionally redesigned, so that you can find information more easily. The front page is now static and the announcements have been moved to a dedicated section, so please don’t forget to check it regularly. We have grouped the ‘Resources and publications’ together, which is where you can now find The Recorder (the most recent issue, edited by Nathalie Collé, is now available also to non-members), as well as Bunyan Studies and the Bunyan bibliography that David Parry updates on a regular basis. We have created a new page for members’ publications. If you have recent books or articles out, related to Bunyan or early modern Nonconformity, please let us know. Our Vice President, David Gay, has also created a Facebook page that you can Like from the website.

On the academic front, we had an excellent study day last April in Bedford, which you can read about here. Bedford is of course an appropriate place to launch what we hope will become a regular series, alternating between Bedford and Newcastle, thanks to Bob Owens and David Walker.

Most of the year has been dedicated to preparing our triennial conference next July in Aix-en-Provence, and we were able to release the prelimary programme a month ago. Registration will open in February or March and all the details will be posted on the conference page on the website. As you know, ten doctoral students and early career researchers will be able to come to Aix to present their work, thanks to an anonymous benefaction that we received last year. The IJBS has also offered them free membership for a year, so we are delighted to welcome them.

Neil Keeble, and the members of the Greaves committee, Ann Hughes and Cynthia Wall, have been very busy, given the many publications in our field, and the shortlist of books selected for the Greaves Prize will be made known in the new year. The winner will be announced in Aix.

Finally, the next Bunyan Studies will be out very soon, and you can expect yet another wonderful issue.

As usual, many thanks to our committee, Nathalie, David G., Galen, Bob and David W., for all their hard work on behalf of our Society, and for their commitment and dedication to our author.

We wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year and hope to see you in the summer in Provence for a beaker full of the warm South!

Anne Page, Aix-Marseille Université

IJBS on Facebook

The IJBS has now a public Facebook page that you will find at: https://www.facebook.com/johnbunyansociety

This page will enhance public awareness of the Society. You can Like it and promote it in anyway you think fit.

In parallel, our Facebook group is still running; we now have over 70 members from all parts of the world. Should you want to become a member of the group, please contact our Vice President, David Gay, dgay@ualberta.ca.

 

 

 

Review of the year

This time last year the IJBS Executive Committee set itself some ‘challenges’ for 2014, most of which (though not all!) have been met:

Xmas Greeting IJBS 2014

  • the first was to redesign The Recorder, which appeared last June for the first time in a magnificent electronic edition supervised by Nathalie Collé-Bak, now available to download;
  • the IJBS was beginning to suffer from the lack of a constitution and bye-laws. With the best of current practice in mind, and working from David Gay’s account of the role of the officers, the Executive Committee produced a new set of documents, overseen by our past Presidents, which are now also available on this site;
  • in December 2013, the possibility of a meeting at Harlington Manor was a mere glint in our eyes. Thanks to the diligence of General Secretary Bob Owens, and to the hospitality of the Blakeman family, it became a reality on 23 May 2014. As you will see below, such meetings are now a feature of IJBS;
  • finally, David Parry revised and updated one of our major resources, the online and fully-searchable Bunyan Bibliography, adding 167 new references for the period 2010 to 2014.

We had promised you that this site would be revamped, and in particular that the addition of payment buttons would allow you to renew your membership online. This has not yet been accomplished due to delays beyond the control of the Executive Committee, but we are now back on track and, as I write, ‘e-commerce’ solutions are being put in place. We are confident that you will soon be able to renew your subscription online. As this is put into operation, you may experience some small disruptions to the website in the next few weeks.

 Other developments, we had not fully anticipated :

    • following the regional Harlington meeting in 2014, an IJBS one-day conference has now been set up by David Walker and Bob Owens. This will take place on 10 April 2015 at the University of Bedfordshire. Many thanks to our two officers for organising this day, which promises to be a great success and a good opportunity for our members to meet again. You can download the call for papers here. Please do not forget to register to attend;
    • we have instituted two new kinds of membership: an Institutional Membership for libraries, and an Honorary Membership. In November 2014, Stanley Fish, Isabel Rivers, Terry Waite and David Wykes accepted to become the first Honorary Members of the IJBS. From 2016 our members will be able to nominate personalities who will be voted on at the AGM;
    • IJBS publicity leaflets have been prepared by our General Secretary and members should all have received some copies. Please distribute them as you see fit as they are a good way of increasing the visibility of the Society;
    • finally, although we knew that the Aix 2016 conference was shaping up, little did we know that we would be the recipients of a major private donation that would allow young researchers to join us (see the Post below). At this festive season, let us thank our anonymous benefactor.

May I also take this opportunity to announce that four wonderful scholars have accepted to give plenaries at the 2016 conference : Alec Ryrie (Durham), Andrew Spicer (Oxford Brookes), Alexandra Walsham (Cambridge) and Helen Wilcox (Bangor). We look forward to welcoming them in Aix. The call for papers will be out in January, so watch this space.

In the coming year, your Executive Committee will do its utmost to ensure new benefits for the IJBS. There will be the Bedford day-conference, another issue of The Recorder, preparations for Aix 2016 will mature, and this site should offer the opportunity to renew membership online. As I urged you last spring in The Recorder, please do not hesitate to get in touch to suggest new ideas, propose directions in which you think IJBS should develop in the near future and ponder opportunities for regional meetings.

None of this could have been achieved without the time and dedication of the IJBS officers: Nathalie Collé-Bak, David Gay, Galen Johnson, Bob Owens and David Walker.

 Wherever you are, I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year,

 Anne Page, Aix-Marseille Université

 

Honorary Members

The international John Bunyan Society is delighted to announce that four distinguished scholars and personalities have been honored with Life Membership on 1st November 2014:

Professor Stanley Fish

Professor Isabel Rivers

Terry Waite CBE

Dr David L. Wykes

“Life-membership is conferred upon scholars, experts, or public personalities of international standing whose life and work have promoted awareness of Protestant history and literature and/or contributed significantly to research, teaching and public engagement in the field of Protestantism and Dissenting studies.”

For more information about our Honorary Members, click here.

A donation for IJBS

It is with very great pleasure that I announce that an anonymous donor has donated the sum of £10,000 (€12,500/US$16,500) to the International John Bunyan Society.

The donation is primarily intended to establish a number of bursaries for doctoral students, and for young researchers not in full-time employment, who wish to attend and present a paper at the 2016 triennial conference in Aix-en-Provence, with the remainder to be targeted towards key strategic areas identified by the Executive Committee for the development of the Society.

Thanks to the bursaries, young scholars will be given a unique opportunity to present their work and projects at the conference. More information about the application and selection process will be posted in due course on the website, but may I encourage all supervisors to start publicising the bursaries as widely as possible in their institutions and among their students.

I know all members will all join me in expressing our deepest thanks to our donor whose generosity will ensure that the IJBS carries on promoting the study of Bunyan and the history and culture of Dissent, through a renewed attention to its young and talented scholars.

Anne Page, Aix-Marseille Université