I promise there's a pith helmet involved.
May 1, 2013 7:32 PM   Subscribe

For the better entertainment of Reddit's What's In This Thing, a Glasgow lass offered to open up one of the trunks in her attic. Of course, when you grow up in a 700-year-old Scottish castle, you have considerably more interesting trunks in your attic than most people.... Video of opening the trunk [1], [2]. Or if you just want to cut to the chase, here's an extensive imgur gallery of some of the astonishingly well-preserved finds.
posted by Diablevert (62 comments total) 92 users marked this as a favorite

 
That is very cool. I love the hand painted flag book so much.
posted by shothotbot at 7:38 PM on May 1, 2013


Wow!
posted by Malla at 7:39 PM on May 1, 2013


Also, my attic just went and killed itself in a fit of inadequacy.
posted by shothotbot at 7:41 PM on May 1, 2013 [20 favorites]


I think the book w the bits of paper pasted in it is a listing of all the books that person owned or read. They wanted to keep it in alpha order and rearranged the strips when adding new items. That's my guess.
posted by sio42 at 7:45 PM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also this is way cool. Thanks!
posted by sio42 at 7:45 PM on May 1, 2013


Yup, the "strange book full of cuttings" is some sort of book catalog.
posted by zamboni at 7:46 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Was it just the done thing to have preposterously beautiful penmanship in the 18th century? Was it like the equivalent of high-speed touch typing today, a strange skill that would seem mind-boggling to outsiders but which we currently regard as completely unremarkable?
posted by figurant at 7:47 PM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I was struck by the penmanship, as well. Most of those books are probably very prosaic in terms of content, but they look like art objects.
posted by Ipsifendus at 7:49 PM on May 1, 2013


I'm pretty sure the next time an unholy horror from beyond is unearthed it'll be documented on reddit first.
posted by The Whelk at 7:52 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Was it just the done thing to have preposterously beautiful penmanship in the 18th century?

I believe it was the done thing right up until the first half of the 20th century. (My grandparents have amazing handwriting.) Maybe portable typewriters are to blame for the decline?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:53 PM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Huh. My 4 year old has some serious catching up to do on her cross stitch skills.
posted by Go Banana at 7:54 PM on May 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


My grandparents have impenetrable handwriting because they were taught the Palmer method which is unreadable.
posted by maryr at 7:56 PM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Some of the titles (obviously not the specific volumes).

Abelard et Heloise, lettres.
Ablancourt's L' histoire de Thucydide
Academie Royale Des Sciences, Histoire de, Annee 1699...
Acton, Eliza, Modern cookery, in all its branches
Adam, Alexander, A summary of geography and history, both ancient and modern
posted by zamboni at 8:02 PM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the next time an unholy horror from beyond is unearthed it'll be documented on reddit first.

i have jj abrams on the line

he needs your routing number and also the one for your cell phone
posted by LogicalDash at 8:07 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Writing out the titles, pasting them into a book and then cutting them out to realphabetize is hard core.
posted by shothotbot at 8:07 PM on May 1, 2013


Hard bored, I'd say.
posted by maryr at 8:13 PM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


First, swoon.

I was devouring the pictures, close-ups of the uniform details and it struck me, stunned me to realize, that all those feathers and embroidered embellishments were done by hand, stitch by stitch. (I wasted some of my eyesight trying to learn French hand sewing and fancy embroidery and I can tell you that is some serious level of skill.) The embroidered buttons are quite wonderful. These and the beauty of all the penmanship, maps, drawings and objects--the sheer quality of everything impresses and delights me.

C'mon, maps of New York and Boston from the Revolutionary era, drawn by the British, tucked away in a trunk in Scotland all these years! You just don't run across that every day--or ever. This is wicked cool, even by MetaFilter standards! Thank you for this. Must go and share now.
posted by Anitanola at 8:19 PM on May 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Writing out the titles, pasting them into a book and then cutting them out to realphabetize is hard core.

It's more likely they were written on looseleaf, sorted, then pasted into the book.
posted by zamboni at 8:23 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those buttons are gorgeous. Actually, everything is gorgeous.
posted by scratch at 8:31 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Awesome.

But it must be said: Chritht, what a Duke of Athole...
posted by Naberius at 8:56 PM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


maryr "Hard bored, I'd say."

Me too but, as I learned from my librarian friends, catalogers are born, not made. Hard core, old-time catalogers I've known have awesome penmanship, too. Other librarians tend to joke about them, 'they are the border collies of libraries--stand still and they'll catalog you!'
posted by Anitanola at 9:33 PM on May 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


they were taught the Palmer method which is unreadable.

by the illiterate.

If you cannot read text written in English, you are by definition illiterate.

I could easily read most of the texts that were clearly visible (limited only by low resolution).
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:17 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Neat! I love the flag book.

My handwriting actually looks quite a bit like that. But I learned cursive copying my grandma, whose penmanship was perfect.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:21 PM on May 1, 2013


In 1750, you don't simply write, you make that shit look beautiful.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:46 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, 18th century handwriting is often gorgeous to look at and usually fairly readable. (There's a tutorial at the excellent Scottish Handwriting site here if you want to try your hand.) The 19th century is when things get bad - paper is cheaper, literacy has increased, writing implements have changed, and you get really varied handwriting from beautiful copperplate to impenetrable scrawl. Also crossed letters, which don't help. Give me the 18th century any day!
posted by Catseye at 11:11 PM on May 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


If you cannot read text written in English, you are by definition illiterate.

I would guess that most of us can't read this and are therefore by your definition illiterate.

Admittedly, secretary hand is much more alien to modern eyes than Palmerian, or its ancestor, roundhand, which is what the linked documents of the OP are written in: but my example is still in English and was legible to any literate person of the period.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 11:19 PM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's important to think of penmanship, in this era, as a form of technology. Being skilled at it was pretty much a necessity beyond the level of menial labor. You had to be precise, as Catseye notes, because the pens and ink of the day required it -- if you weren't careful you would end up with an inkblot all over your manuscript.
posted by dhartung at 11:21 PM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Poking around in her other posts to /r/WhatsInThisThing, I found where she explains why she is wearing a ring of her own making that says SUCKER on it:
I only really make offensive jewellery, its like some kind of niche tourettes I think. I try and make cute kittens and stuff that'll actually sell, but my heart's not in it. You can have a look at more obscenerie here if you like.
Man, I love Reddit so much. It's the full monty of humanity's eccentricity.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:56 PM on May 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you cannot read text written in English, you are by definition illiterate.

Can you read English written in a Cyrillic? You've confused the language (English) and the alphabet (Latin).

I know exactly where those clothes labels come from. Here's a link about one of that Seagrove's brothers, and here is the location today.
posted by Leon at 12:32 AM on May 2, 2013


This whole thing is glorious, but it also makes me twitch and yammer in agony. I know so many historians who would love 6 hours with the contents of that trunk -- and, by implications, all the other trunks and bales that are up there with it. I work on obscure, obscure early 17th century authors, and I know that there are commonplace books locked in trunks and sitting on shelves in spaces like this that contain copies of poems/diaries/plays that would upend the study of some of these people.

Honestly, if you don't want to use or catalogue this stuff, pass it on to a museum or a university where people will actually do so.

But yes, it's amazing. AMAZING. It's just that its sitting there being allowed to rot. {twitch. twitch. twitch. howl.}
posted by jrochest at 1:08 AM on May 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


arrg I watched one of the unpacking videos, and she's so blase. some papers... a hat... red jacket

I'd be like "holy shit these are like my great grandparent's love letters, and look at this fucking jacket! it's in perfect condition I could wear this thing and look amazing, and the pith helmet is pristine I can't believe it!!aaaaa!!!"
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:13 AM on May 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, I love Reddit so much. It's the full monty of humanity's eccentricity.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 7:56 AM on May 2


Very refreshing to see that as the first comment on the nature and worth of reddit, here. Makes a nice change.
posted by Decani at 2:17 AM on May 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


It weirds me out when people say they can't read Palmer. I am only 47 and I learned a slightly (only slightly) modified Palmer hand in school, and still use it. I remember a thread a while ago where most of the younger people said they can't read cursive, and I still find that just amazing. How rapidly things change.

Meanwhile, I was reading this for a research paper a couple of months ago... it gets easier with practice.

As a history nerd, this find is the coolest thing I've seen in a while. Those artifacts are in such great shape -- I hope a museum can display them or something.
posted by litlnemo at 2:23 AM on May 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


That waf truly fafcinating!

(sorry I can't figure out how to type a long s here)


Decani: "Very refreshing to see that as the first comment on the nature and worth of reddit, here. Makes a nice change."

I think it's easy to hate on Reddit here because the overall quality of comments is mediocre comparatively, especially in the large default subreddits that people who idly peruse the site would see. For example, there's a shit ton of casual sexism and racism that goes unchallenged all the time. If you look around there are a number of very intelligent and insightful commenters, and interesting subreddits; you almost have to get that through sheer volume alone, really. There's some great stuff there, for sure, but while a few people judge the place too harshly, you can't judge them too harshly either for getting the wrong impression sometimes; there's a lot of chaff to get through.
posted by Red Loop at 3:15 AM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who will judge those who judge the judgers of reddit?
posted by kiltedtaco at 3:54 AM on May 2, 2013


Calling Antique Road Show.
posted by notreally at 4:17 AM on May 2, 2013


"If you cannot read text written in English, you are by definition illiterate.
posted by charlie don't surf

I am English and cannot read my own handwriting.
posted by marienbad at 4:20 AM on May 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Some of the maps: the octagonal fort is Neuf-Brisach, well worth an afternoon if you're in the area. The mountain with the witches is the Blocksberg (Wikipedia has the same illustration btw).
posted by dhoe at 4:25 AM on May 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


"If you cannot read text written in English, you are by definition illiterate.
posted by charlie don't surf


One word: doctors
Seriously, they need to slow down and put some effort into legibility. Or go completely digital.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:48 AM on May 2, 2013


But yes, it's amazing. AMAZING. It's just that its sitting there being allowed to rot. {twitch. twitch. twitch. howl.}

The artist Grayson Perry made an interesting TV series - "all in the best possible taste" in which he talked to British people from working, middle and upper class backgrounds as part of his attempt to find inspiration for a series of tapestries called "The Vanity of Small Differences".

I grew up a family that had an upper class background and access to the same kind of attics full of treasures mentioned above. Even the owner's comments about how small the size of people's heads were - therefore rings true with my firsthand experience of rummaging through trunks and tea chests. One of Perry's observations about upper class people people is that they are so often have their life seriously constrained by the expectation that they become curators and custodians of all the stuff they have inherited over multiple generations: books, silverware, portraits, mansions - entire estates. For sure it is possible to become blasé in these circumstances. But there is also the problems of trying to understand, preserve and maintain it all in a costly and fast changing world. Perry interviewed somebody who had deserted his huge family mansion full of treasures so that he and his family could live in the ordinary sized gate-house and be surrounded by Ikea chairs his kids could play on.

I have a large box full letters from the 18th century. It occupies storage space in my very un-castle-like house. I feel bad about giving it away to somewhere like a museum (and un-sure whether one would be interested), very bad about taking it to the dump and resentful about the space it takes up. That is often the price of possessing such things - and why they are indeed sometimes left to rot.
posted by rongorongo at 4:56 AM on May 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Hard bored, I'd say

Imagine what you could do with your life with no internet, no computer, no television, no radio, no stereo, few books, not many shops, and only very slow transportation. You are at home, sitting by the window or candle or firelight doing what?

That's why I came to the conclusion that while I love to read about weekend house parties in the Victorian and Edwardian ages in real life, I would go out of my mind with boredom. For women it boils down to changing your clothes, gossip, and needlework. Possibly some reading and writing. Unless of course you were lower class than it was work, work, work.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:56 AM on May 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The maps from the Revolutionary War really caught my eye. We don't often see the war from the English side here and being called rebels made me chuckle.

The cloth costing document was interesting too. Accounting for money in a system that was not decimal based had to take some effort.
posted by tommasz at 5:33 AM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who will judge those who judge the judgers of reddit?

The ...Coast Guard?
posted by The Whelk at 5:59 AM on May 2, 2013


That's why I came to the conclusion that while I love to read about weekend house parties in the Victorian and Edwardian ages in real life, I would go out of my mind with boredom. For women it boils down to changing your clothes, gossip, and needlework. Possibly some reading and writing. Unless of course you were lower class than it was work, work, work.

I'm pretty sure on the tv show victorian house (or edwardian house) the person who was to portray the unmarried sister 'old maid' got so bored out of her mind that she quit the show.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:14 AM on May 2, 2013


I guarantee your ass that if I had access to that kind of stuff, I would be wearing pith helmets to the GROCERY STORE.

Then my Trained Historian brain kicks in and I feel guilty about wanting to do that.

Still, the other problem from an archival perspective is that there is SO much of this stuff out in the world, and often not nearly enough money to acquire, care for and display it properly somewhere other than a dusty attic box.

I look at Fucking Beyonce (and sorry, but I can't call her anything BUT that after reading the relevant New Yorker article) and her Archive of Beyonce dedicated to chronicling all Beyonce-ness 24-7, a DATA CENTER dedicated to All The Beyonce, the sheer hubris of that shit...I think about how much money she's spending on that, and how little ready money so many museums and archives have available to do valuable work like going through the dusty attic boxes of the world and...

I should really have a little less coffee before thinking about the Beyonce archive, now all my forehead veins are bulging.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:23 AM on May 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


"If you cannot read text written in English, you are by definition illiterate.
posted by charlie don't surf

I am English and cannot read my own handwriting.


I remember as a kid, when I recieved yet another failing penmanship grade on an other wise good report card, the teacher told me to buck up - I'll probably go on to be a doctor or and engineer with that handwriting.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:39 AM on May 2, 2013


It's worth noting that the pith helmet's insignia is for a historically remarkable unit. Considering that the other military items do not exactly match up with it or each other, it seems likely that they all belonged to a collector, or were the handed-down playthings of war-curious boy.
posted by snottydick at 6:46 AM on May 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's possible they were a collector, certainly. But one of the items is a collection of letters from a son to his mother while a student in Germany in the late 1770s; many of the military maps are German and the others are of that same vintage. There's also a bunch of engineering plans. It seems to me possible that you might have a young man studying engineering with a view to joining the military in the late 1770s who would have been around for the Napoleonic wars 30 years later. Or perhaps that'd be his son.
posted by Diablevert at 6:55 AM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought the military maps were from after the fact. The one from the battle of White Plains was from a year afterwards for example.
posted by shothotbot at 6:57 AM on May 2, 2013


Wiki tells me the battle of white plains took place in 1776; even if the map was made in 1777 the student was still in Germany until 1778, according to the letters.

Of course, none of this proves anything.
posted by Diablevert at 7:05 AM on May 2, 2013


About that map, I found it interesting that it was actually produced so quickly. According to its metadata*, it documents actions that occurred up to November 28, 1776, and it was "Published as the Act directs, Feb 25th, 1777." So all of the the information was gathered and sent to London, during a war, with a transatlantic crossing time of probably a month or so, and a meticulously hand-drawn engraved map was produced and published, all within the space of three months. That's not bad.

Incidentally, it was published by the Royal Geographer to King George III. He apparently worked at the "Corner of St. Martin's Lane, Charing Cross," which would be here somewhere (near the English National Opera, Duke of York's Theatre, and, uh, Pizza Express).

* pretty sure they didn't call it that... okay, maybe it's the "imprint."
posted by whatnotever at 7:39 AM on May 2, 2013


I could easily read most of the texts

...so prove it, and transcribe the results here.

No?

Hmm.

By the way, did I mention I can read all known languages in any form whatsoever? Yeah. I'm pretty amazing.
posted by aramaic at 7:50 AM on May 2, 2013


By the way, did I mention I can read all known languages in any form whatsoever? Yeah. I'm pretty amazing.
posted by aramaic


Eponysterical?
posted by Diablevert at 8:27 AM on May 2, 2013


In all fairness, I've always been told that the reason my grandparents' script was so strange and hard to read was because they learned the Palmer method. The Google examples I found were very readable - but I assumed it was because they were *examples* and not practice. It is, of course, entirely possible that my grandparents either learned some other script and I was misinformed or that they just had horrendous handwriting.
posted by maryr at 8:29 AM on May 2, 2013


Beyonce may be extraordinarily annoying and egocentric - in a pop star? Astounding! - but no more so than the many kings and despots in history who expended vast resources recording their valiant deeds and manly actions. History would be hugely poorer without them, and I doubt many historians would wish that people didn't do this sort of thing.

And how many top ten hits did Ashurnasirpal II have, anyway?
posted by Devonian at 9:28 AM on May 2, 2013


It's worth noting that the pith helmet's insignia is for a historically remarkable unit.

This is the unit depicted in the long running TV drama series Sharpe's Rifles.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:17 AM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"TV drama"? Books, my dear fellow, books.

And more books, come to that.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:45 AM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sometimes the sheer lack of intellectual curiosity among most people amazes me. If I had a castle filled with trunks like this I would never leave until I had opened every single damn one of them and carefully pored through the items! How can you just be like "oh, well, I dont have the keys. Guess we'll never know what's in there!"

Really.
posted by Justinian at 3:30 PM on May 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


So outstanding.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:36 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


(I just want to pop in to say that I myself (late thirties, learned Palmer script) found the close-up script shots pretty easy to read - I was actually reading the titles of the book catalog to try to figure out what books they had in their library. Indeed, it's really interesting to me that people can't read that - it's like reading type, the physical text is so transparent that you aren't really conscious of "oh the letters look like this now here is the meaning". It seems so bizarre that kids apparently no longer learn and can't read cursive - but then when I think about it, there isn't any particular reason for them to learn it. I learned it, and my handwriting has devolved into a mixture of cursive and block anyway.)
posted by Frowner at 9:31 PM on May 2, 2013


It seems so bizarre that kids apparently no longer learn and can't read cursive ...

This is by no means universal. My fourth-grader learned cursive in school. Whether she'll ever put it to use is another question.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:42 AM on May 3, 2013


Whether she'll ever put it to use is another question.

Just you wait. It will become cool if only as a means of differentiate oneself from boring old texting - so 'teens.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:05 AM on May 3, 2013


« Older Bloomerg compiles a list of the 250 highest CEO-to...  |  Kyaraben (or charaben) is a st... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments