Opening Questions

What sent me off to Chester was a catalogue entry describing a ‘Manuscript account of “My Gossip ? Joh[n]son his foot voyage and myne into Scotland” from London’, dated to the seventeenth century. That Ben Jonson had undertaken such a walk in the summer of 1618 was well known; but it was also well known, because Jonson says so in his poem ‘An Execration Upon Vulcan’, that his own account of the walk had been lost in a fire in his house some five years later. I certainly hadn’t heard of anyone going with him, or of any other account being written. So what was this? Continue reading

Starting in the Archives

In early February 2009, I found myself heading to Cheshire Archives and Local Studies to take a look at an item in the collections there. Just a few days earlier, I’d been working my way through an online catalogue in search of early modern (i.e., sixteenth and seventeenth century) literary manuscripts, when I’d come across a reference which seemed intriguing, to say the least. I wasn’t at all sure that the trip was going to be worth it – the catalogue description wasn’t detailed enough for me to be sure that it was at all relevant. Still, worth a train fare, anyway.

The catalogue in question is Access to Archives, which contains listings for collections of papers held in record offices throughout England and Wales. It’s a brilliant resource – not just because of the sheer volume and scope of the records it lists, but also because it allows you to get a good overview of individual collections once you’ve come across items within them that seem interesting. Continue reading