Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bermuda Recon Report

Last week I took advantage of the Columbus Day holiday and a couple spare vacation days for a quick trip to Bermuda for some (not nearly enough) time in the Bermuda Archives in pursuit of some more data for the Great Bermuda Project (GBP). That included a perusal of the inventories in three volumes of colonial probate records (I skipped around a little, and ended up covering the years 1640-1703 and 1744-1791). That resulted in notes on 179 personal libraries, the vast majority of which were very small (less than five books) but a few medium-sized and a handful of what I'd consider large collections.

As is the way of things, I found a really fascinating personal letterbook just at the end of my last afternoon in the archives, which I look forward digging into more on my next trip.

One morning my wonderful girlfriend spent some time down the street at the National Library running through microfilm of the 1784 issues of the Bermuda Gazette for an intensive examination of those early Bermuda newspapers. They include significant advertisements for books being sold in the island, auction notices, and literary essays (including one very fascinating piece on the possible dangers of a press in the island that seems to be a set piece written by the printer himself, but is still very interesting). The National Library is preparing to mount a new digital database of the early issues next month, which (needless to say) will be a tremendous help.

Among the various anecdotes and curiosities in the early issues of the paper is this little gem; not entirely german to book history, but it made me chuckle: "A Vicar long ill, who had treasur'd up wealth, / Told his Curate each Sunday to pray for his health. / Which oft having done, a parishioner said, / That the Curate ought rather to wish he were dead. / "For my truth," says the Curate, "let credit be given, / I ne'er pray'd for his death - but I have for the Living." (27 March 1784).

Since returning from this little recon mission I've been busily writing up a few fellowship applications in order to (hopefully) obtain some funding for future trips to the island. There's a wealth of information there, and hopefully I'll be able to make the case that it's worthy of significant further study. In the meantime, I've got lots more notes and images to go through, and I'm sure I'll have further items to share in the near future.