I’m coming down to the line on finishing my novella for the upcoming anthology Christmas in Duke Street. Despite being madly writing, I have great sites I came across recently.

The Bodleian Library Goes Digital

When I was in grad school and researching a Regency era author named Eleanor Sleath, I was also frequently side-tracked into other fascinating areas of research that was quite handy for writing Regency Historical Romance. One of the most tantalizing things I came across was the Ephemera collection at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. At the time, a handful of images had been made available. It happened that their server was misconfigured and I was able to get to a directory listing of the ephemera collection and could see that they had playbills, and I was searching for performances of a certain play. I wanted to look at those playbills so badly …. A trip to the UK was out of the question. Well, the Bodleian has put this collection on line and searchable along with other collections: Digital Bodleian.

Here’s some playbills in the Ephemera collection: Playbills (None are the play I was looking for, alas.)

Here’s a ticket for a ball given by the Lord Mayor: ticket

Then there’s this letter to the Editor:

(Hopefully that lands you at the enlarged image. If not, click on the magnifying glass.)

To the Printer of the DIARY.
My attention being roused by the claims of different countries to the Artist who produced the Exhibition of Edinburgh in the Haymarket, I went to see a work, which, from the contention, promises to have so much merit. I expected to have seen a model like that of Rome, or London; for transparent painting, such as I’ve seen before; but was agreeably surprised to see, I will venture to say, the greatest curiosity ever exhibited in painting, without any deception but that of the pencil, laying nature fairly open to my view, in a manner entirely new.
I ever wish to see the arts flourish; I hope this extraordinary effort of ingenuity will meet its reward: to doubt it would be an insult to publick taste.
Yours, &c.


I had to (digitally) go to a library in Australia to find out what this letter was about. Here’s the link. I’m sorry, it’s a pdf and I sure hope the link works.

The letter first refers to an exhibition in the Haymarket of a panorama of Edinburgh by Irish painter Robert Barker. (Thus, the artist referred to is Robert Barker) This was something of a sensation. No one (according to these sources) had ever painted a panorama before, nor lit and placed it as Barker did. The panorama was 7.5 meters long and was exhibited in London in March of 1789. It stayed on view until 1790. Barker then prepared a panorama of London.

Indeed, this source claims that Barker’s friends coined the word “panorama” to describe this ability to walk around a painting as if one were actually at that location in the world. From this, Barker, and after his patent expired, other artists, produced panoramas of other cities and countries. This letter seems to be referring to a subsequent exhibition of other countries. Barker, having succeeded wildly, built an exhibition hall behind his home at 28 Castle Street Leiscester Square. A larger structure was built at another location, also in Leiscester Square by 1793. The Royal family visited and was much impressed. Panoramas were a popular entertainment through the 1850s.

Ships! The HMS Victory

The Independent has a fascinating article about why the HMS Victory sank. It sure wasn’t what I thought. This article is a great overview of the ship and its history, with a dose of climate, bureaucracy, and bad design thrown in.

The tragedy was not caused by dangerous rocks and the failure of the Alderney lighthouse keeper to keep the fire burning as believed at the time. The reasons for the Victory’s loss were almost certainly poor ship design, top-heavy weight, instability caused by heavy guns and possibly rotting timbers. victory1744.org

For more about this ship, there’s a website dedicated to it: victory1744.org. The photos of the wreck in-situ are stunning.

While I was putting together this post, one of my searches led to a site about pens, which I clicked on because pens! I’m addicted to fountain pens. When I was done, I went to the pen site and discovered that this company sells pens made with wood from the hull of the HMS Victory. Here’s the page about that. And here are the HMS Victory pens they sell.