19th century manuscript musings
CALLIGRAPHIC ILLUSTRATED MANUSCRIPT. Shadows from the past. Picked from the worm-holes of long-vanished days, and from the dust of oblivion raked. No publisher, 1850.
8vo. Contemporary purple roan, gilt fillet border, all edges gilt; calligraphic manuscript filling 108 pages in blue, black and red ink, initials illuminated in gilt and coloured pen-and-ink illustrations throughout; sometime skilfully rebacked, occasional spotting, very good indeed.
An unusual and charming manuscript. A name or place has been carefully erased from the foot of the first leaf, and so we have no idea as to the authorship of this little book, but it is a fascinating collection of miscellaneous pieces on subjects as diverse as parsley, the origin of coffee, plum-pudding, street lamps, Egyptian heraldry, Inigo Jones, palm trees, the scold's bridle, the White Horse in Berkshire, sepulchral vases and apostle-spoons. Some of the passages have clearly been copied or paraphrased from popular texts and may reveal something about the location of the writer. The section 'The Fatal Prediction', taken from a story called 'The Lone Tower', originally printed in the Repository of Arts and Literature, Fashion etc. in 1822 and subsequently anthologised elsewhere, tells the spooky story of Cook's Tower in Clifton, Bristol. Clifton is also the location of a passage taken directly from the memoirs of the author and translator Edward Mangin: "In the year 1828, I accidentally spoke of 'The Sorrows of Werter' in the library of a bookseller in Clifton" (The Parlour Window: Or Anecdotes, E. Lumby 1841, p. 83). This is inconclusive, however, as there are also pieces on Durham and a church in Caen, for example, and a piece taken from Charnock's Local Etymology of 1859 on the origins of the place-name Pimlico.
Whoever the author was, he or she was marvellously skilled at miniature pen-and-ink illustrations, handling all subjects in impressive style, and the colour and gilding is generally thick and vibrant. This is a very charming item, beautifully crafted and full of surprising nuggets of arcane information.