During the spring semester of 2014, I came across MMs.ch6 at the University of Iowa’s Special Collections. It was among the humblest of the books I had the opportunity to explore that day. There was a distinct lack of tooling, gilt, vibrant pigments or undulating parchment, yet this book provided the most fascination. At first glance, it appeared to be a common, cheaply produced, early 17th-century notebook full of miscellaneous legal documents, with a smattering of pen-testings and marginalia in English and Latin inside the covers, along with the most charming red thumbprint.
Charter Six is a record of the people and of a community on the brink of the English Civil War. I have been introduced to the people, places, domestic disputes, marriages, deaths, industry and the housing market of early 17th century Staffordshire– as well as the history of The Three Cupps Inn in the Bread Street Ward of London.
This is not an academic project– though it began that way, Charter Six was the subject of my codicological survey of the manuscript to improve the library’s records. Now my research on Charter Six has morphed into a hobby. I previously used the term “unscholarly” in the header of this blog to emphasize my lack of formal education in the subjects necessary to research a manuscript of legal documents from the 17th century. It has been extremely slow going– at every turn I am reminded of my lack of education and training in the subjects of paleography, 17th-century English law or Early Modern English. Fortunately, I am an autodidact– though my progress may seem imperceptible, I will get there in the end.
My first goal in creating this blog is very simply to share what I have learned and to, hopefully, learn more. Through this project, I have met many fellow bloggers, amazingly talented amateur genealogists, and historians. Their generosity with their research has helped me in incalculable ways. This is my way of thanking them and paying it forward.
Secondly, I hope to bring awareness to the invaluable historical resources tucked away in our local libraries. The University of Iowa’s libraries are open to the public. For those interested in book history, I highly recommend the Main Library’s Special Collections and the Hardin Library for the Health Science’s John Martin Rare Book room. Research and Special Collections librarians are among the most awesome people in the world: thank you, thank you, thank you, for everything that you do.