Archive for May, 2009

Two Recent Acquisitions: The Midshipman’s Library and the Wreck of the Unity

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Two recent acquisitions build on Yale’s holdings of early modern British naval and mercantile papers. Above, the inventory of Henry Wright, an early nineteenth century midshipman in the British navy. Wright’s family lived at Brewer’s Hall, Cheshire, their house neighboring the estate of the 12th earl of Derby, who became Wright’s patron. Having joined the navy in 1825, Wright was rated midshipman in 1826, serving in the Mediterranean and West Indies trade until becoming Captain of the schooner Skipjack in 1839. The archive spans the period 1824-1836, consisting primarily of Wright’s correspondence from 1824-1827 and including letters to his father and to his patrons, Lord and Lady Derby.

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Above and below, the list of books which Wright brought with him, including Paul and Virginia, the Vicar of Wakefield, the History of Rome, a Life of Nelson, grammars for Latin, Greek and English, an arithmetic, and Molyneux’s Use of globes.

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Below, photographs from another recent acquisition, the papers of the British cargo ship Unity on its ill-fated voyage to the West Indies in 1782. Below the account books for fitting the Unity, including the cost of insurance, alongside account lines such as the travel charges for apprentices from London to Portsmouth.

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Captained by Samuel Hurry, the Unity sailed from Portsmouth for Barbados in April, 1782. Below, some of the ship’s papers, including papers on the ship’s convoy and documents relating to the ship’s salvage and trials after the Unity was stranded and plundered off the coast of Cornwall.

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These collections are currently being catalogued, but are open for research. Researchers are welcome to make use of the Beinecke collections, and can find further information on registering as a reader under “Planning your Research Visit” on the Beinecke web-site.

Frauenzimmer Bibliotheckgen, or, Ladies’ Little Library

Frauen-Zimmer Bibliotheckgen oder Thuelicher Vorschlag / Wie und Auff was Ahrt / für ein Deutsches Frauen=Zimmer / mässigen Vermögens / unterschiedene / außerlesene / und recht nützliche Bücher / zu ihrem Vergnügen / zeitlichen und ewigen Wohlseyn / gar leicht und auff wenig Kosten / angeschaffet werden können. Mit einer kleinen Beylage: Als einem beweglichen Schreiben einer Mutter an ihren zum abgöttischen Pabstthum übergangenen Sohn; und etlichen sonderbahren Denck=Sprüchen / dadurch das Herz in dem Wandel für Gott zu befestigen. Güstrau: Zu finden im Rüdigerschen Buchhandlung, 1705.

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The Frauen-Zimmer Bibliotheckgen or Ladies’ Little Library is an instruction manual for ladies on book collecting and was published in 1705. The anonymous male author begins his advice on planning a personal library with a dressmaking analogy. He argues that personal libraries, like dresses, must suit their owners; before sewing, the seamstress examines, age, status, wealth, and temperament of the woman for whom it will be made – and the wise lady will do the same when creating a personal collection of books.

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The anonymous author gives some universal advice – in his opinion, it is important to take care of both intellectual and spiritual needs (“Gemuth und die Seele” – 7). At the least, one ought to own a Bible and several devotional texts. Beyond this, a lady might acquire books on history, and housekeeping. He discourages the purchase of “böse Bücher” or “bad books,” such as romances, books on etiquette or the occult. In addition, the author explains the care of books and suggests women share their books with friends and family. Perhaps most interesting is the author’s suggestion that women create, save and pass down their own manuscript materials.

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On the frontispiece of the Frauen-Zimmer Bibliotheckgen, we see a young lady in her study, which opens out onto a spacious French garden. In addition to her collection of books, her study also contains an elegant, cloth-draped desk with a notebook, quill and ink set and what appears to be a bookstand at the ready. Her books are arranged by size in a grand, curtained bookcase – there are large folios on the bottom shelf and smaller books above. The young lady herself appears contented and proud; clutching a sheaf of papers in one hand, she gestures confidently toward her books with the other.

Although this engraving shows quite an imposing library for an 18th-century woman, the author took an egalitarian view to book collecting, writing that almost anyone could own at least the essentials and that every woman ought to buy as many good books as she can afford.


Before the advent of publisher’s bindings, it was common for customers to have several books bound together in a single binding. This small volume contains three slim books.

Contributed to Early Modern at the Beinecke by Bryn Savage, a doctoral student in the Yale University Department of Germanic Languages & Literature.  Bryn was a pre-prospectus research fellow at the Beinecke Library in the summer of 2008, working on the development of literary criticism in Germany in the late eighteenth century.

From the Reading Room: This series of postings highlights the research of graduate students, research fellows, and other scholars working in the Beinecke’s early modern collections.