16thC Recipe book, handwriting and UPenn Library

I’m trying to decide what I like better about online commonplace books, the snapshot of daily life centuries ago, the new info you find from reading the commentary of what that person found most important to remember, or just looking at the art of the bound book, the handwriting and the structure of the work itself.

I just found some great Commonplace Books in the University of Pennsylvania website.  There are twelve showing up through  http://dla.library.upenn.edu/dla/medren/search.html?q=commonplace

The summary information on each book is excellent, giving a great overview of the contents, as well as some helpful general comments about the style.

The scans themselves are stunning and very fast loading.  However, the manual zoom (via drop-down menu) feels quite clunky after I have been using the Trinity College Dublin interface for a few days.

I have accepted the fact that I don’t speak Spanish, French or Latin – which many English commonplaces scatter throughout their entries, but another (first world!) frustration is handwriting itself.  I have found it can take over 50 pages of reading before I really get used to the individual’s (olde English) handwriting.

Take this example of a “Commonplace book and recipe book” (UPenn Ms. Codex 823).  The handwriting itself is a graphic designer’s dream, and the content would be a great source of info into daily life in 1567.  But – especially for someone used to looking at printed text all day – it is frustrating and often nearly impossible to decipher!!





3 thoughts on “16thC Recipe book, handwriting and UPenn Library

  1. Personally I’ve been enjoying the irony of keeping a handwritten commonplace book, scanning the pages and sharing them on my blog – doing this combines for me the private handwriting, boundbook virtues of which you speak with the public online world

  2. That sounds like a good compromise. The more I look at the commonplaces online, the more I’m seeing how much is communicated by everything else, apart from the actual text. Maybe there’s something completely new created when you combine “a picture OF a thousand words” 🙂

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