Archive for October, 2006

travel, tribulare, and no uncertain building blocks

October 3, 2006

Worthington Chauncey Ford’s address to the American Historical Association from 1912 provides an important insight into the timeless nature of archival reference. Underneath all our finding aids, added entries and keywords lingers the resilient capital of trust. As the story goes Ford told an inquiring researcher that there were no restrictions, and all privileges. The other day a stranger walked into the reading room peddling an odd story about a certain document of American Loyalists having once been part of a book and perhaps destroyed by cannon fire resurfacing in the late nineteenth century and auctioned off whereby they were potentially split apart with parts landing in the collections in various locations through a donor Reid.

I pointed the gentleman to the American Loyalists card catalog drawer and he was off, within minutes becoming interested in the ‘Royal Commission on Loyalists Claims,’ an uncataloged collection of 7 volumes by Daniel Parker Coke. The collection, Coke, Daniel Parker. Notes. Royal Commission on American Loyalists’ Claims, 1783-85 is found in seven manuscript volumes. The Coke papers comprise of memoranda taken by Mr. Daniel Parker Coke of the evidence presented before the Royal Commission on the claims of the American Loyalists from 1783-85. The notes Coke jotted down in legal hand confirm testimony of of known Loyalists.

In 1915 the Daniel Parker Coke Notes were Edited by Hugh Edward Egerton and printed in one single volume by the Roxburghe Club. This Roxburghe edition was gratuitously torpedoed by a German U-boat on route to the United States on the steamship Arabic. The Roxburghe Club, rathern than becoming enfeebled by German action, promptly reprinted the volume sending copies back to their intended destinations and included a slip regarding U-boat episode.

The 1915 Egerton edition was republished in 1969 by Arno Press and in 1971 by Burt Franklin as number 756 in its Research & Source Works Series containing an index of names helpful for finding specific persons within the seven volumes.  However, the 1915, 1969, 1971 edition is abridged and contains only those entries Egerton thought to bare upon the social and economic history of the time, including the price of land and of slaves, professional earnings. How and what Egerton edited is a virgin territory of study, and perhaps interesting glimpse into British historical editing of documents from the Colonial era.  Ford’s dictum that 9 out of 10 inquirers do not know what they want, but must dig out their facts as they go along was, in this example, quite evident.