home Cycle of Success, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books The Lucubrator and the Young Ladies Academy of Philadelphia

The Lucubrator and the Young Ladies Academy of Philadelphia

This post is the eighth and final part of our continuing series on Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class and their research on an early American manuscript in Special Collections.

By an Anonymous English Major, Recently Graduated

While researching the origins of a mysterious manuscript that was donated to Ellis Library many years ago, our Early American Literature class learned not only about who might have written the book, when, and why, we also learned a great deal about what life was like in the time period in which it was written. The Lucubrator is a commonplace book, written in late eighteenth-century America. It includes many essays, one of which, “On Female Education,” helps to reveal how eighteenth-century readers felt about the roles of women in society.

The author of the essay begins by recalling the recent opening of a local school for women: “The admittance of females into the Academy in the United States, is an eminent instance, of their refined cultivation and advancement in literature.” The academy to which the author refers is likely the Young Ladies Academy of Philadelphia. The opening of this particular academy would have been deeply significant to many Americans, as it was, according to Marion B. Savin and Harold J. Abrahams, “the first chartered institution for the higher education of young women in the United States and perhaps in the world” (59). The Academy was established on June 4, 1782, by John Poor, and, five years later, on January 9, 1792, it was granted a charter by the laws of Pennsylvania. By that time, one hundred women were in attendance. They studied the expected subjects, such as reading, writing, math, and history. They also studied singing, piano, and astronomy.

It was considered a prestigious accomplishment to graduate from the Academy, though often completion meant women might be better wives and mothers, rather than opening doors for careers. In James A. Neal’s An Essay on the Education and Genius of the Female Sex (1795), he writes, “When admitted to an equal participation of the illuminating beams of science, we observe women rising to the most conspicuous and enviable state of eminence” (2). Neal published his Essay on Education with his account of the Academy’s commencement activities held on December 18, 1794. Neal’s praise for the Academy shows his faith in women’s intellectual capabilities, but his was not the prevailing opinion of the time. Indeed, when Benjamin Rush delivered an address to the Academy on July 28, 1787, he made glowing remarks on female learning, but only because he believed that receiving a liberal education would make a girl “an agreeable companion to a sensible man” (79).

Domestic life was quite important in the eighteenth century and women often played an important role in making domestic life run properly. The essay “On Female Education” seems to convey this idea. Its author writes of women: “If they are never to fill a public seat or harangue in public, will they never have an occasion to read in a company of friends, or, to teach what they have leart [sic] to their families and children?” While researching this essay in the The Lucubrator, we learned that when it was written, America was beginning to come around to the idea that women deserve an education in order to become happier, more productive people.

People, most often, will be as great as they are allowed to be. When we continue to treat women as inferior, less intelligent people, it makes it hard for them to prove otherwise. Many are not given the chance to better themselves, and when they are, their accomplishments are overlooked by people who only seem to pay attention to what they want to see. While there is still a long way to go before people who are not white men are treated with equal amounts of respect, education continues to be the best route to achieving this.


Works Cited

Rush, Benjamin. Essays, Literary, Moral & Philosophical (Philadelphia, 1798).

Savin, Marion B. and Harold J. Abrahams. “The Young Ladies’ Academy of Philadelphia.” History of Education Journal. Vol. 8. No. 2 (Winter, 1957): 68-67.

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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department’s digital presences. Contact Kelli

home Cycle of Success, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books When Authors Go Missing: Putting Manuscripts into Perspective, by Tyler Morris

When Authors Go Missing: Putting Manuscripts into Perspective, by Tyler Morris

This post is the seventh part of our continuing series on Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class and their research on an early American manuscript in Special Collections.

by Tyler Morris

After weeks of working to decode The Lucubrator, I can’t help but feel I’m left with more questions than answers. The title page offered our class a name: James Noyes. But we quickly realized that the manuscript’s authorship is more of a mystery than any of us originally thought. Simply searching for “James Noyes” in databases and Google was not going to cut it. So I altered my approach. I looked to find “Lucubrator” essays written by other authors who could potentially eliminate James Noyes as a candidate for the authorship of some or all of The Lucubrator’s essays.  

Though I found a few published essays written by “The Lucubrator,” none matched those bound in the manuscript. We concluded that we could not attribute the manuscript to Noyes definitely nor question the attribution made on the title page. Eventually, I posed a different question: what good is a book that no longer has a known author or place of origin?

When considering my answer, it dawned on me that I had learned more from the manuscript than I originally thought, even without knowing its author. The fact that we could not find a printed version of a Lucubrator essay suggests either that someone should have done a better job of bookkeeping or that the manuscript may not have been meant for the public. But, then again, I think my speculation that the manuscript’s essays were at one time printed to entertain and inform readers is a compelling one, for several reasons.

Some of the essays are not dated in chronological order and others are given two dates, which may signify the dates on which they were printed elsewhere. Moreover, the essays are morally edifying. My favorite essay is one entitled “On Friendship.” After overcoming the difficulty of having to read literature in the original handwriting, you find that the author of The Lucubrator actually offers a rather beautiful description of true friendship. Phrases like “Friendship, when it is sincere, is acknowledged by all to be a very fruitful source of happiness,” or “When there is a dissimilarity of opinions or pursuits, there seldom exist any great degree of friendship; for that difference is apt to create disputes between each other, and people in general are too much attached to their own ways of thinking to respect another of different or opposite sentiments,” offer some insight and advice that is still very useful today. The same goes for the essays that offer criticism, such as “Propriety of Behaving with Moderation In Parties,” which is pretty much self-explanatory, and “On the Propriety of Taxing Ministers of the Gospels for the Support of Government.”

Likewise, learning about the life of the best candidate for the manuscript’s authorship, James Noyes of Atkinson (1778-1799), was inspirational. Interestingly enough, Noyes was around the same age as me and my classmates when The Lucubrator was written, which made me feel like I needed to step my game up as far as everything is concerned! Noyes was a prodigy responsible for publishing a Federal Arithmetic for Congress, as well as a number of almanacs and even an astronomical diary, which are profound achievements for anyone, but especially for an author so young. A few years later, Noyes died of polio, after being forced to use crutches. Issues with immobility left him stuck in his house for most of his final days.

I think that integrating short essays like the Lucubrator essays with applications such as Twitter and Facebook would be an excellent way to entertain my generation, as well as a tool for teaching life lessons. The idea and form of The Lucubrator are what we can take away from our research experience and what we can call the manuscript’s history and purpose, even if the author conceived of it differently.

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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department’s digital presences. Contact Kelli

Lucubration and Inspiration

This post is part 6 of our continuing series on Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class and their research on an early American manuscript in Special Collections.

by Jon Crecelius

Though we don’t have the technology to travel back to the past, we can still piece together clues that give us a glimpse of what the past was like. In conducting research on The Lucubrator, I did exactly that. My interests leaned towards the intellectual and literary cultures of post-revolutionary America, and how they might have influenced the mysterious author of the manuscript, called James Noyes on the title page.

Some of the most notable writers of eighteenth-century America were none other than the “Founding Fathers.” Men such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison, with their works entitled Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), Poor Richard’s Almanack (1732-58), and The Federalist Papers (1787-88), all wrote well known publications that would have shaped the literary and social culture of the manuscript author’s time. But these men were not the only authors writing important pieces in and about early America. One important, but overlooked, author is J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur (1735-1813), an influential French immigrant farmer who lived in New York.

Post 7_Letters from American Farmer title page

The writings of Crèvecoeur espouse the type of freethinking, industriousness, and morally minded spirit so often dictated by The Lucubrator’s author. In his famous essay, “What is an American?,” Crèvecoeur asserts “We are all animated with the spirit of industry which is unfettered and unrestrained because each person works for himself” (2). This portrait of Americans, driven by a strong work ethic, is found also in Jefferson’s writings and may be compared to the industrious writer we meet in The Lucubrator. More significant, however, is that all three writers—Crèvecoeur, Jefferson, and the author of the manuscript—express admiration for the American farmer and the pastoral joys of agricultural life that many believed came with it. In one passage of his Notes, Jefferson writes “Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth” (179). Likewise, the author of The Lucubrator writes in an essay entitled “On Agriculture”: “If gentleman in the highest walks of society possessed a taste for the amusement of gardening, the cultivation of fruit trees, and other branches of agriculture, it would perhaps contribute as much to health and innocence, as to national independence and prosperity.”

If James Noyes of Atkinson is the author of The Lucubrator, he seems to have been a man of high ideals and strong morals. In my opinion, though he makes himself out to be an important thinker, Noyes is mostly distilling the ideas of writers who came before him. However, this does not make his work unimportant. It is still, despite its enigmatic character, an important discovery that adds to our knowledge of the early American landscape; and, because this work is one that has been previously unstudied, it shows us how those people forgotten by history thought and lived.


Works Cited

St. John, James Hector. "What Is an American?" Letters From an American Farmer. 1782. 

National Humanities Center. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on the State of Virginia. The Federalist Papers Project. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.

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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department’s digital presences. Contact Kelli

The Lucubrations of Vicesimus Knox

This post is part 5 of our continuing series on Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class and their research on an early American manuscript in Special Collections.

by Erik Wasson

One of the reasons that The Lucubrator seems so strange is the range of topics the manuscript covers, as is promised in its subtitle, Containing Essays on Various Subjects. However, influential writers of the eighteenth century commonly published literature on “various subjects.” In my research, I have focused on the famous essayist Vicesimus Knox: specifically, his two published essay collections, Winter Evenings; or, Lucubrations on Life and Letters (London 1788; New York 1805) and Essays Moral and Literary (London, 1778; Philadelphia 1792).

Post 6_Knox Essays Title Page

Winter Evenings covers a variety of subjects just as does The Lucubrator. Besides having the word “lucubrator” in their titles, both works have a table of contents that lay out similar topics of interest. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “lucubrator” as “a nocturnal student,” and the word “lucubrations” as “the product of nocturnal study and meditation; hence, a literary work showing signs of careful elaboration. Now somewhat derisive or playful, suggesting the notion of something pedantic or overelaborate.” This definition of the word “lucubrator” gives a clue as to the purpose of The Lucubrator and the reason for why the contents of the manuscript are so wide-ranging, from discussions of female education to living in the countryside. The author’s mission was to create a manuscript, which, told through an apprehensive narrative voice, had intellectual thought and moralistic and societal concern as its structure.

Post 6_Knox Essays Table of Contents

In his prefaces to Essays Moral and Literary and Winter Evenings, Knox discusses lucubrations as if they were a genre all on their own. He claims that their literary footprint is significant to his culture and to the education of readers. What is most interesting about Essays Moral and Literary is found in the preface. Here Knox writes:

An unknown Writer who sends his lucubrations into the world, and solicits public favour, is exactly in the condition of a new man aspiring to hounours among the ancient Romans. They who have established their fame, are jealous of an intruder; they who are competitors, are angry with a rival; and the unconcerned spectators will seldom withdraw their eyes from the contemplation of allowed merit, to examine the pretentions of doubtful excellence.

Perhaps to avoid being criticized by other writers and readers of his day, Knox attempted to publish his essays anonymously. In the preface to the second edition of Essays, Knox wrote: “The Author of the following Papers can truly say, he never meant to claim them” (ix). This statement made by Knox gives strong evidence towards why The Lucubrator was never published. Knox calls his essays “the unguarded production of his leisure hours.” Perhaps the author of the manuscript thought, too, that lucubrations were too private or personal for publication.

Post 6_Knox Essay On Idea of Patriot

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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department’s digital presences. Contact Kelli

home Cycle of Success, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books Finding Fiction in Unexpected Places at the Turn of the 19th Century

Finding Fiction in Unexpected Places at the Turn of the 19th Century

This post is part 4 of our continuing series on Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class and their research on an early American manuscript in Special Collections.

by Amy Cantrall

The pages of The Lucubrator are filled with advice, opinions, and contemplations about life. The very last essay casts a different tone: one of fiction, as it contains all the elements of storytelling. The story, dated as being written on August 25, 1797, is of the narrator coming across a hurt man on the road; it is entitled “On the Probability of Future Rewards and Punishments.” This last essay follows this stranger’s path through his life of misery, action, and adventure. It is a tale fit for modern novels—the man, sent to work at a young age, becomes involved in war as he grows older. Mistaken identities, seafaring adventures, piracy, and a strong-willed attempt to return home encapsulate this amazing story; enough to certainly keep readers on the edge of their seats to find out what will happen to the poor stranger who happened to come upon the narrator’s path.

Post 5_Charlotte Temple Post 5_Last page final entry Post 5_First page final entryHowever, we don’t find out what happens to the narrator. Sadly, one of the many mysteries of The Lucubrator includes what has happened to the rest of the manuscript. The missing pages could suggest that there is a second volume of The Lucubrator, especially due to the fact that the story has no satisfying conclusion. The fictional tale ends with the sentence “Soon after we were transported to Great Britain, where we remained as prisoners till exchanged towards the conclusion of the war.” Although the story seems to be in the middle, the back page remains blank, with no further writings. The mysteriousness of the unfinished story captures our wonder for this stranger within the final ten pages of a mysterious manuscript. This story strikes a reader as intriguing also because it is not like the other essays, which are educational and moralistic; this one seems to be a complete work of fiction, pulled from the writer’s imagination. Its placement at the end of The Lucubrator could perhaps also be a way of filling up pages, as the American publisher Robert Bell did with Samuel Jackson Pratt’s novel Emma Corbett (1780); rather than waste valuable sheets of paper, he filled them (Pratt 233). If we are to believe this is what Noyes had intended, then it is possible that “On the Probability” was never a finished story.

In an attempt to discover who James Noyes might have been, I came across one James Noyes’s almanac entitled An Astronomical Diary or Almanack, for the Year of Christian Aera, 1797. Similar to The Lucubrator, the Astronomical Diary contains a fictional tale entitled simply, “Humorous: A Humorous Tale.” This tale is an amusing story of two Englishmen who stay the night in a house with a corpse. After one of the men returns to what he believes to be his room, he climbs into bed unknowingly with the corpse—causing much fright for the servants when they believe the corpse has come back to life. This is a short, humorous tale; its presence near the end of an almanac seems to function as a way of entertaining readers, as almanacs mostly provide factual information and details about daily weather for planting and growing crops. In this way, the placement of the humorous tale is unexpected and not so straightforward; but it is understandable why it would be there. Similarly, the final essay of The Lucubrator is also a sensational and unexpected fiction, with its unfinished story leaving much for readers to question. I think this could very well be the same James Noyes, as both seem to like including fictional stories at the end of their writings.

Post 5_Charlotte Temple

Fictional stories and novels in early America provided a new scope of reading. With fiction, news stories could be presented in new ways and grow into new genres. As we have found with such popular novels as Emma Corbett, Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple (1791), and Hannah Webster Foster’s The Coquette (1797), narratives that followed fictional lives often benefited readers by demonstrating strong moral conduct and warning against seduction. In this way, early novels were often didactic. But the two fictional stories I have chosen to examine, “A Humorous Tale” and “On the Probability of Future Rewards and Punishments” are not instructive. Because the latter short tale does not have a proper ending, it is unknown whether or not the author intended for a moral lesson or some sort of warning as the title implies. This is why I believe these fictions are of a different kind than we find in contemporary novels. They are used solely for the purpose of surprising and entertaining readers who expect advice and meditations in The Lucubrator and weather reports in the almanac. 

Perhaps, in these short fictions, we can see one moment in the evolution of American fiction. If the author of “On the Probability of Future Rewards and Punishments” had turned the tale into a novel, I believe he or she would have written it in a single narrative voice, as was becoming popular during the period of the manuscript’s creation. From here on out, fictional storytelling (including short stories and novels alike) would only expand and develop further.


Works Cited

Noyes, James. An Astromonical Diary or Almanack, for the Year of Christian Aera, 1797. Dover: 1796. America's Historical Imprints. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

Noyes, James. Lucubrator. N.d. MS. University of Missouri, n.p.

Noyes, James. The Federal Arithmetic; Or, A Compendium of the Most Useful Rules of That Science, Adapted to the Currency of the United States. For the Use of Schools and Private Persons. Published Agreeably to Act of Congress. Exeter: 1797. America's Historical Imprints. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

Pratt, Samuel Jackson. Emma Corbett, Or, The Miseries of Civil War. Ed. Eve Tavor Bannet. Peterborough: Broadview, 2011.

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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department’s digital presences. Contact Kelli

home Cycle of Success, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books Manuscript-Making: The Lucubrator as Commonplace Book, Diary, and Scrapbook

Manuscript-Making: The Lucubrator as Commonplace Book, Diary, and Scrapbook

This post is part 3 of our continuing series on Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class and their research on an early American manuscript in Special Collections.

by Sarah Fine

When we think of blogging, we probably think of someone sitting in front of a computer. However, the concept of blogging isn’t new; in fact, people have been practicing forms of life writing for hundreds of years. Most people are probably familiar with diaries, but 18th-century Americans also composed scrapbooks and commonplace books, and used these outlets much in the same way that modern life writers might use social media. So, what was The Lucubrator to its author?

Post 3_Table of Contents continuedWe have a little evidence to go by. First, as far as we can tell, the manuscript was never published, either in whole or in part. A diary, to an 18th-century writer, would have been an outlet for private, personal expression, much like a personal blog today; and the author of The Lucubrator certainly expresses him or herself in a series of opinionated essays. However, we can tell from the somewhat disorganized nature of the book that it probably was not meant to be a diary, if only because this book is not like other early modern diaries that exist today. First, in their subject matter, as Harriette Merrifield Forbes notes:

Many of the diaries listed [in catalogues] seem to have but little value,

but however insignificant they may contain facts saved by no one else and of great interest to a few. Others, like those of Judge Samuel Sewall, and the Rev. Ebenezer Parkman, give nearly complete histories of the social life of the towns where the diarists lived. (vii)

The Lucubrator deals only with very general topics; there is no mention of, for example, specific people in the author’s life, in a specific place, or even during specific events (with the exception of Independence Day); in other words, we would expect a diary to include more specific references to his or her own life than The Lucubrator does because, well, it is a diary. Secondly, The Lucubrator doesn’t look at all like you’d expect a diary to look; it has page numbers, but the dates given in the individual entries are inconsistent and not always in chronological order. The entries are also titled, and the book has a title page and a table of contents. It’s highly unlikely that a normal diarist would ever go to such lengths to decorate his or her own diary only to inscribe the entries irregularly and out of order.

Post 3_Final Table of Contents

So, if The Lucubrator is not a diary, does that mean it was meant to be shared? If so, that would make the manuscript more akin to a scrapbook, which, like the scrapbooks of the 21st-century, would be used to log the creator’s experiences for the sake of revisiting them later. Actually, 18th-century scrapbooks were a lot like Facebook; according to Katie Good, a scrapbook was meant to document relationships, collect media (which, as print grew, was becoming more abundant), and express personal tastes while building “cultural capital” (557). The Lucubrator obviously does one of these things: it expresses the writer’s personal tastes or beliefs. It may also do a second, in that it may be a means of collecting media. However, that could mean that the essays are more or less plagiarized. It was not uncommon in the 17th-and 18th– centuries for a reader to, upon feeling connected with a certain piece, copy it down, perhaps as a means of committing it to memory, or as a means of putting it in a convenient place (i.e. a scrapbook) where it could be easily found again for rereading. However, this assertion is almost as unlikely as the diary hypothesis, namely because there is no record of the essays in print anywhere else; none, at least that can be easily found. It could be that the writer paraphrased or shortened essays that he or she read elsewhere. But a scrapbook, according to Good, should also document personal relationships or memories (The Lucubrator is so vague that we can’t say with certainty where it even came from, let alone who it is about), and should contain some sort of printed memorabilia¾ticket stubs, playbills, letters, or cards. The Lucubrator doesn’t contain anything like this, except for a single broadside, found folded and tucked into the back cover. However, due to the book’s unclear history, we can’t know whether this broadside was original to the book or was placed there for safekeeping by one of its many owners through the centuries.

Post 3_What is it

So, if The Lucubrator is neither a diary nor a scrapbook, what is this thing? We can best classify it as a commonplace book, which is not dissimilar to a Tumblr page; commonplace books were meant to contain a writer’s original thoughts or reactions to others’ work, as well as copied-down essays or works written by others, much in the same way a Tumblr page can contain both original posts and the reblogged posts of others. They were meant as places for reflection; the Enlightenment had made self-improvement through education a very popular idea, and commonplace books popped up as a means of fostering one’s own critical thinking about events or readings. This fits The Lucubrator to a T. Fred Schurink writes that, of the commonplace books that have survived, the majority are academic in tone, and carefully organized; some, even the more casual ones, include handwritten indices to allow the collector to find passages more easily (463, 466). The Lucubrator looks similar to one contemporary commonplace book, that of Hector Orr. Orr’s essays are similarly numbered and titled. His subject matter is quite similar as well, as the manuscript comprises mostly moralistic or observational essays. However, unlike The Lucubrator, Orr’s commonplace book does not have a table of contents, page numbers, or dated entries. The primary detractor from the commonplace book hypothesis is that The Lucubrator is decidedly un-academic. While it is possible that the essays are responses to the author’s readings, those readings aren’t named, nor are their sources or authors given. The writer also doesn’t include (or, at least, doesn’t denote) direct quotations from these source works. This would suggest that the author wasn’t taking notes while reading another work, and at most might be writing in response to those works.

With all of these criteria in mind, it becomes clear that The Lucubrator does not fall neatly into a single category. Of course, The Lucubrator could also be a sort of mashup of all three genres. According to Zboray and Zboray, separate books would sometimes combine or even transform over time: “While the folks who created these literary items recognized each one’s distinct form and purpose … in practice they often merged formats, so that a diary, for example, could easily morph into a scrapbook or a scrapbook into a commonplace book” (Zboray, et. al, 12). So, the author of The Lucubrator could very well have used the manuscript as a venue to write response essays to other, published essays, or to events in his or her life. This would, in a way, place the manuscript in both the scrapbook category, as it is a means to commemorate the works of others, and as a commonplace book, as it is a place to reflect upon those works. This would imply that the creation of the book was a personal project, and that the manuscript was not meant for publication, or possibly even for sharing among family and neighbors.


Works Cited

Forbes, Harriette Merrifield. New England Diaries: 1602-1800; a Descriptive Catalogue  of Diaries, Orderly Books and Sea Journals. New York: Russell & Russell, 1967.

Good, Katie. “From Scrapbook to Facebook: a history of personal media assemblage and archives.” New Media and Society. 15.4 (2013): 557-73.

Orr, Hector. Commonplace book of Hector Orr, 1789-1804. Colonial North American Project. Harvard University. Web. Accessed April 15, 2016.

Schurink, Fred. “Manuscript Commonplace Books, Literature, and Reading in Early Modern England.” The Huntington Library Quarterly. 73.3 (2010): 453-69.

Zboray, Ronald J. and Mary Saracino Zboray. “Is It a Diary, Commonplace Book, Scrapbook, or Whatchamacallit? Six Years of Explorations in New England’s Manuscript Archives.” Libraries and the Cultural Record. 44.1 (2009): 101-23.

 

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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department’s digital presences. Contact Kelli

home Cycle of Success, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books Searching for James Noyes: Published Author and Patriot of Post-Revolutionary America

Searching for James Noyes: Published Author and Patriot of Post-Revolutionary America

This post is part 2 of our continuing series on Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class and their research on an early American manuscript in Special Collections.

by Mackenna Arends and Zack Schwartz

The Lucubrator is an early American manuscript comprised of a collection of essays written by a James Noyes, as the decorated title page tells us. As a class, we have had the opportunity to study this manuscript held in our Special Collections and Rare Books Library and to become the first readers to transcribe the manuscript to prepare it for digitization. Upon reading and analyzing the essays, we have found that the manuscript is quite mysterious because, while the author shares useful knowledge and insights on various subjects such as the discovery of the planet Uranus, the moral dangers of learning to dance, and the virtues of patriotism, we cannot be certain of the identity of James Noyes himself.

Post 2_Inspecting MS

Searching for information on James Noyes led us to multiple candidates for the manuscript’s authorship. After perusing several databases and conducting research, we have found three possible authors: James Noyes of Stonington, Connecticut (1723–1806), Lieutenant James Noyes of Atkinson, New Hampshire (1745–1831), and the young author, James Noyes (1778-1799), who also resided in Atkinson during the same period.

James Noyes of Stonington (1723–1806) was the son of John (1685-1751) and Mary (née Gallup) Noyes (1695-1736), as well as the descendant of the Reverend James Noyes (1608-1656), the founder of Newbury, Massachusetts. Noyes’s great grandfather, the Reverend James Noyes, moved to Stonington after its residents asked the governors of Massachusetts Bay Colony to send them a minister. This James Noyes became pastor of the First Congregational Church of Stonington in 1664, a position later occupied by his son, James (1685-1751), who became one of the first trustees of Yale College, later known as Yale University. Examining a partial genealogy of Reverend James Noyes’s family reveals that his great grandson, James, would have been alive when the manuscript was written (Noyes, Noyes' Genealogy 9). In 1794, James Noyes was 71 years old, so he would have been at an age at which writing the essays in the fair hand of the manuscript was still possible. This James Noyes lived in Stonington, but other than his age and the town in which he lived, little about him is known. Still, the occupation of James Noyes’s grandfathers as learned clergymen suggests that he, too, might have been preoccupied with the subjects discussed in The Lucubrator, such as education, morality, and religion.   

The next James Noyes who is a candidate for the manuscript’s authorship is a Lieutenant James Noyes of Atkinson, New Hampshire (1745–1831). Noyes was a soldier in the American Revolutionary War who finished building a family homestead in Atkinson in 1794, the year of The Lucubrator’s first dated entry. Noyes would have been 49 years old when he wrote the manuscript. Perhaps at that point in his life, he began to write reflections on his society as he saw his community changing around him. Having served in the Revolutionary War and having lived to see a new country rise around him, Lt. Noyes could have decided to record all the changes and his thoughts on them. The manuscript may be a diary or a commonplace book used by Noyes to keep his thoughts as private or as public as he wanted. Additionally, the manuscript mentions the opening of a dancing school in the town of the author’s residence, and there appears to be proof that one dancing master, Nathan Allen, started a school in Portsmouth, near Atkinson, before 1799 (Van Winkle Keller 17). This information leaves open the possibility that Lt. James Noyes could in fact be the author of The Lucubrator.  

Another candidate for The Lucubrator’s authorship is James Noyes of Atkinson (1778-1799). This Noyes lived to be only twenty-one years old. At the age of eleven, he was crippled “by wading in a brook near his home,” an explanation that suggests he was a victim of polio (Noyes, Genealogical Record 390). After the incident, Noyes was “confined to the house and to the use of crutches” until his death. Nevertheless, he made several major accomplishments in his short lifetime. In 1794, at just sixteen years old, Noyes published an almanac entitled The New Hampshire and Massachusetts Almanac, which is made up of calendars marking the phases of the moon and maps of New Hampshire and Massachusetts towns. In 1797 he also published a 128-page book entitled The Federal Arithmetic, which for the first time included multiplication tables and other mathematical rules and examples. In The Lucubrator’s essay entitled “The Dancing School,” the author writes that a person should know “reading, writing, and arithmetic.” Arithmetic is important to the author of The Lucubrator as well as James Noyes of Atkinson, hinting that they may be the same person.

This James Noyes also wrote an almanac entitled An Astronomical Diary or Almanack, for the Year of Christian Aera, which was published in New Hampshire in 1797. The Lucubrator includes an essay, “On The Planets Being Inhabited Worlds,” in which the author discusses the planets and astronomy. We can assume the author has an interest in astronomy so it is very possible that he was the same James Noyes who wrote the astronomical diary. The federal arithmetic and two almanacs were all published in New Hampshire, increasing the likelihood that they were authored by the same person: a writer who may have written The Lucubrator as well.

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Although we may never know for certain who wrote The Lucubrator, evidence suggests that James Noyes of Atkinson, the almanac and arithmetic book writer, is the most likely candidate. By researching the lives of multiple James Noyeses, we learned more about early American authorship than we would have if we were just writing about it. Through primary sources, we can compile evidence of things we want to know about literary history. Our experience has given us a deeper appreciation for the research tools and digital books that our library provides.


Works Cited

Barnum, Louise Noyes. Atkinson: Then and Now. Atkinson Historical Society, 1976.

Noyes, Henry E. and Harriette E. Noyes. Genealogical Record of Some of the Noyes Descendants of James, Nicholas, and Peter Noyes. Vol. 1. Boston: 1904.

Noyes, Horatio N. Noyes' Genealogy. Record of a Branch of the Descendants of Rev. James Noyes, Newbury, 1634-1656. Cleveland: 1889.

Van Winkle Keller, Kate. Early American Dance and Music: John Griffiths, Eighteenth-     Century Itinerant Dancing Master. Sandy Hook: Hendrickson, 1989.

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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department’s digital presences. Contact Kelli

home Cycle of Success, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books Uncovering Culture Shifts in a Mysterious Manuscript: Introducing The Lucubrator

Uncovering Culture Shifts in a Mysterious Manuscript: Introducing The Lucubrator

To celebrate the first week of classes, we're sharing a series of student work completed last semester. Students in Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class undertook a transcription and research project on an early American manuscript that has been in our collections for decades, but that we knew very little about.  We'll share their discoveries and insights here over the next nine weeks. -KH

by Emma Quinn

Post 1_Emma at her bookPeople often forget about the multitude of manuscripts that are forever lost, which is why discovering one previously unknown seems all the more incredible. Unearthing a mysterious manuscript entitled The Lucubrator (1794-97) is exactly what our class did this semester (English 4300, Spring 2016). As we studied early American literature, it made sense for us to examine the strange, little-known manuscript held in our Special Collections and Rare Books Library. Filled with essays illustrating the culture of the early United States, The Lucubrator seems to belong to the literature we studied. We believe the manuscript was once owned by James Noyes (1778-99), a young, patriotic, and accomplished New England writer whose name appears on the title page.

The University of Missouri’s copy of The Lucubrator is the only one known in the world. It consists of essays dated between 1794 and 1797 and includes titled such as “On the Planets being inhabited worlds,” “Oration on the American Independence,” and “Reflections on the Month of December.” The experience of studying the manuscript felt almost unreal—to be the first group of students to study a one-of-a-kind, handwritten, and heartfelt text. I was amazed to think that a real historical person had carved his pen ink into the delicate curled letters of the manuscript, and transcribed his thoughts and opinions into the form of essays, creating the book that we can now hold in the palm of one hand. Studying the faded and cracking pages in Special Collections made the author and his or her writings feel so much more present and real to me. How did the manuscript get here? Who was James Noyes, and why did he decide to write The Lucubrator, if he is indeed the author?

These are the questions we looked to answer; and it seems very likely that we have answered some of them. We can now imagine who James Noyes might have been and what he and other authors of his time liked to study, what their society was like, and what they aimed to accomplish during their lifetimes. We have found evidence that the manuscript was written in America; its author celebrates the creation of the United States, makes use of the American spellings of words, and quotes from a book published only in Philadelphia when the entry was made.[1]

We also discovered how important The Lucubrator’s essays were—both culturally and historically in the eighteenth century. For example, in the essay “On Female Education,” the author argues that women have similar rights to knowledge as men. Though this idea is not revolutionary today, it was so after the American Revolution. This manuscript might remind us that thinking differently can catch on and change an entire culture.

Post 1_American Independence


[1] The epigraph in the essay “On Female Education” is taken from James Neal’s An Essay on the Education and Genius of the Female Sex (Philadelphia, 1795).

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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department’s digital presences. Contact Kelli

home Cycle of Success, Resources and Services, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books Student work on the Notarial Registry of Bernard de La Turade

Student work on the Notarial Registry of Bernard de La Turade

Will Black, a student in Dr. Rabia Gregory's History of Christianity class, chose to write this personal reflection on his work with the fourteenth-century notarial registry in Special Collections. We're sharing his thoughts and images with his permission. – KH

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On Thursday, October 29th, I walked into the Special Collections room in Ellis Library. I requested to see a notarial registry kept by Bernard de La Turade during the late fourteenth century. La Turade was a French notary, which meant he handled the wills, marriages contracts, sales, etc. for his town. It was a rather important position, considering it was the only form of recording that sort of information in the town during his day. People would come to La Turade for all different purposes, and it’s the surviving artifacts of common life that gives researchers a glimpse into the daily life of what France might have been like during the middle ages. It displayed prices of goods, legal documents, ages at which people were married, and all sorts of other little facts that expand upon the picture of daily life that ultimately end up completing the picture of history.

Upon first glance, the registry was unimpressive. It was roughly the size of my hand, slightly bigger. I’d estimate it was eight inches high, five inches across, and an inch and half thick. There were two volumes, the first of which had been aggressively chewed through by mice on the top left hand corner. Both books were a dark tan color, with the color and texture of the book resembling that of a pig ear treat one might give to their dog. According to Dr. Barabtarlo's lecture, the cover was likely animal skin for its protection and durability. Scrawled on the cover of Vol. 1 “1393”, the date of publishing by La Turade. According to a booklet on various binding methods put together by the special collections department at Yale University, the notary had a binding that was considered Gothic. The Gothic method closely resembles modern books of the day, with loose-leaf paper bound to a cover made of thicker parchment or skin. This method of binding was popular from the early fourteenth century until the end of the seventeenth century.

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When I opened the first volume, it was in poor condition. Mice had eaten through the spine on the top left portion of the book, meaning the first 36 pages of the book had to be handled more delicately due to the lack of binding. There was plenty of water damage on the first pages of the book, but this faded about a third of a way through the notary. This book may have been face up in a damp or humid environment and years of water resting on its cover seeped through to the parchment. Before paper became easy to make, parchment was the choice for writing books. Parchment is made out of sheep’s skin and was chosen because it was super durable. During Medieval times, there was no way to have climate controlled rooms and traveling was harsh, so books were required to stand the test of the elements. On blank spaces between entries, one can see the watermarks from the making of the paper. This particular parchment maker had his frame set up so that lines supporting the paper were about two centimeters apart from each other.

By looking at the pages, it’s easy to tell that this book was used quite a bit. The fact that there are two volumes is telling in the fact that there were quite a bit of entries. The pages in both books were well smudged on the margins, resulting from the flipping of pages back and forth to find certain entries. There were also several pieces of scrap paper that had been added to pages via glue or other sticky substances. There were also many, many comments in the margins, entries crossed out, and various other edits to previous entries. This means that this book was used quite a bit over an extended period of time. Another indication that this book had extensive use comes from the fact that the ink recipe changes multiple times in the book. During my time examining the book, I asked Dr. Barabtarlo about the ink changes, and she said the ink recipe the author used a recipes alternating between being heavy in rust or lampblack.

More important than the book itself is the author and his uses for the book. Clearly, as a notary, Bernard de La Turade’s job was to simply be a record keeper. The local lord or other authority in the area likely employed him in the castle or other official building. According to the National Notary Association, notaries in the middle ages/medieval times could have had a role in the clergy. This would make sense considering a notary had to be of high moral character, but there’s no way to know if La Turade was a member or not. This becomes even more confusing as La Turade lived during the period when the clergy started to separate themselves and the role as notaries. Prior to his lifetime, notaries were exclusively clergymen, and after his lifetime it had become a secular business. La Turade was caught between these two eras. La Turade may or may not have been a clergyman, but we do know he was someone who was held in high moral regard. We can say though, that there’s a good chance La Turade got at least some part of his education from a person involved with the clergy in some way, considering they were the main teachers in the middle ages.

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From what we know about social structures in Medieval France, where La Turade is from, he likely lived somewhere in the middle of the social ladder. La Turade could read, write, and do simple arithmetic, so he was obviously an educated man. This would save him from having to do hard labor in fields for the entirety of his life. La Turade also interacted with people in important positions, such as governors, lords, dukes, or even kings. His interactions with these people likely moved him up the ladder a couple of rungs. Even though La Turade did hold a position of importance within the town and he likely made a living better than other folk, he never would be confused with someone who would have been in the highest tax bracket. Books were still expensive during this time period, and were a labor to produce. Even though this book contained no writing or artistry when La Turade bought it, the parchment maker still had to skin a sheep, dry the skin, scrape it, and go through the whole tedious process of making usable parchment. The fact that La Turade was able to purchase this book says something about his wage, considering the price of books of the era.

The reality of this book is beautifully underwhelming. This was a simple notary written by a nondescript Frenchman in the late 1300’s. However, it gives insight into the daily life of the people of La Turade’s region. The documentation this book provides is the sole reason historians have jobs. The notarial registry also sheds light on the writing practices of the region and time period. Often these varied from place to place and era-to-era, and the book offers yet another link in the long chain of history. From a mice-bitten, water-damaged book, one infer as to how people of a completely era and culture survived.

– Will Black

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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department’s digital presences. Contact Kelli

The Menaion for the month of June

Last week we published a mysterious inscription from this manuscript on Tumblr.  In response to requests for more information, we're also sharing these excerpts from a recently prepared book history.

Written in the Raifa Monastery, near Kazan’ (Russia) in October 1624 (1623?) by the Elder Barsonophius.

Description.

Manuscript on paper 15.3 x 20.7 cm, 4to in 8s, 228 leaves; all quires intact.

Written in Church Slavonic in a single hand on a medium weight paper. Original ms. side notes, contemporary ms. record of date, scribe name and place. Light water stains, occasional spots of wax, a few edges a little frayed, tiny ink holes in two leaves, small worm trail at gutter in lower blank margins of one gathering. A very good clean copy with its original wide margins.

Bound in high quality Russian morocco over thick wooden boards. Metal bosses and centerpieces lost, remains of original brass clasps.

Contents

The Menaion (from Greek, μην, “month”, Church Slavonic minea) is the name of several liturgical books in the Orthodox (Greek, Russian, Romanian, Georgian, Serbian, etc.) Church.

The Christian calendar comprises two series of offices. There are movable feasts, falling on the days of the ecclesiastical year dependent on Easter (which is determined by the Jewish, i.e. Lunar calendar); and immovable, set to certain days of the month by the solar calendar, such as the feasts of our Lord: His Nativity (Christmas) Transfiguration, Theophany (Epiphany); of the Blessed Virgin, and of the saints. The offices for these "fixed" feasts are contained in the menaia (pl. for menaion). In the Roman breviary it corresponds to the Proprium Sanctorum.

A menaion, one for every month, contains the offices for immovable feasts, according to the liturgical calendar of the Orthodox Church.

Audiences

The Menaia are used by clergy for daily services. This particular menaion is of specific interest because it antedates the extensive reform by Nikon (1605-1681), the seventh Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, c.1654, revising all service books according to the Greek liturgical tradition, a fateful event that led to a deep schism in the Russian Church.

After this reform many of the pre-existing copies were discarded or burned as redundant.

All Russian service books antedating 1624, whether printed or written, are extremely rare and valuable.

Text:

The text has, sometimes substantial and important, variant readings from the standard Menaion for June. Grammatical mistakes signify that the Menaion was read aloud to the scribe rather than copied from another manuscript.

Foliation.

 The ms. contains 29 gatherings, 228 leaves. All gatherings contain 4 bifolia (8 leaves), except the first and last quire, which have 7 and 5 leaves respectively; apparently, first blank leaf of the first quire is used as paste-down, and two blank leaves at the end – one is cut out, the other is used as paste-down.

All quires are numbered in Church Slavonic numbers, apparently by the scribe.

Leaf numbering made in a different ink, by a different (19th cent.?) hand in Arabic numerals at the top right corner.

Script. 

The text is written in elegant Cyrillic polu-ustav (semi-uncial, a minuscule) script, in a single hand, with characteristic overwriting, ligatures and abbreviations that are common in Cyrillic as well as Latin manuscripts, motivated mainly by two reasons : to distinguish sacred names and matters from ordinary ones, and to save space. Stresses are absent which is unusual for Slavonic service manuscripts. Small dots over the text suggest that it was chanted.

Colophon.

At the foot of the first ten leaves contemporary manuscript record of date, origin and scribe.

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The inscription could be translated as: In the year 7132 of our Lord, in the month of October in 22nd day [has finished writing] this book Menaion [for the] month of June, for the Glory of the most pure Theotokos (Mother of God), in the Raifa monastery, in this same monastery tonsure monk Elder Barsonophius.

This inscription clearly indicates not only the name and position of the scribe – Elder Barsonophius, but gives us the place –Raifa monastery, and the date – 1624 (1623?).

The Raifa monastery (about 450 miles East from Moscow) dedicated to the Mother of God was established in 1613 by hieromonk Philaret. This secluded, beautiful place on the lake Sumka was surrounded by deep woods populated by wild animals.

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Mystery

At the very end of the manuscript, at the bottom of the last page, there is a mysterious inscription in Cyrillic characters:
menaion

menaion

The language is not Slavonic, and resists deciphering.

We assumed a possibility that our Fr. Barsonophius could have been a local man of Tatar or Cheremiss origin, and asked native speakers of those languages to look at the inscription. Alas, they failed to recognize anything familiar.

Any service book in the seventeenth century was regarded as a venerable, even sacred thing, thus the smallest mistake or a slip of the pen was considered a sin. It was customary for a scribe to finish a manuscript with a humble request to readers to correct mistakes if found. However it is only a conjecture. So far a language of this final inscription has remained an enigma for these researchers, who would be grateful for any clue.