We are used to dealing with “mystery documents” in our outreach work – but that’s where we invite people to examine a document and take a guess at the what/where/when/who/how of it. This one is a genuine mystery. The original is not in our collections – it was recently uncovered at the Pavilion Gardens in Buxton, during work on the floor in the Octagon Hall kitchen. The Gardens were not opened until 1871, yet this document is dated 1850. Where is it from? What was it for? And in what language is it written?
My first thought was German, because I can see the month written as “Januar”, but I didn’t recognise any of the diacritics. We have enough in-house expertise to determine that the language is neither Dutch nor Swedish. One attempted transcription has the date as “24ten August, 1850” and, before that, under the underlined name, “ist in ? Stadt am dreissigsten January 1818 … geboren”. Which makes it sound like a birth certificate. It may also say “das Magistrat” before the name of the town. And what of the town? If it says Roonburg, then we are in modern-day Germany, or, in 1850, the western extremity of Prussia. But maybe it doesn’t say Roonburg… You see what I mean about mystery. I wonder if anyone out there can identify it by the seal? We would be very impressed, and our friends at the Pavilion Gardens would be very grateful.