Whilst we’re in coronavirus lockdown, one of the collections I’m working on is D517, the archive of the Miller Mundy family of Shipley Hall. I had to nip into the office the other day (we go in regularly to make sure the environmental conditions in the stores are as they should be) so I took a quick look at a couple of items in the collection which needed some better descriptions. These are two account books from the 1600s (reference numbers: D517/BOX/13/1-2).
Both books are large and parchment bound. The first was an account book (1682-1697) belonging to Edward Mundy of Markeaton Hall. I know very little about Edward but I can tell that he was an extremely neat and organised man, as his accounts are an example in financial perfection.
The book is divided into a ledger at the front and a journal or day book at the back. If you’re not familiar with accounting practices, a ledger is arranged by type of expense, or the person or business which is being paid or charged, whereas a journal, also known as a day book, is a chronological account of money coming in and out. Edward’s ledger crosses over two pages, one page with credit and one with debit. There are numbers at the sides of the ledger and journal entries so that Edward could check his ledger entries against his journal entries and vice versa.
Just look at that beautiful writing! Edward Mundy really took his time to make the ledger and journal pleasing to the eye as well as practical.
From this book we can learn a lot about Edward Mundy’s business dealings, which include wool, sugar, and cotton, as well as his household expenses, what he spent on horses, clothes and shoes, and his ‘parish dues’. Lots of people are named, including his servants Jarvis Woodruff and Hester Jenkinson.
The second book in this box is an even earlier ledger from 1661-1662 and relates to a textile business that seems to have been jointly owned or invested in by a John Tufnayle and Mrs Elizabeth Clerke. Who these people are and how they are connected with the Mundys is not yet known, but the ledger is similarly well written:
It doesn’t quite reach the perfection of Edward Mundy’s ledger, but it’s pretty good. Here it looks as if the business is exporting textiles (baize, ‘bocking’ and ‘colchester’), possibly to Lixa in Portugal.
This large volume was only used as a ledger for a few pages. Eighty years later, Charles Palmer from Ladbroke Hall in Warwickshire obviously decided it would make a useful book in which to (very roughly!) record the rents he was getting from his tenants.
It’s hard to imagine a greater contrast in both organisation and handwriting. Ordinarily I would say that eighteenth century handwriting was a pleasure to read, but definitely not in this case.