Perfection in Accounting

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.

D517-BOX-13-1-Ledger apparel reduced

Edward Mundy’s ledger, 1680s (D517/BOX/13/1)

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.

D517-BOX-13-1-Journal first page top

Beginning of Edward Mundy’s journal (D517/BOX/13/1)

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:

D517-BOX-13-2 ledger Lixa

Ledger entry, 1661 (D517/BOX/13/2)

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.

D517-BOX-13-2 rental

Rent for the year 1742 (D517/BOX/13/2)

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.

Historical handwriting exhibition

If you do any type of historical research you will no doubt have encountered the challenge of trying to read old handwriting. If you’ve ever wondered why handwriting looked so different a few hundred years ago, we have a new online exhibition on Google Arts and Culture that tells that story: 800 Years of English Handwriting.

The exhibition gives an overview of how handwriting has developed over the years from 1100 to 1900 using examples from our archive collections.  See how handwriting transitioned from documents that look like this:

Medieval manuscript

To something more modern – but not necessarily much easier to read:

1890s letter

Take a look at our 800 Years of English Handwriting exhibition to find out more.

 

Learn how to read old handwriting with our new palaeography course

Palaeography pic

Learn the art of palaeography, the reading of old handwriting, at Derbyshire Record Office.

Using archives from the record office’s collections, these five practical sessions, designed for beginners, will introduce the skills needed to read old hand writing from 16th to 18th centuries.

You will learn how to read different types of handwriting, including the most commonly used hand – Secretary Hand, and also Italic and Cursive styles and discover how to date documents and recognise the standard form particular to certain documents.

The first session, the introduction, will cover the practical skills of palaeography including spelling, transcribing, letter forms, dating documents, and abbreviations and more. Over the following four sessions we will take you through a different style of hand, working through copies of records held at the record office, the original documents will be on show for you to see. As Secretary Hand is the most common style used for formal documents we’ll have two sessions on this but each session will feature different types of sources.

We will work through a selection of the most popular types of documents such as parish registers, probate records, manorial and estate records.

Each participant will receive a course pack to take away containing examples of alphabets, common abbreviations, hints and tips on successful transcribing. This will set participants on the right track for successful transcribing throughout the course and beyond.

Refreshments are not included but participants are welcome to use the drinks machine in our break room (all hot drinks cost £1).

We are offering all five sessions at the reduced price of £45 or £10 for each individual session. In order to benefit fully we recommend participants attend all five sessions.

Tuesday 27th October: Introduction – practical skills and where to start

Tuesday 3rd November: Secretary Hand (part 1)

Tuesday 10th November: Secretary Hand (part 2)

Tuesday 17th November: Cursive Hand

Tuesday 24th November: Italic Hand

All sessions run 2.00pm-4.00pm

You can sign up online on the palaeography course’s Eventbrite page.

This course coincides with Explore Your Archive week, co-ordinated by The National Archives.

Registering a Complaint

As someone who spends a fair amount of my time searching through parish registers, I have been known to silently (or not so silently) curse the handwriting of a long-dead vicar or parish clerk.  They should have foreseen that a few centuries later I would need to decipher their scrawl to find Great-Great-Great-etc-Grandfather Fred!  So I was rather amused to find this note in one of the Castleton registers:

(unless the Parish will provide better Parchment, it is impossible to write on it legibly   

Castleton parish register

Perhaps I shall be a tad more charitable in future, though it’s a poor workman who blames his tools…