Another linguistic mystery

You will of course remember our post back in summertime about Jonas Theodor Meyer. (You don’t? Well, refresh your memory if you wish by looking at .) And now, we present another mystery document – and again, it’s not actually “one of ours”. It belongs to someone who attended the recent Preserving Your Past session, which you will remember was conducted by our conservation team. (You don’t remember that either? Well, it was big success, and was part of the Discovery Days festival – .)

It’s from a family bible. We don’t normally accept family bibles to add to the archives, because if they have been used to record baptisms/marriages/burials, their real significance is limited to descendants of those named, rather than a wider audience of local history researchers.

This one, though, has a particular twist – entries written in German, French and English.

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In some parts, it’s clear enough: for instance, I can manage enough German to read that “My dear mother entered God’s Heavenly Kingdom on 5 May 1886”, and can see that this note was made in Oxford and accompanied by the distinctly English-language abbreviation RIP. In other areas, it’s less clear. If you have the skills and the time to add to our knowledge here, please do have a look at the images and reply through the “Comments” button. We will relay anything we hear back to the owner. Thanks a lot.

If it helps to have the pages as separate images rather than a slideshow, here they are:

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What does this document say? How did it end up in Buxton?

The mystery document

The mystery document

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.