An archival scholar has to thumb through numerous copies of catalogues of manuscripts held by libraries and archives. Many of these were compiled in the 19th or early 20th centuries, and it has to be said this shows. Some time ago I was going through The Western Manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge. A Descriptive Catalogue (Montague Rhodes James, 1900-1904, 4 vols, Cambridge University Press), and came across these two cute examples (bold emphasis mine):
438. R. 1. 21
Paper, 7 1/8 x 5 1/2. Cent. xviii.
A note-book containing Latin commonplaces digested under
headings, and in a later hand, miscellaneous memoranda, e.g. of
MSS. at Corpus Christi College which the writer intended to
It seems completely valueless.
633. R. 3. 61 vac.
Paper, 7 5/8 x 4 3/4, ff. 27. Cent. xviii.
A note-book of historical events from 1649 to the death of
Apparently quite useless.
These value judgments now strike one as par with comments in editions of the correspondence of insert-Early/Late-Modern-English-Letter-writer-here from the same period, where the editor more often than not says he (and the editor is inevitably and always a ‘he’) has omitted the family letters as of “little interest”. But rather than make fun of Victorian scholars, I find it more interesting to wonder what choices in modern scholarly endeavours will strike our colleagues a century from now as peculiar or barbaric…