Notes from the plague years 1603, 1605 & 1607

Early modern letters contain frequent mentions to illness and contagious diseases. Four hundred years ago, the plague was a recurring, er, pestilence. When it hit London, those who were able to do so left the city for the relative safety of the countryside. Such temporary evacuees included Shakespeare’s acting company – but also most of […]

What were English East India Company merchants drinking in Japan?

A note on terminology, and an addendum (and correction) to my PhD thesis 1. How did I miss that? Doing research, it’s easy to find yourself going down rabbit holes, chasing answers that seem to always elude your grasp. You do your best, but still have to resign yourself to unsatisfactory results. In my case, […]

Letterlocking: How did you fold a letter in the early modern period and what did it mean?

First impressions are important. When I receive mail – physical items by post, that is – simply the size and shape of the envelope tells me something about the sender. A5-sized envelopes (well, C5-sized, but you know what I mean; ditto below) tend to be bills or notes from the bank, A6 and smaller are […]

An addendum on the history of the word “linguist” in the sense ‘interpreter’

One of my first publications was an article titled “Jurebassos and Linguists: The East India Company and Early Modern English words for ‘interpreter’” (abstract; full paper as a pdf). The article is a fairly straightforward and I admit rather light-weight investigation of the Early Modern English semantic field of ‘interpreter’, in which I note that […]

On marking language-switching in speech and writing

So what I have to say is too long to fit in a tweet or even a handful of tweets. I followed the link in this tweet – …which lead to this video by Daniel José Older, titled “Why We Don’t Italicize Spanish”, where he explains why language-switches in his books are not italicized […]

Counting correspondence, listing letters

A number of years ago, I gave a talk on mapping correspondence – that is, about the ways in which you can plot letters and epistolary exchanges on a map. Perhaps the most important point arising from that talk, for me anyway, was the understanding that mapping correspondence was by no means a straightforward matter. […]

Editing is Hell, and normalization is an illusion

As a procrastinatory excursion, here are some thoughts about editing historical texts. Rather than an insightful comment on editorial philosophy, the following stems from practical matters and contains nitty-gritty details, and is not written in conversation with other editors (sorry). I’m sure everything I say here has been said before, but repetitio etc. 1. Why normalization […]