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 […]


At the beginning of this week, I attended the two-day Big Data Approaches to Intellectual and Linguistic History symposium at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki. Since Tuesday, I’ve found myself pondering on topics that came up at the symposium. So I thought I would write up my thoughts in order to unload them […]

On the numbering and foliation of the Cecil Papers

While discussing the provenance of the manuscripts in my PhD edition, delving into the histories of various collections and repositories, I ran somewhat off on a tangent when writing about the Cecil Papers. Turns out that the foliation in the Cecil Papers is problematic, and references to documents in the Cecil Papers can be obscure. […]

The Permissive Digital Archive

Samuli Kaislaniemi (University of Helsinki) [This is the paper I gave at The Permissive Archive conference at UCL in London on 9 November 2012. This versions includes sections that I skipped when giving the talk – these are indented in the text below. My apologies to those whose images I cribbed: I have linked to […]

The reliability of “Winwood’s Memorials”

The three-volume Memorials of affairs of state in the reigns of Q. Elizabeth and K. James I, collected (chiefly) from the original papers of … Sir Ralph Winwood, edited by Edmund Sawyer, published in 1725 (2nd ed. 1727), is a hugely convenient work for those working on late Elizabethan and early Stuart State Papers, since […]

Why am I doing this again?

I cannot claim to be an organized person who follows through agendas to their logical conclusions. Instead, more often than not, I find myself running down tangential paths, chasing unicorns or lemurs or hunches of inklings of ticklings of possibilities. Pots of gold at the end of rainbows, that kind of thing. Recently, as part […]

more on the vexing matter of assigning dates to documents

TNA SP 94/12 ff.144-147 is a 4-page document entitled: “Note of my letters of aduertisments from spayne, Italy & other parts from Jan 1605 vntill [missing]” In other words, it is a list of letters received during 1605. It was compiled by Thomas Wilson, secretary to Sir Robert Cecil, in charge of intelligencing relating to […]

Lady Day (and the vexing matter of assigning dates to documents)

I just realized that today is Lady Day – that is, Annunciation. Once upon a time, this was New Year’s Day. It probably derives from the date being originally set on the Spring equinox, which makes a pretty sensible first day of the year if your concept of the world derives from observations of the sun. […]

pig calligraphy

Not depicting pigs, I should say. Look at this example from a calligraphy manual from 1597: Looks like gibberish or code, but then your eye gets accustomed to the nudge in the middle of each letter, and it becomes readable. Voila, ig-pay alligraphy-cay. (The above image was copied from the Digital Scriptorium of Columbia University […]