|Just legible ‘Letter Book No.’|
I rarely walk past any bookshop without dropping in for a mooch, usually heading straight for the history, art, and antiquarian sections. A favorite is the Oxfam Bookshop on Park Street in Bristol. We visited on Saturday and I immediately spotted a largish, timeworn tome that smells beautifully of musty aged paper with a tinge of aromatic wood fire smoke.
The worn peeling label on the spine just about spells ‘LETTER BOOK No.’ embossed in tarnished gold. No number.
Inside, the first carefully cut pages are alphabetically marked as an index to numerous names and addresses. Twenty Four letters of the alphabet, with the exception of X but an additional Mc. Ah, we are in Scotland!
The next delight to discover are the following 500 pages. Fragile, translucent tracing paper with neatly copied correspondence, all in seeping sepia ink.
If you desire to know how much a wagonload of furniture would cost to transport from Liverpool to Waterbeck in 1870 this is the place to find out. ‘£30 per wagonload and 80 shillings per ton for loose goods’ now you ask. ‘This sum includes all necessary packing, housing, Railway and other charges.’ Insurance is more, costing ’20 per cent more’.
This delightful company, Sloan & Son, latterly of Queensferry, are ‘ever true’ ‘sincere’ and ‘at your service’ although they can get a little snippy if you owe them.
I have only just begun to read the letters and spotted somewhere the cost per ton of transporting a consignment of marble pillars to a construction site, and a letter regarding the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh.
The letters date from around 1860 to 1883 and include Captains, Revs, and more ordinary folk who could afford their services.
I recognize many Edinburgh addresses, and in the fullness of time look forward to exploring the letters in more detail, and researching Sloan & Son of Edinburgh.
If anyone can help point me towards any information or research material I would love to hear from you.
|Can you spot the Mc. tab?|