Archives, 1950s style

I spent several hours in the microfilm department on campus today.  No dust or delicate paper, just reel after reel of make-you-blind microfilm.  The goal was to look through pertinent areas of the Clarke Papers to find any unpublished letters from Mabbott or relatives, or other people whom I am looking into.  There was some moderate success; I found a handful of unpublished letters, though I haven’t looked at them enough to know if they will be useful.

One thing that I did note, however, is that Clarke seems to have been actively trying to protect some of his correspondents.  When letters were recopied, he often left off the author’s name (quite frustrating!).  However, in two cases where he appears to have included Mabbott’s original letters, he tried to mark out Mabbott’s name.  In one, he simply drew an “X” over it, perhaps to remind himself not to copy it over later.  In another, he scribbled over it in an attempt to make it illegible.  Since it is generally accepted that Clarke was in the process of compiling a history of the Civil Wars when he died, it seems likely to me that he was trying to provide cover for old friends.  I’m sure that someone else has already argued as much with better evidence and style, but it was my observation for today.

Something else puzzled me.  According to the microfilm table of contents, the Clarke MSS from Littlecote should all have been there. However, none of the letters I was looking for were there.  Indeed there was very little before 1659, whereas there is a great deal in the HMC report on them.  According to the editor, part of the collection has become part of the Egerton collection at the BL, but these do not include the letters that I am looking for.  I would like to see the original letters, since the calendars do tend to cut out bits of information that are useful to me.  I may post something on H-Albion to see if anyone knows where I might find them.

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