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Inventing History : forgery: a great British tradition (British History)
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Hatty
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David Block's account makes it clear that the discovery of the baseball entry was the result of the filming

As we were driving to cover a Little League baseball game (yes, American baseball is alive and well in Sussex!), Sam Marchiano’s cell phone rang. It was the BBC. It seems that immediately following their airing of the piece about us, they had received a telephone call. A woman from nearby Surrey had rung up their studio to report that she knew of a reference to baseball far earlier than Jane Austen’s. The caller said that she had an old diary in her possession, the work of a young man named William Bray, in which he wrote about playing baseball in the year 1755. Naturally, we were all excited by this news, as 18th century references to baseball are exceedingly rare, and for the MLB.com film project to be the catalyst for the discovery of a new one would be an unexpected coup. We immediately phoned the woman — her name is Tricia St. John Barry — and arranged to visit her home the following morning. .....Tricia answered the door, but instead of the smiling welcome we were expecting, she was in a state of great agitation. She was mortified: She couldn’t find the diary! It had been in a Marks & Spencer bag next to her filing cabinet, she was certain of it, but it simply wasn’t there. She had been searching her house high and low all morning, but to no avail.

She had obtained it about twenty years ago, and was in the process of transcribing it, albeit very slowly. She had made photocopies of the whole thing, but, alas, she believed they were in the same bag as the diary. Still, she had no doubts whatsoever about its mention of baseball. She had first noticed the entry about fifteen years earlier and, knowing it to be an American game, had at that time taken it down the road to show it to some American neighbours.

The unnamed 'American neighbours' then disappeared from Tricia's story, and so apparently did the diary

So there we were — with a great story, but no diary. Tricia may be a little eccentric, but there was no reason to question her credibility, and we were all convinced that the diary was buried somewhere in her house. She insisted that it would come to light; it just might take a little time. So the MLB.com team went ahead and interviewed her, and shot footage of her house and garden. We trusted that it was just a matter of time before the diary would appear. ....

About a week later, while traveling in Northumberland, I received an email from her: “Eureka! I found it!” This was great news. I called Sam in New York to report the find, and she said she would try to line up a freelance cameraman to accompany me to film the precious document. The next day I called Tricia to tell her I had received her message, and to arrange my next visit to her cottage. In the course of our conversation, one small detail became apparent. It seems Tricia hadn’t actually found the diary itself, but only the photocopies! ....

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Hatty
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Two days later

A new message from Tricia: “Eureka again! I really found it this time!” And she really had. So five days later, on my final day in the UK, my wife Barbara and I returned to Tricia’s cottage along with a cameraman. Also along for the big show was John Price of the stool-ball association, the BBC crew again (by now, they too had a stake in this discovery, and came to tape another spot for the evening news), and Julian Pooley, a Surrey archivist and historian who is the foremost expert on William Bray, the author of the diary.

Then comes the last-minute rescue from the flames trope

At some time in the past, a single volume of Bray’s diary — the one spanning the years 1754 and 1755 — was separated from the others. Until recently, its very existence was unknown to scholars. It first surfaced 20 years ago when a neighbour of Tricia’s, knowing that she liked “old things,” gave her a call to see if she was interested in a stack of old papers. It seems this neighbour’s deceased ex-husband, who had once worked on the Bray estate, had stored a collection of old documents in a tea chest in a shed on their property. She was threatening to “dump them on the bonfire” unless Tricia wanted them. The William Bray diary was among this lot, and Tricia immediately recognized it as a treasure. It’s just taken her a bit of time to let the rest of the world know
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Mick Harper
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This is hugely disappointing. Just another housewife from the stockbroker belt looking for the main chance. It takes one to spot one.
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Hatty
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Just heard a Radio 4 trailer for Melvyn Bragg's upcoming In Our Time programme. They will be discussing the Roman poet Catullus whose poetry 'had a widespread influence', citing big names, but, commented Melvyn, his work only filtered through during the Renaissance. Exactly so.
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Ishmael


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Hatty wrote:
Pepys's Diary came out just a few years following the success of the Diary of John Evelyn. The two diaries were produced almost simultaneously but a hundred and fifty years after Pepys's and Evelyn's lifetimes..


I did not know these details. They serve to confirm my suspicions.

I've been thinking England never existed for some time.


You'll wish you were joking.
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Mick Harper
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Don't mess with my ancestors, pal, or I'll have to go back in time and mess with your ancestors.
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Hatty
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Mick Harper wrote:
"if it's Irish, we're suckers for the lot"

According to the Royal Irish Academy The Book of the Dun Cow is one of their most valuable manuscripts, or rather fragments of a manuscript, because it is reputedly "the earliest surviving manuscript with literature written in Irish"

Lebor na hUidre / The Book of the Dun Cow
RIA MS 23 E 25: Cat. No. 1229 Before A.D. 1106

Vellum: 32cm x 24cm 67 folios, a fragment of original manuscript


How do they know the fragment is from an 'original' manuscript? The story goes that this priceless piece of Irish heritage vanished until it was produced by none other than George Petrie, the 'father of Irish archaeology', two centuries after being last heard of

After the break-up of the old Irish monastery at Clonmacnois, the manuscript was in the possession of the O’Donnells of Donegal. In 1359, when a number of the family were taken prisoner by Cathal Óg O’Connor, of the O’Connor family in Sligo, they were ransomed with Lebor na hUidre and Leabhar Gearr, now lost. Lebor na hUidre was recovered by Aedh Ruadh O’Donnell in 1470, and was in Donegal when the Annals of the Four Masters was completed in 1631.

It then disappeared but was used by George Petrie in 1837 and turned up in the Hodges Smith Collection of 227 manuscripts which was purchased by the Academy for 1,200 guineas in 1844.

https://www.ria.ie/library/catalogues/special-collections/medieval-and-early-modern-manuscripts/lebor-na-huidre-book

Provenance?
reappeared in 1837 – in a bookshop.

George Petrie (1790 – 1866), the son of a Scottish portrait and miniature painter, was artistic. He honed his skills by working on illustrations for Irish travel guides

After an abortive trip to England in the company of Francis Danby and James Arthur O'Connor, both of whom were close friends of his, he returned to Ireland where he worked mostly producing sketches for engravings for travel books – including among others, George Newenham Wright's guides to Killarney, Wicklow and Dublin, Thomas Cromwell's Excursions through Ireland, and James Norris Brewer's Beauties of Ireland.

Somehow, it seems, a jobbing artist became the Academy's main purveyor of Irish manuscripts

In the late 1820s and 1830s, Petrie significantly revitalised the Royal Irish Academy's antiquities committee. He was responsible for their acquisition of many important Irish manuscripts, including an autograph copy of the Annals of the Four Masters, as well as examples of insular metalwork, including the Cross of Cong.

His writings on early Irish archaeology and architecture were of great significance, especially his essay on the Round Towers of Ireland, which appeared in his 1845 book titled The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland.

And in recognition of his "outstanding contributions to scholarship and the objectives of the Academy"

He was awarded the Royal Irish Academy's prestigious Cunningham Medal three times: firstly in 1831 for his essay on the round towers, secondly in 1834 for the essay (now lost) on Irish military architecture, and thirdly in 1839 for his essay on the antiquities of Tara Hill.

A reproduction, in the form of a lithograph facsimile, was the first published work about the Book of the Dun Cow, in 1870. Since then a slew of learned articles have been churned out.
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Mick Harper
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Look! Over there! There's another one. Already got it. Use it for swapsies. Nah, you're only allowed one of each. 'Tis the story of Ireland since the beginning of time. No matter how many are made, only one ever survives. The Books of the Dun Cow. What do you think they are, udders? Weren't you listening, begad? Oy said there never are any udders.
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Mick Harper
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Welsh Heritage Fun Facts Nos 23 & 24

23. The ancient manuscript department of the National Library of Wales is based on the collection of Sir John Williams, sometime physician to Queen Victoria, who 'gave it to the nation' in 1909.

24. In 2005 a book revealed the true identity of Jack the Ripper. Unlikely as it might seem, it turned out to be one of Queen Victoria's doctors, a certain Sir John Williams.
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Mick Harper
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University of Sunderland closes history faculty due to lack of student interest Press Association

I know I ought to be pleased but I'm not. The thing now is to work out which straw is blowing in which wind.
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Hatty
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The British Museum has a History Blog on which it has just posted about a recent acquisition

British Museum acquires Seal of Wulfric
The British Museum has acquired a rare Anglo-Saxon seal matrix predating the Norman Conquest.

Provenance is somewhat reminiscent of a Shaun Greenhaigh (the 'Bolton forger') operation

It was discovered in a box in a garden shed in Sittingbourne, Kent, in 1976

But what grabbed my attention is that it's made of exceedingly rare walrus ivory

Shortly after its discovery, the circular piece 4 cm in diameter was identified by archaeologists as an exceedingly rare early 11th century seal Anglo-Saxon seal matrix, one of only five surviving seal matrices predating the Norman Conquest and one of only three made of walrus ivory.

How can they tell it's Anglo-Saxon? By radiocarbon dating? Only kidding, it's because

Comparison with other seals from the period pointed to a date of around 1040-1050.

What 'other seals'? The walrus ivory seal found in Lincoln perhaps?

This matrix is made of walrus ivory, and was used for sealing documents with wax. It was made in the late 11th Century, and was found during excavations on Hungate in Lincoln.

The image on the seal shows a monk praying in front of a desk, with the hands of God (‘manus dei’) coming out of the clouds above him, blessing him. The legend around the image reads ‘SIGNO SIGILLATUR LEGATIO’, followed by a blank where a name would have been.

This seal could be kosher though its main claim to fame is it featured in the BBC's 'A History of The World in 100 Objects" series.

The Wulfric seal, being engraved with a person's name, naturally comes under "Alfred caused me to be made" suspicion. No-one knows anything about Wulfric himself but it's a pretty Anglo-Saxon kind of name

He had to have been of high rank in order to have a seal, and based on comparisons to the closest of the other surviving Anglo-Saxon seals (the Godwin seal, also in the British Museum), he could have been a theyn or minister to the King of England.

http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/57398

It seems 'other seals' boils down to one (late) Anglo-Saxon walrus ivory seal-die though this too hasn't been scientifically assessed. A date of "c.1040 AD has been proposed" for the so-called Godwin seal based on the similarity of its decoration to 'Harthnacnut coinage of c. 1040-2' and to illustrations from the Utrecht Psalter, 'an early ninth-century Carolingian manuscript'.

The back of the seal-die is inscribed with Godgyða the nun whose existence (and nunnery) is otherwise unattested and provenance is given, appropriately enough, as Wallingford market place (west side)

Wallingford, Berkshire; found with a small whetstone and a walrus ivory double-sided one-piece comb in August 1879.
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Mick Harper
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Hatty is getting restless, she hasn’t been banned for ages. Is she losing her bite? Are the fancy getting used to being bitten? Don’t they care any more? Anyway, her royal highness decided to put the bite on Dr Francis Young, historian and folklorist, Fellow of the Royal History Society and followed by nine thousand people including old faves like Levi Roach and A V Hudson. It all began with this

Dr Francis Young

LVCEM TVAM OVINO DA DEVS ET REQVIE[M]. Today is the feast day of St Ovin (Owen), a Briton who was St Æthelthryth's steward in the 7th century. A cross shaft and base commemorating him, originally at Haddenham, is the oldest object in Ely Cathedral



Because I'm such a sad person, I like to joke this is East Anglia's only post-Roman Britonnic inscribed memorial stone...


Hatty is always anxious to comfort sad people...
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Mick Harper
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Harriet Vered
Sorry to add to your sadness but Haddenham, where the cross base and shaft originates, is listed as "Late C13, C14 and major restoration of 1876". The memorial stone has to be either medieval or Victorian but most likely the latter, judging by other 19th century 'restorations'.

Doctor Young is, in his turn, courteous to his young protegée

Dr Francis Young
The stone was in the churchyard, not in the church itself. You're right that it's not contemporaneous with Ovin - it may be up to a century later - but it's certainly Anglo-Saxon

Too late! He has clasped a viper to his bosom

Harriet Vered
It was certainly done by any competent stonemason specialising in 'antient' church material. That would be most of them in the nineteenth century.

It's war...
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Mick Harper
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It will all revolve round an issue that academics really don’t seem able to grasp. If they can look at a stone inscription and declare it to be Anglo-Saxon on the basis that it looks Anglo-Saxon then anyone can produce an inscription that looks Anglo-Saxon. This is quite apart from the fact that, as it happens, there is not a single Anglo-Saxon inscription anywhere in the world that is securely identifiable as Anglo-Saxon so nobody actually knows what an Anglo-Saxon inscription looks like. Let us watch, agape, as this current house of cards collapses

Dr Francis Young
Archaeologists have verified that it is Anglo-Saxon in date

Honestly, that’s what he said. Hatty was gentle with him. Except for a barb in the tail

Harriet Vered
How could they, unless the eighteenth-century canon of Ely Cathedral who discovered it was an archaeologist. You might seek the opinion of an epigraphist or, better still, a specialist in folk tales.
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Mick Harper
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Francis Young: Archaeologists don't need to be the ones who discovered an object in order to verify its antiquity. The 8th-century date of the Ovin Stone is established fact

Harriet Vered: Actually they do, at least if they wish to use stratigraphy. They cannot use typology because no inscribed A-S stone has a stratigraphy, they've all been ‘discovered’ by antiquarians above ground. The inscription is of course part of the historical not the archaeological record.

Francis Young: Archaeology has a broader meaning than stratigraphy

Harriet Vered: Stratigraphy and typology, Francis. We have a stone without a provenance; we have an inscription which could have been done by anyone at any time; the script is sui generis. In what sense is the 8th century date of the Ovin Stone established fact, to use your memorable phrase?

Where will it end...?
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