Michae Metcalfe, sermon notebook cover (Houghton Library)


Michael Metcalfe’s little handmade notebook offers a great example of how someone might adapt the oblong (steno style) notebook used by Daniel Russell. (See previous gallery.) Thick twine is used to sew the top spine, and there is no cover to protect the inside pages. The little volume is precious to its owner/maker despite (or perhaps precisely because of) its improvised, handmade quality. On the reverse side of this notebook, Metcalfe notes “This is my 2 vollam [volume] that I made of this Sort of Works.”

Although the irregularity of the handwriting in some places might suggest the writer was not entirely comfortable with writing, the notebook creator is likely the same Michael Metcalfe who kept school. The partial alphabet that appears midway through the page is an example of “pen trial” or “pen testing,” a common practice for testing to make sure the ink was running well in the pen. Repetitious copying of one’s name or of a single phrase are also common evidence of pen testing along with alphabetical and numeric strings.

Courtesy of the Houghton Library.

Metcalfe, M. (Michael). Notes: on sermons: manuscript, 1689-92. MS Am 1065. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

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