Lara Rose Roberts Pet Book 1: Abraham Bell and Co, Order Book 1820-1835

This text is unlike what I am used to studying–a book of records rather than a book of “literature”. My impetus for choosing this text stemmed from the Northeastern Special Collections finding aid, which indicates that the order book was from “an Irish shipping company, listing goods and passengers transported to London, Sicily, and elsewhere.” I was intrigued about the record of the movement of people and goods, and why the link between Ireland and Sicily was important enough to mention in the finding aid,  but “elsewhere” was enough to indicate the rest of the globe.

Based on the first page, this particular record book must have been produced in or before 1820, as the first entry is dated 1820: “6 mo. 12” I might assume that this way of dating was to specify July, the sixth month of the year, perhaps to avoid writing the names of the months; perhaps to save on ink; or perhaps I’m misreading the abbreviation altogether. For clues to the book’s production, a small label on the upper left corner of the inside front cover reads, “Prior & Dunning, Stationers, No. 111 Water-street. New York. N.B. Binding, executed with neatness & despatch.” I find it curious that an Irish shipping company would use stationary from New York. Nonetheless, regarding this neatly executed ledger: the cover is made of cardboard, itself covered by marbled paper in rather poor condition. The binding is wrapped in leather and the leaves are held together by brown twine. The paper is likely machine-produced, as there are no grid lines or watermarks revealed by LED light; and the paper is lined with standard ledger-book lines to mark rows and columns. I realize looking at these that I actually do not know the process by which lines are printed onto paper (neither in the 19th nor 21st century).

The entire record book is hand-written, including the small numbers designating the odd-numbered pages, located in the upper-right corners of the pages for the first 29 pages. The first few pages of the ledger are filled with even, beautiful calligraphy in brown ink; although by page 19, the letters are not of uniform thickness, revealing too much or too little pressure on the nib of the pen. There are also crosshatches and letters written over, as though the record-keeper began the book with the hopes of keeping precise, neat records, but eventually those hopes dissolved into rush of life. This change may also be due to a jump from 1823 to 1827 in which there are no records (or perhaps simply missing pages). Based on slight differences in handwritings throughout the book, I would guess there were 3 different individuals in charge of record-keeping from 1820-1836. The last two gathers of leaves are completely empty, leaving me to postulate why the record-keeping stops at 1836, 7 mo. 7.

I have two favorite pieces of this Pet Book so far. First,  a small newspaper clipping is pasted to the “title page,” giving a Caution to Emigrants” about the legal necessity of consulting the government agent for emigration. Second, there is a half- or quarter- sheet of paper stuck inside the front cover which reads “Passengers sent for but did not come,”  followed by five names. I wonder why these passengers were called, and why they did not come.



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