Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Real Adventure Journal

Jason Rippetoe sent over this real-life example of an adventurer's journal. From 1868, the notes and ephemera of Charles Shepherd's journey through Tsarist Russia.


Jason McKittrick said...

Wow. Stunning set.

I'm working on a paper-heavy prop project right now and this was good visual reference.

CoastConFan said...

That is a great collection of related documents and photos. This selection should give gamers and prop makers a better idea about mid-19th century documents. My hat is off to the finder.

You will note there is no heavy discoloration of paper nor the “burnt edge syndrome” found of some props. These documents are linen rag paper, which is relatively acid free. Do notice how the iron gall ink has turned brown with age and bled slightly. What you don’t see are the water marks, especially prominent on official documents and paper money. I am very pleased that the binding on the passport and journal shows up well in the photos.

Passports and other official documents were highly important to establish not only identity, but the right of transit in many areas. Extra endorsements such as a transit documents from the Sublime Porte to enter Ottoman Empire lands was held in such reverence by Ottoman officials that they had to actually kiss the document in reverence when they saw the tugra of the padishah.

Propnomicon said...

@ Jason McKittrick

It's gorgeous, isn't it?

@ CoastConFan

You bring up an excellent point about the lack of age discoloration. Yellowing wasn't a real problem until paper made from wood pulp started to replace rag. Even then, the glue and lime sizing used on high end pulp paper neutralized the acid in the fibers, giving it some resistance to browning.

On the other hand, I do love the rich, mellow color of aged paper even when I know it isn't appropriate. It's a crutch, but tea staining has become an ingrained visual shorthand for "old document".

CoastConFan said...

I also point out the blue lined paper was quite common by then, having been introduced as early as the late 1700s, becoming common by the 1830s and now is quite ubiquitous in this day and age and not at all modern in origin.

As for high acid pulp paper, yes in 500 years there will be more surviving documents from the 1800s than from the 20th century due to high acid content.

CoastConFan said...

A major aging agent, outside of environment, on old documents that are otherwise acid free is hand oil from constant handling. This natural oil can coat and penetrate paper imperceptibly at first and build up over the course of heavy handling. The oil itself is not the culprit but bacteria which feeds on the oil and their waste products which act as a darkening agent on the paper. That and common hand grime can darken even the best vellum and linen rag paper to where it looks like an old greasy newspaper. This is why museums and libraries with rare books handle documents and books with gloves.

So using aging agents like tea are not absolutely out of bounds for making a prop simulating a much-handled document. Papers like passports or other items that are handled a great deal, would indeed yellow or brown over the years. I have currency issued by the Confederate government 150 years ago, that have yellowed or browned terribly, despite being made of rag linen paper, due to heavy handling and being kept in greasy pockets under terrible conditions.

JR said...

After finding this collection, I went looking to see if I could find anything about Charles Shepherd, and, as usual, Google was my friend.

The journal of the British Ornithologists' Union lists
"Rev. Charles William Shepherd, M.A., F.Z.S, ; Trottersclitfe Rectory, Maidstone, Kent" as becoming a member in 1865, which, being in the proper time frame, the same location and the same name is a pretty good indication that this is our man.

He also collaborated on a book that was published in 1907, titled, "Notes on the Birds of Kent."

"The Historical Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1875-1900" contains this short biographical note: "Shepherd was the rector of Trottiscliffe near Maidstone, was a MBOU from 1865 and an FZS." So, same guy (Thanks Google Books!)

He was not just interested in fauna, but also in flora - he is mentioned in "The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Home Farmer," as honorary secretary of the Canterbury Diocesan Education Society and winner of the cup for best Chrysanthemums.

The Domesday Survey of 1095 mentions the church in Trottiscliffe, so it might not be a surprise that he was also a member of the Kent Archaeological Society. His work on the church is mentioned in the Archaeologia Cantiana of the Society in 1893.

The church is still a functioning parish church:

Shepherd published an account of some of his travels in 1867 - 'The North-West Peninsula of Iceland, being the journal of a tour in Iceland in the spring and summer of 1862.' Available for reading online through Google Books.

I know this minutia will not be of interest to everyone, but I love knowing more background of Mr. Shepherd, clearly a man of curiosity.