Progress in the Lyell project has taken a giant leap these last two weeks thanks to two developments. Firstly, physical work in the stores where the collection is secured at the University Main Library has been deemed safe, if approached with new procedures, which has meant I have been able to access the collection in person for the first time since March 10th. This has meant the first stage of rapid capture and transcription of Lyell’s indexes has begun. This level of detail will make for rich metadata in the catalogue, and eventually allow researchers to search across the notebooks by subject matter. Thus the need for a new series of blog posts, released each week on Tuesday, where I can highlight all the discoveries I made in working with the collection!
Secondly, I am so excited that Nicky Monroe, a former History of the Book student, has agreed to volunteer on the project remotely. He will be transcribing these indexes and researching Lyell’s life for extra context in the catalogue. We will hear about his progress and discoveries in the collection in the coming weeks!
From my time in the stores last week, I captured this fantastic packing list, inscribed by Lyell in the earliest notebook we have of his, from 1825. During this time he would have been balancing his fondness for geology with his law work, which is reflected in the organisation of this notebook. The first half is brief notes on cases, mainly tenancy law and divorce cases. The second half begins from the back of the notebook, and reverse orientation compared to the first half, where Lyell writes notes from a Geology lecture he attended April 29 1825.
It is during this time, while he struggled with his law practice and his eyesight, that he invested more in geological field trips, often with visiting gentleman scientists. In the early summer of 1824 Lyell and Prevost travel from London to Bristol and Land’s End, ending up at Lyme Regis when Mary Anning made her great discovery of two complete Ichthyosauri. (Bailey, 1962) In the autumn, Lyell focuses on his Scottish roots, living at the Kinnordy estate and hosting William Buckland (his geology tutor from Oxford) to venture to Stonehaven, Aberdeen, Elgin, and Inverness to Brora; then back to Inverness and, after a quick jaunt to Brora, south by Blair Atholl, Glen Tilt, Perth, and Kinnordy to Edinburgh. Throughout these journeys, they were “comfortably interlarded with breakfasts and dinners without end”, stopping to see Sir James Hall near St. Abb’s Head, and twice at the Jameson’s. (Lyell and Lyell, 2019) I would bet that this packing list would have been in preparation for any of these foundational field trips. Stay tuned for Tuesday next week when another installment will be published!
Bailey, E., 1962. Charles Lyell. Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd.
Lyell, C. and Lyell, K., 2019. Life, Letters And Journals Of Sir Charles Lyell, Bart. Alpha Editions.