The Woolcomber’s World, Part I: A life scribbled in the margins of almanacs

the many-headed monster

Brodie Waddell

On 8 August 1716, Joseph Bufton sat down to take stock of his little archive.

For about forty years, he had been filling the margins and blank pages of old almanacs with notes. He now had quite a collection and his terse list hints at their contents.

‘I reckon I have here 22 almanacks’, he wrote…

  • Seven volumes were ‘filled up chiefly with things taken out of other books’, including ‘out of a dictionary’.
  • Five were account books, some ‘of household stuff, &c.’, but others probably related to his work.
  • Three volumes were ‘out of Irish letters, &c.’, that is to say, copies of letters between Joseph and his brother John, who had removed to Ireland in 1678.
  • Two were ‘filled up with notes of sermons’ and ‘an account of funerall sermons’.
  • One was ‘filled chiefly with buriall and marriage’, chronicling the vital events of his family members…

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Leverhulme Trust at the University of Cambridge

Both a PhD studentship and research assistant position have been advertised at the University of Cambridge for work on a Leverhulme funded project researching medicine, consumption and science in early modern France. Full details of the studentship can be found here and details for the research assistant/associateship here

Print and Materiality Seminar

The final Print and Materiality Seminar for the 2013/14 programme will be taking place Wednesday 18 June at John Rylands Library, Manchester, from 2.00–5.00 pm. In a wide-ranging wrap-up program for the year, we will hear the following papers:

• Panel presentation, ‘Exhibiting Early Modern Prints in the John Rylands Library: A student perspective’
• Dr Edward Wouk (University of Manchester), ‘From Icon to Print’
• Caroline Checkley-Scott (John Rylands Library / University of Manchester), Julianne Simpson (John Rylands Library / University of Manchester) and Professor Stephen Milner (University of Manchester), ‘Venetian Vellum: Skin, Bone and the Aldine Press’
• Dr Naya Tsentourou (University of Manchester), ‘”The ghost of a linnen decency”: Fears of the material and the immaterial in Milton’s prose’

The session will be held in the Christie Room, John Rylands Library, Deansgate, Manchester. As this is a longer session, afternoon tea will be provided during the break. A group will go for drinks afterwards afterwards – all welcome. For the annual programme, see:

The programme is supported by the John Rylands Research Institute and convened by Sasha Handley and Jenny Spinks. Enquiries: Jenny Spinks:

North West Seminar visits University of Liverpool

On the 14th May the North West Early Modern Seminar visited the University of Liverpool for an excellent discussion of current research projects. We opened the seminar with the five minute ‘speed-daters’ who all gave insightful introductions to their research. Rachel Winchcombe (University of Manchester) gave an introduction to her PhD research on the varying representations of America in early modern print culture in England, looking at the ways in which America had been understood and integrated into European thought. Margaret Bullet (University of Huddersfield) discussed John Harrison’s central role in the religious conflicts in Leeds in the early seventeenth-century and the appropriation of images of civil authority. Jessica Patterson’s project (University of Manchester), analysing the intellectual thought of John Zephaniah Holwell during the East India Trading Company, particularly his ‘deist’ readings of ancient Hindu texts, opened an exciting and enlightening debate. Greg Lynall (University of Liverpool) explored the imagery of thermal optical devices as a trope for the focusing of energies and powers in early modern satirical prints, introducing themes which resonated with Pauline Ellen Reid’s paper later in the day. Eva Krause Jørgensen (University of Aarhus/University of Liverpool) discussed the possibilities of the amalgamation of political discourse and economic theory as an approach to the intellectual history of political reform in Denmark. Matteo Salonia (University of Liverpool) concluded the series of five minute papers with an exploration of the role of private entrepreneurs in Genoese economic culture and empire building along the mediterranean.



Five minute ‘speed-daters’ from left to right Matteo Salonia, Greg Lynall, Rachel Winchcombe, Jessica Patterson, Eva Krause Jørgensen and Margaret Bullett.

After a coffee break we reconvened for two 20 minute papers. Pauline Ellen Reid (University of Georgia (Athens)/University of Liverpool) discussed the politics of visual arrangement in the work of Francis Quarles, looking at the imagery of prisms and the use of repetition, paradox, chiasmus and parallelisms in seventeenth century poetry. Naomi Tadmor (Lancaster University) then introduced her new research project ‘the semantics of belonging- with a focus on the notion of settlement’ which looked at kinship and the poor in parishes over the ‘long-eighteenth century’. The long term chronological approach adopted within the research offered an in-depth analysis of changing cultural attitudes and legal definitions of settlement and belonging. Following questions the discussion continued later over drinks.



Pauline Ellen Reid and Naomi Tadmor taking questions. 

The North West Seminar will be looking for contributions next academic year. To get involved email the secretary Michael Smith at and follow us on twitter @NWSeminar to hear first about future calls for papers.


The Materiality of Writing

The Eighteenth-Century Worlds Research Centre will be holding a postgraduate and early career researcher workshop in the Library of the Liverpool Athenaeum 5-7June 2014. The workshop aims to bring together new research that allows us to reflect on how a ‘material’ approach to the uses of the pen might help us to understand the processes through which meaning and modernity were constructed in the long 18th century. For more information on the event, or if you wish to submit a proposal, see the poster below. 




The North West Early Modern Seminar in Liverpool

NWEMS poster Liverpool jpegThe seminar series will be visiting Liverpool University on the 14th May at the School of the Arts Library, Abercrombie Square. We’ll be hearing from both Naomi Tadmor (Lancaster University) and Pauline Ellen Reid (Georgia (Athens)/ Liverpool University) along with our five minute ‘Speed-Daters’, members of the seminar presenting an introduction to their current research. We hope to see you there!

Inaugural Lecture of the John Rylands Research Institute: Professor Ann Blair

John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog

Professor Ann Blair Professor Ann Blair

Ann Blair, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at Harvard University, delivered the inaugural John Rylands Research Institute Lecture, Script, Type, and Byte – Manuscripts after Gutenberg (reflections on technological continuities), on 31 March. The lecture, in the magnificent setting of the Historic Reading Room, was attended by over one hundred guests, including leading academics from across the country.

Professor Blair, who specialises in the cultural and intellectual history of early modern Europe, explored the continuities between manuscripts and printed books, from the fifteenth century to the eighteenth, drawing upon many examples from our own collections, which she had studied in the preceding few days.

Professor Blair describes her visit to Manchester:

“My first visit to Manchester on March 27-31 was wonderful, complete with some sun and only a little rain (and, as one of my hosts predicted, the rain was quite dry). I spent most of the…

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