An 18th Century Document

This is the front page of a ship’s log, dating, as you see, from 1770/71. The first thing that strikes me is how little the formation of the writing has changed over the time that has passed since it was written. At that time though metal nibs had been invented there was no mass production of them so it is almost certain that it was written with a quill.

The lines are very fine so this was a very well-cut quill. There are light ascenders and heavy down-strokes, especially in the title, though they appear intermittently elsewhere. There may have been pencilled guide lines. A ship’s log is a permanent document so the captain (or whoever wrote it) would take care to ensure legibility

It is such an impressive document. Writing not only enables us to communicate with one another on paper; it also enables communication across time. Looking at this log one can hardly avoid admiring the writing and wondering about the person who wrote it. Today’s printed version of the same thing would lack the personal character which is so strong here.

Thanks to Hans Gilliams for the photo.

2 thoughts on “An 18th Century Document

  1. Thank you, Deb. I agree with you completely. It would be interesting to know the method of decoration for the page: freehand pencil outline or printed? I daresay that our emails will not prove so revealing.
    BTW, a cheap (A$60) Onoto landed today. It has a smooth #1 nib, with a line variation of 0.4-1.7mm. Yummy!

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