Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Sources for detail on 18th century life and matters


I’ve written posts on historical detail before because I’m a little compulsive about it. Below are a few new resources (plus some I may have mentioned earlier). Many are Georgian but some contain links to other periods. 


There are links to several resources here but I use it for N. Bailey’s 1737 dictionary of canting (criminal) slang.

A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew, by B.E. Gent.

Originally published in 1699, there is some overlap with the Bailey dictionary, but it also contains hunting terms (“Yearn: When beagles bark and cry at their game”) and slang terms generally.

And this: Webster's Third Dictionary (of American English; 1828) Searchable. Perhaps useful.

Bailey's 1763 Dictionary, searchable, and viewable and downloadable as an image of the original: An universal etymological English dictionary

A bit about the book: An Universal Etymological English Dictionary - Wikipedia ...and there's more at the bottom of that page than you might ever want to see.

Useful for checking for the first known use of English words and terms.

Early Modern English Dictionary (16th-18th century)

Contains several excellent resources.

And this curious one, a treatise on understanding British-American handwriting and printed text, with notes on the language:

How to Read 18th Century British-American Writing

Period Detail:

Eighteenth Century London Life by Rosamund Bayne-Powell

English Country Life in the Eighteenth Century by Rosamund Bayne-Powell

Travellers in Eighteenth Century by Rosamund Bayne-Powell

Housekeeping in the Eighteenth Century by Rosamund Bayne-Powell

The English Child in the Eighteenth Century by Rosamund Bayne-Powell

These are all out of print but available from online used book sellers. Full of useful details culled from the letters and essays of the period.

A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain, by Daniel Defoe

Written between 1724 and 1726, it contains a wealth of local color and a good deal of information about trade. Try to find a copy with print that isn’t teeny-tiny.


18th century dances performed. There were more dances than just the minuet.

Specifically Georgian sources and information:

Full of interesting and useful Georgian sources and information. There’s a collection of terms for various occupations. “Green bag” was a term for a lawyer; Tom Turd was a night-soil collector.

What They Ate:

A collection of cookbooks online by period. What people ate in the Georgian or Regency periods was quite different from what we eat today, or even what we ate a hundred years ago. More online cookbooks, from the Middle Ages on, including European cookbooks, and links to other useful sites. Some of the European collections have been translated. 


Weather in Great Britain, by year, from 1700 to 1849.

Medical matters:   (11th c. AngloSaxon herbal)

(Medieval Herbal Remedies: The Old English Herbarium and Anglo-Saxon Medicine by Anne Van Arsdall is a translation of above 11th c. Anglo-Saxon herbal).

A medieval cure that seems to work.


LACMA historical patterns downloads for a variety of periods.

Instructions for Cutting out Apparel for the Poor, printed 1789, available for free on Google Play Books. 


The Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-1799, edited by Sir John Sinclair, reprinted 1900.

I found copies of two volumes (there were twenty volumes in all) online for a dollar each. With shipping (from Scotland) the order came to under $10. They’re fat books, with more detail than even the most OCD writer of historical novels needs. On the other hand, they contained some tidbits of information that were well worth the price for the background I needed. They contain sections on each Scottish region with a description of the terrain, climate, statistics, natural resources, local history, and so forth, by parish. 


For example, the parish of Auchtertoul, Fife, contains sections on the origin of its name, size and surroundings, terrain and soil, minerals, climate, population, including the number of persons practicing various trades, agriculture, church, schools, the poor, and miscellaneous observations.


As the series was published in the 1790s, most of the information should still be relevant into the early 19th century, and a good deal of it is useful for the earlier part of the 18th century as well.


Be advised that having been printed originally in the 18th century, you will have to become accustomed to the “s” in some words looking like an “f”.   


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