Let me take you back in time… It is 17th century England, and Charles I is ruler. In one splendid English country house, a well-respected servant named Robert Draper sits and writes a shopping list to his friend and contemporary, Mr Bilby, residing in another.
This letter, along with two others, were to be discovered nearly 400 years later during a renovation of Knole House. Two of the notes were found by a volunteer and history enthusiast, Jim Parker, as he aided the multi-million pound restoration of the National Trust building. He later quipped about how his friends and colleagues have been calling him ‘Jimdiana Jones’ after he made these discoveries.
“Mr Bilby, I pray provide to be sent too morrow in ye Cart some Greenfish, The Lights from my Lady Cranfeildes Chamber 2 dozen of Pewter spoones: one greate fireshovell for ye nursery; and ye others which were sent to be exchanged for some of a better fashion, a new frying pan together with a note of ye prises of such Commoditie for ye rest.
Your loving friend
This fascinating insight into these people’s lives really gives a tangible sense of what every day life as like for them in the 17th century. To see their handwriting, and the way they communicated with each other is very exciting for those of us enthralled by archaeology and history; this is especially so for those of us who enjoy reading random lists, letters, and notes left by people. Some may call us nosy, other may call us merely intrigued by the inner workings of our fellow humans…
It seems I am not alone in my love for reading random lists and notes left or lost by the public: Bill Keaggy holds a similar fascination and in 2007 compiled found lists into a “short story about life” named Milk, Eggs, Vodka: Grocery Lists Lost and Found. The author said: “These found grocery lists are rare specimens. I have a collection from around the world that numbers in the thousands, but it has taken years of hunting and gathering. People are very protective of their grocery lists. I call it selective littering. Seems most folks would sooner dump their car ashtray in the grocery’s parking lot or toss a week’s worth of soda cans and fast food bags on the ground outside the store (and they do) rather than leave their list in a shopping card. It’s because grocery lists are supposed to be private. Never mind that all of us have to go through the checkout in public. Our lists are supposed to be private, and that’s why it’s so enjoyable to look through them — unless one of the lists happen to be yours.”
Buy Milk Eggs Vodka here:
Davy Rothbart is another enthusiast with interest in found items, lists, photos, and letters. His curiosity was sparked so he placed his collection online, then as it grew popular he started to put them into magazines, and books. He and his team realised they were not alone in their love for the lost and found: “We certainly didn’t invent the idea of found stuff being cool. Every time we visit our friends in other towns, someone’s always got some kind of unbelievable discovered note or photo on their fridge. We decided to make a bunch of projects so that everyone can check out all the strange, hilarious and heartbreaking things people have picked up and passed our way.”
Buy FOUND here:
If any of our Reading Addicts share this passion for the lost and found writings and scribbles, let us know!