I joined Boydell & Brewer in early December 2018, coming straight from a small, but very busy, marketing agency. Publishing was an industry I had always wanted to work in, and my undergraduate degree was spent learning about the in’s and out’s of the business.
When I started at Boydell & Brewer, I don’t think I was fully prepared for academic publishing. One of the first books I worked on was: Two Weather Diaries from Northern England, 1779-1807, from our local history list. The 343-page book was placed on my desk and my first thought was: “Great, a book about rain.”
Prior to my job at Boydell, I had spent nearly 6 years in the UK, and I was used to confirming to my family back home, that ‘yes, it rained a lot, no it did not rain every day, we did get some sunshine, but yes, it rains more here than in Sweden.’
Two Weather Diaries from Northern England, 1779-1807 is a collection of the journals of John Chipchase and Elihu Robinson, edited by Robert Tittler. These two men were both Quakers, living in the north-east and north-west region of England, who both kept extremely detailed records of the weather and agricultural events during this time period. Some of the fascinating things both men capture in this collection are: meteor showers, lightning strikes, fatal diseases, fishing, life cycle of snails, as well as the causes and local reactions to the near-famine of 1795. Not only is this an account of what the weather was like, but together, these two journals give an insight into the intellectual and cultural bent of two publicly engaged men, of middling status and informal education, living far from London and the universities.
For someone who had the preconceived perception that if you want to describe the weather in England, you can simply say: it rains a lot and there is no use buying an umbrella as it will flip in the wind, this book not only gave me further insight into this country I was now calling my home, but it also introduced me to the wonderful world of academic publishing.
Some of my favourite entries from the book include:
AURORA BOREALIS 1783 (March 21)
On the Evening of the 21st of March, the heavens being perfectly serene & clear & the stars sparkling with uncommon lustre, about 8 O’Clock, an Aurora Borealis stretched from the western edge of the Horizon, cross the hemisphere, a little to the South of the Zenith, quite to the eastern edge, forming a most beautiful luminous Arch, not unlike that which the Ring of Saturn must exhibit to the Inhabitants of that planet. It shone with a constant steady light (being quite free from that tremulous motion which usually attends the Aurora Borealis) for above ¾ of an hour and then began to decay gradually, and pretty near equally, in every part, till it totally vanished a little before 9 O’Clock.
– This entry made me very happy as you can truly feel the observers excitement of the beauty in the sky, and it reminded me of home (on what was most likely a rainy day in the office
1792 REMAR\K/ABLE SHOWER
On the 17th of 7th Month (July) in the morning we had an extremely heavy shower of rain, which exceeded that of July 15th 1785. About ½ past 10 O’Clock AM it became suddenly exceeding dark & about ¼ before 11 the rain poured in torrents from the clouds, mingled with a very small quantity of hailstones (which melted or were swept away by the ﬂood of water, immediately) and attended with lightning & thunder.
– It’s good to know that rain is not a new phenomenon in England
E: WOODCOCK lived 8 days (in 1799) UNDER SNOW
15th The Newcastle papers (due the 9th) arrived. A most singular circumstance occurred during this storm, on the 2d of the 2d Month Elizabeth Woodcock the wife of a cottager at Impington (a village about 3 miles from Cambridge) returning from Cambridge market, lost her way and was buried under the snow till the 10th of the month (the space of 8 days!) when she was discovered by her handkerchief, which she had thrust up to the top of the snow, and was taken out alive.
– This hasn’t even happened in the northern parts of Sweden where the country is covered in snow for most of the year!
Two Weather Diaries from Northern England, 1779-1807 is a remarkable collection of observations, recorded for future reference. In the modern world of today, with global climate warnings left, right and centre, this book is a lovely reminder of the importance and beauty of weather and how its recordings provide important insight into how our world has changed. It is an important contribution to academic publishing and I do hope it will benefit many people across the country, as it has done for me.