When I went in to the University Herbarium last week, I was extremely excited to discover that one of my fellow volunteers had very kindly brought in her incredibly beautiful first edition of Gerard’s Herbal, published in 1597. It’s been re-bound at some stage, and it’s absolutely immaculate. The paper is of variable quality, but the pages show hardly any signs of wear at all, which is incredible for a book that’s more than four hundred years old!
I’d been looking at a digital copy earlier in the week, as well as my own facsimile copy of a later edition, because I’d been writing a blog post about making glue from bluebells. (It was released on the 4th for Patrons, and is available to everyone today.)
I’m incredibly grateful for digital collections such as Archive.org, because they allow me to see the content of original texts and get stuck into some research even on the days when I’m too poorly to get out of bed, never mind venture out to visit an archive. There really is nothing quite as exciting as seeing the real thing though!
For example, I didn’t know that Gerard’s Herbal included “A Table of the Natures, Vertue and Dangers“, because it isn’t part of my facsimile copy of the third edition. Now that I know about it, I can make plans to look up specific illnesses (some of them described in rather alarming detail!) and see which plants are recommended and how they should be used.
As if the afternoon wasn’t exciting enough, I checked my email and discovered that I’ve been offered an unconditional place on the History MA!
This might be the most ridiculous thing I’ve tried to do since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia back in 2012 (well, okay, after the swordfighting!), but I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it. Everybody I spoke to while I was in the process of applying agreed that part-time would be the best approach. Not only does it give my unreliable health as much recovery time as possible, it also allows me to actually enjoy the individual modules rather than rushing through them – not to mention giving me an extra year to fine tune the details of my PhD proposal, if that turns out to be the path I want to take.
I still have a couple of sewing and knitting projects for friends and family on the go (all delayed by my health having leapt out at me recently), but as soon as those are finished I’m going to be hitting the books and spending as much time as possible studying before I start the course. It’s twenty-two years since I graduated from my BA(Hons), so I need to make sure I can still remember how to write academic essays as well as informal blog posts. I just can’t wait to get started!