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Thomas Gray Manuscripts : Thomas Gray, Pocket Book, 1760

Gray, Thomas (1716-1771)

Thomas Gray Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'><p>Thomas Gray habitually used pocket books like this one; his pocket book for 1755 is another example in this collection. Eighteenth-century pocket books were usually printed books akin to diaries and calendars, produced for recording daily information and appointments over the course of a year in dated blank boxes. They are printed books that were meant to become manuscripts, but manuscripts guided and organised by their printed elements.</p><p>In 1760, the pocket book that Gray used was <i>The New Daily Journal; or, Useful Memorandum and Account Book For the Year 1760</i> (London: J. Scott, 1760). Its title page advertises that it is ‘Disposed in a Method entirely NEW, more adapted to, and convenient for, every Person’s Business, than any other Book of the Kind’ – something of an exaggeration, which is extended in the Preface explaining its structure and use. The title page also advertises its contents, namely ‘The MEMORANDUM Book of Fifty-two Double Pages, for Receipts, Payments, Observations, Appointments, and Notices for every Day throughout the Year’, plus additional printed information for consultation at the front and back, chiefly lists of important individuals such as members of the Privy Council, holders of State Offices, and Members of Parliament. The volume is not paginated, but it has printed signatures, and pagination of the printed information at the back. This printed information aside, all other openings of the pocket book are dedicated to a week of the year, and as well as dates they offer printed headings with blank boxes to fill with the relevant information for each day of the week: ‘Received’ (with columns for ‘L.’, ‘S.’, and ‘D.’, i.e. pounds, shillings, and pence), ‘Account of Cash’, ‘Paid’ (again with columns for ‘L.’, ‘S.’, and ‘D.’), and a looser category, ‘Appointments, Memorandums and Observations’. Like Gray’s 1755 pocket book, this 1760 pocket book is a good example of a type of document that was popular in the eighteenth century, reflecting the period’s widespread use of tables and calendars to organise information, and its hybrid print/manuscript genres.</p><p>As was the case in 1755, Gray did not follow the printed framework of his 1760 pocket book subserviently. He made no entries at all in January, February, or March 1760, and left other long gaps. He also usually used the ‘Appointments, Memorandums and Observations’ boxes to record weather observations such as thermometer temperatures, wind direction, and the progress of the seasons observable in the appearance of plants and birds, making this pocket book, like his pocket book of 1755, something of a weather diary. But he used the accounting boxes in this 1760 pocket book more regularly than he had those of 1755, to document his spending and income. This information illuminates his financial arrangements, domestic habits, leisure activities, and book purchases during a year when he was largely based in London. And where his 1755 pocket book exemplifies the influence of weather diaries, this 1760 pocket book speaks more generally to the long history of mutual influence between diaries and accounting practices, especially double-entry bookkeeping. ‘Books of this Kind may be justly esteemed the Annals of a Man’s Life’, declares the pocket book’s preface: this sounds like praise of journalling, but is in fact an explanation of the importance of keeping financial accounts, and therefore nicely epitomises the conceptual overlap between these practices in the eighteenth century.</p><p>Gray had relocated to London in 1759 in order to be close to the British Museum, and although he was not continuously based there, he regularly studied manuscripts in its reading room until his return to Cambridge in 1761. His 1760 pocket book is therefore marked by the practical and social concerns of the eighteenth-century metropolis. Like its printed information, which has a metropolitan flavour in its focus on the individuals holding key offices, Gray’s additions testify to an immersion in London life. He used the ‘Account of Cash’ box for the 25th October 1760 to record the death of King George II, and the ‘Appointments, Memorandums and Observations’ boxes to record local information such as the shelfmark of a manuscript in the British Museum. He recorded frequent spending on plays and the opera among his outgoings, and thoroughly annotated the pocket book’s printed list of peers. </p><p>In contrast to the abbreviated information of his weather observations in both pocket books, moreover, the notes that Gray added to blank pages at the front and back of this 1760 pocket book have a public-facing quality. They are in relatively continuous prose; the notes at the back even read like maxims. One concerns the ‘Gout de comparaison’, quoting Jean de La Bruyère, and although the other begins with a grub, the insect is an analogy rather than a natural history specimen: ‘The Grub, that breeds in & perishes with the the [sic.] common mass of putrefaction without being regarded, if a few drops of amber fall on it[,] is embalmed for ages, & becomes a rarity’. The presence of such notes is recorded in the contents index for this digital edition, which also details the dates shown on each calendrical opening, the headings of each page of printed information, and signatures for referencing. Note that the Cambridge Digital Library system uses the word ‘page’ to display referencing metadata, however: ‘image 15, sig. A3r’ therefore displays as ‘(image 15, page A3<sup>r</sup>)’, for example.</p><p>Where Gray’s 1755 pocket book is fragile, this 1760 pocket book is sturdy and relatively luxurious: it has marbled pastedowns, more flyleaves, gilt-edged leaves, and more extensive printed material. Gray also largely wrote in it with ink rather than pencil. It offers a window onto Gray’s metropolitan interests and activities, and detailed information about his finances, as well as further insights into his practices as a natural historian. It was published in this digital edition in March 2023, with editorial and bibliographical metadata by Ruth Abbott, and images courtesy of The Master and Fellows of Pembroke College, Cambridge.</p><p>Ruth Abbott<br /> University of Cambridge<br /><a href='/collections/thomasgray'></a><br /><br /></p><p><b>How to cite:</b> Thomas Gray, ‘Pocket Book, 1760 (GBR/1058/GRA/2/2)’, ed. Ruth Abbott, in <i>Thomas Gray Manuscripts</i>, ed. Ruth Abbott, assoc. ed. Ephraim Levinson, <a href='/collections/thomasgray'></a></p></p>

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