glad for the invention of typewriters

I wish I didn’t have such neat handwriting. Half my time inspecting archival documents is spent squinting (in vain) trying to decipher what these long-gone personages have indecorously scrawled all over these official documents. I love the feel of old paper and the deliciously tactile sense of the past one gets from rifling through old correspondence, colonial record minutes etc. But I think part of my incompetence at paleography stems from the fact that my handwriting is really obsessively readable, and I quite misguidedly project (or impose) this inclination on the people and documents I study. I MUST STOP DOING THIS.

That said, I mean…I really cannot read this:

so I gravitate towards printed or typed sources, and in doing so, feel as though I impoverish my craft somewhat. Perhaps I should hang out with more doctors.

PS: if anyone is feeling in a particularly helpful mood, here is what I’ve deciphered so far:

I was speaking to _____ Grant of H.K. He is on board. He says that conditions are very bad in ______ – unfortunately worse than they were. Every other house is a brothel, and _______ _______ men on the ______ are powerless. He does not think that any girl can practice on her own – she must have a sort of Employer & Protector, for otherwise she ______ at the mercy of those she associates with voluntarily. Nor does he agree that the Traffic is less or will [he? be?], though he admits that most are now migrating to [South?] China & Macao & that ______ Point is ______ _______. He is good honest fellow but of course knows the problem in its [limited?] sense – he ______ not _______ the ______ ______. He is ______ 4 Chinese girls in Convents, a form of philanthropy with him, as he was until recently a bachelor….

feel free to step up to the plate if you can fill any one of those blanks🙂


7 responses to “glad for the invention of typewriters

  • Kyle

    In my experience, the tools needed for good (15th-century Spanish) paleography are 1) abundant patience; and 2) a magnifying glass (seriously useful).

    The first blank looks to me like “Inspector”, and the third and fourth look like “the two”. Might the word before “Point” be “West”?

  • historydoll

    First of all, I just stumbled on your blog via History News Network, and I really appreciate it. I’m ABD in medieval history (and quite *old* to be doing this), writing a dissertation on fashion in the fourteenth century. I’m way overdue, long out of classes, and not teaching because I have a fulltime job doing something else. So I have very little contact with anyone academic, and one of my biggest problems is that I’m really interested in theory, my current advisor is not, and I have absolutely no contact with anyone else who is. So your blog is a kind of breath of fresh air!

    I also have some paleography guesses for you. I agree with the commenter above about Inspector, and “the two,” but I believe it’s the two men IN the WORK…
    Employer & Protector, for otherwise she FEELS…

    Macao & that WEST?? Point is FINISHED (only one word).

    …knows the problem in its LIMITED sense (yes, I agree on that) – he CAN not APPRECIATE the WIDER ISSUES. He is EDUCATING…

    It’s sort of like doing a crossword puzzle, and I find squinting generally works wonders. Hope this is helpful.

  • rAchel

    squinting is painful — I’ll take up on Kyle’s suggestion & acquire a magnifying glass. thanks awfully to you both for your input — much appreciated!

    @historydoll: I am totally sympathetic to having theory-disinclined supervisors — luckily enough my own supervisor is quite amenable to it (he has to be, really, as I’m in the UK doing global & extra-European history), but I have a good friend who is working with an eminent German historian mired in the practice of a kind of of Rankean archive-beavering; theory is almost wholly anathema to him, and my friend is experiencing some friction🙂

    that said, I’m definitely no expert on history & theory and I am always learning, so feel free to drop by and drop comments & criticism at any time. I think there is not enough history and theory dialogue going on in (what I know of) the history blogosphere that isn’t mightily obtuse and overblown — if you know of any, do let me know🙂

  • Mike Cosgrave

    Oh dear oh dear — never had to grade handwritten exams then have you???

    the blanks are mostly easily readable – it is Inspector, Whunchui (placename, probably bad anglicization of a chinese place)

    she FEELS at the mercy

    WEST point is ???? BAD

    he DOES not APPRECIATE the WIDER ISSUES

    He is EDUCATING 4 Chinese girls in Convents

    so the bit after west point is the only one I can’t read.

    If you feel you need more training, I’ll have 250 handwritten exam scripts next June, which I will be happy to share with you!

  • rAchel

    I concede defeat — you are the superior paleographer! if I am ever suckered into a teaching post, I will force my students to type out their papers, and hire a transcriber for the dreaded exam periods.

    (perhaps an easier solution is that I should just never teach)

  • ken

    I took a stab, borrowing ideas from the other commenters:

    I was speaking to Inspector Grant of HK. He is on board. He says that conditions are very bad in Wanchai – infinitely worse than they were[.] Every other house is a brothel, and the two men in the [work?] are powerless. He does not think that any girl can practice on her own. She must have a sort of employer & protector, for otherwise she feels at the mercy of those she associates with voluntarily. Nor does the agency think the traffic is bad or will be, though he admits that most are now migrating to Sum Chun [Shenzhen] and Macao & that West Point is finished. He is good honest fellow but of course knows the problem in its limited sense. He does not appreciate the wider issues. He is educating 4 Chinese girls in convents, a [farce?] of philanthropy with him, as he was until recently a bachelor. The only thing to do is [???]

  • rAchel

    thank you awfully🙂

    in case you were at all interested —

    “The only thing to do is to rouse [continued on the next page] the Chinese women to a sense of their obligation to their sisters, otherwise the position will be somewhat similar to prohibition in U.S.A. where the law was in advance of the moral level of the people & could not therefore be enforced.”
    Personal Correspondence, 1933

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