This Discuss-a-Doc post is a little unusual. It’s about ADM 8/1, which I’ve talked about quite a bit before. But in this post, we solve a mystery. Or at least, talk through how Larry Hartzell and I (with some help) solved a transcription mystery.
The context for this is that Larry had come to the end of the first volume, and was looking back to some of the earlier reports which had been skipped/assigned to other people and not transcribed. In particular, he was working through 1674.
There was a series of photographs that Larry and I had been puzzled over for some time, trying to figure out how to properly attribute them into distinct documents. The photos come next becuse they’re important. (All photos credit to the wonderful and amazing Dr JD Davies)
So, in total, these photos show ADM 8/1 f41 recto to f47 verso.
As you look through, you can see there’s something weird. Undated reports, what looks like Commanders lists in the middle of a Deployment Report. Different scripts. It’s chaos. Our first guess (we also did ask one of our expert friends) was that these pages constituted the following: August 1674 (Deployment Report), the first page of September 1674 (taking the date from the next page), several officer lists (Which JD Davies told us were related to Half-pay and pension changes in 1674), then two more pages of 1674 (oddly, on different leaves), and then October 1674. This .. seemed to work. There weren’t any obvious issues with. But I- who came up with this theory, didn’t look closely enough.
The second layer of the mystery begins with a message from Larry to me.
“Finished the first page of the **** Sept 74 report. But there’s a problem.”
Naturally, I ask: Is it a problem that we need to make an editorial decision on, or do I need to do some coding. (This was before I decides to create the new database structure, which I describe here). The old (as of the publication of this blog, still current) structure doesn’t accommodate reports having setions with different column titles- or orders, so sometimes we had to make “editorial decisions”. The number of those decisions is dramatically reduced by the new structure.
Larry: When I got to “page 2” (DSC_0047 recto), the very first ship, the Mary Rose, lists Charles Talbott as captain. But that didn’t sound right. Thomas Hamilton I knew had been the captain of the Mary Rose for the past many months.
OK, but captains change, I get that. So I went to threedecks and checked — Talbott became the captain of the Mary Rose in 1678.
so I checked the next ship, the Reserve, David Lloyd captain. That didn’t sound right either. So I checked — Lloyd became the captain of the Reserve in 1678.
Next ship, the Ant(h)elope, Henry Preistman, Again, I knew that he’d been captain of a different ship in earlier 1674 reports. So I checked — he became the captain of the Antelope in — you guessed it — 1678
And that’s when I stopped and wrote all this!
Next ship, the Plymouth. Same deal — its captain Narbrough didn’t become so until — 1677
Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser. Here,t here is much discussion. Larry and I both ask folks if they think that the handwriting on f45 and f46 recto belong to the same hand- to the same report. No- yes? no?
At this point, I pull up the ADM 8 database that we already have up, and start looking at the 1677 and 1688 reports, and so does Larry. And something catches my eye. Let’s show you the photo again.
Now, the important part of this document (at least in terms of solving the mystery) is the first three lines- those ships that are in refit. I started looking at reports in 1678- then in 1679, to see when those ships were in refit.
Using that, I was able to narrow it to April or May of 1679. Then, finally, I noticed that the 13 May 1679 report ended with ships deployed to “The Narrow Seas”. If you look at the left side, you can see that the lines start with the station ships are assigned to. In 1679, these are listed alphabetically. Narrow Seas, which ended the 13 May 1679 report, comes before Newfoundland, which begins this stray page. Further, that report had many fewer lines that either the two April 1679 reports, or the next May 1679 report (in that period, some months also had two reports/month as opposed to one report/month as is common for most years in this volume). And so, we had, with the aid of the ADM8 database, managed to solve this mystery. Some how this random page managed to be bound several years of reports earlier than it should have been. When the 13 May 1678 report goes live again, it will have the correct lines, and the correct numbering on the reference so that others can look at the documents correctly.