Hey you. How's things?
It won't surprise you to know I've been treasure hunting again.
We spent a few hours in a market town last Saturday and there's no better way to aid post-lunch digestion than a good rummage among the racks, shelves and boxes found in charity shops. And yes, of course, a lot of the papery treasures I unearth eventually gets snipped into, cut up, upcycled, recycled, repurposed, and re-loved ... but some ... some find their way directly to the safety of my 'don't even think about cutting this up' shelf.
And today's treasure is the latest to do just that. Come and have a look ...
It's always a thrill. Always.
Like finding grains of gold in a stream when you're really only looking for pebbles.
It's a glimmer of human connection, an instant recognition; an acknowledgement of something that's simultaneously entirely new to you, and yet utterly familiar; it's evidence, a trace, of a real human life ...
It's finding pages of someone's handwriting in a box of printed books.
Flipping through a box of old sheet music booklets I suddenly caught sight of his handwriting and I didn't need to look any further to know his book was coming home with me.
This is generally what happens with me: once I've spotted handwriting I know I'm in for a treat.
I know I'm going to hold and read something quite different to the remainder of the contents of the box. I know I'm going to 'meet' someone across the years. I know I'm likely the first person in a long time - perhaps the first person since the original owner - to look at a tattered old, written-in, book and think "How special! That's mine."
Oh and the 'he' that I connected with in a pile of vintage music books, while crouched on the floor or a charity shop, is Edward Cochrane from Shotton Colliery, County Durham:
Once I had a firm grip on Edward's book (you can't be too careful ... how do I know there isn't another avid paper ephemera collector watching over me while I rummage, waiting to swoop in and steal my treasure if I show signs of weakness?) I opened the covers and found that - on the first few pages - he'd stuck down some sheet music pamphlets:
Did he instead turn to borrowing what he needed from friends, colleagues, band mates, copying them and returning them?
And in a time before photocopying, 'copying' was no 20 second task, it meant sitting and transferring each and every note by hand. A task which, judging by how meticulously this appears throughout the book, was one Edward took seriously:
As for what kind of tunes Edward was collecting in his journal:
- there's a handwritten list on the inside cover listing various 'quadrilles';
- and there are references to a 'galop' and various barn dances.
And now ... for the foreseeable future, I'm going to look after Edward's old book of dances; I'm going to hang on to the pages that are falling out, to the brown paper peeling away from the cover ... and to the handwriting.
The handwriting that says more than what it spells out ...
The handwriting that says: "I was here." "I, Edward Cochrane of Shotton Colliery, County Durham, existed."
"I lived in a town where everyone either was a coal miner, or knew a coal miner. And I wrote my initials on the cover of a book I carried around with me; a book of music that I'd carefully hand-copied in pen and ink. And then ... when I sat down, opened my book, and began to play ...
... people danced."
- If you love using vintage music scores in your artwork / crafts there are packs of genuinely vintage papers in my Julie Kirk Etsy shop (at least a few of the pages date from 1903 - actual 'antiques!).
- They're nestling there amongst the usual vintage treasures in the shop including - if you love handwriting as much as I do - some gorgeous vintage German postcards which feature some amazing writing styles (I can appreciate their style even if I can't understand a word they say!)
And if you just want to leave a comment/get in touch to squeal with excitement over Edward's music journal then please do ... I think he'd be tickled to know that, however many years in the future, his passion for music was still keeping people entertained!