Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another delicious Googlebook

I love Google Books for the fabulous old books they're making available, especially 18th century ones, which are so hard to find in hard copy.

My latest find in here. It's The General Shop Book: Or, The Tradesman's Universal Director,from 1753, and it's a mini encyclopedia of places, goods, and laws of the time.

Check it out!

If you're curious about what I was searching there -- Sheffield and Doncaster. Yes, my characters are in Yorkshire, and Diana, Countess of Arradale and Marchioness of Rothgar is involved, but the action is about to head south.

This book, as yet untitled, will follow on from A Lady's Secret, which will be out in April. You can find out more here.

If you want a reminder when it's on the shelves, sign up on my web page above.



Wednesday, January 23, 2008


It's the things you don't know you don't know that get you. I would have sworn that the falling blade form of execution was an 18th century invention of a Frenchman called Guillotine, but no. It's an ancient development of Halifax, Yorkshire!

I stumbled across a reference in a book and found it so odd, I had to check. Here's a page all about it.

The Halifax Gibbet


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Green goose

Ever wondered exactly what a "green goose" was? Clearly eaten in spring and something of a delicacy, but according to The Compleat Housekeeper, by Peter Brears (Wakefield Historical Society), it is "young and grass fed, eaten in early summer accompanied by greensauce, rather like mint sauce but made with sorrel pounded with vinegar and sugar to give a particularly piquant taste."

So now you know!

Jo :)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Turnpikes in Lancashire.

Good page for anyone wanting information about old roads in general, and in Lancashire in particular.
Click here.

More here.

This map shows my home county of Lancashire. My home town, Morecambe, (pronounced Morcum) isn't there because it was a Victorian development, but it's just below Hest (Bank) on Morecambe Bay.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Another nasty summer

Most of us know about the "year without a summer" in 1816 due to the eruption of the Tambora volcano but I hadn't come across something similar and in some ways ever worse in 1783. There was an article in the Economist's Christmas Edition, which is always full of juicy stuff.

The summer of acid rain. Read it here.

It was catastrophic for Iceland. As the subheading says: "Molten iron raining down like cowpats; ice floes at New Orleans. The weather of 1783 was an extraordinary case of sudden climate change driven by atmospheric gases."

What happened? "...the earth split open along a 16-mile fissure called the Laki volcano. Over the next eight months, in a series of vast belches, more lava gushed through the fissure than from any volcano in historic times—15 cubic kilometres, enough to bury the whole island of Manhattan to the top of the Rockefeller Centre."

This created both clouds and acid rains that drifted down across Europe and onward. The effects in Iceland itself were truly horrific.

I went looking for other contemporary references and didn't find many. I assume most didn't realize what was causing the problem. This certainly seems clear in the following letter from The Gentleman's Magazine review of 1783.

"For a considerable time past the weather has been very remarkable here; a kind of hot fog obscures the atmosphere, and gives the sun much of that dull red appearance which the wintry fogs sometimes produce. The fog is not peculiar to Paris ; those who are come lately from Rome say that it is as thick and hot in Italy, and that even the top of the Alps is covered with it, and travellers and letters from Spain affirm the fame of that kingdom.

Some people of abilities declare they never remember the like; and the timid, who think of the recent misfortunes of Calabria, dream of earthquakes and war, revolutions, etc. Happily for the age, there are too many enlightened people at present to suffer these things to spread so universally, as, to the great benefit of the priesthood (here), they formerly did, though it is remarked even now that the churches and saints arc more respectfully attended than usual,and that the fear of impending calamities has occasioned one of the literati of the Academy of Sciences to write the following letter, and have it inserted in the Journal de Paris.

To the Authors of the Journal.It is known to you, gentlemen, that for some days past people have been incessantly enquiring what is the occasion of the thick dry fog which almost constantly covers the heavens.As this question is particularly put to astronomers, 1 think myself obliged to say a few words on the subject, more especially since a kind of terror begins to spread in society.

It is said by some that the disasters in Calabria were preceded by such weather, and by others that a dangerous comet reigns at present. In 1773 I experienced how fast these kind of conjectures,which begin amongst the ignorant even in the most enlightened ages, proceed from mouth to mouth, till they reach the best society, and find their way even to the public prints. The multitude therefore may easily be supposed to draw strange conclusions when they see the sun of a blood colour, shed a melancholy light, and cause a most sultry heat.

This however is nothing more than a very natural effect from a hot sun after a long succession of heavy rain. The first impression of heat has necessarily and suddenly rarefied a Overabundance of watery particles with which the earth was deeply impregnated, and given them, as they rose, a dimness and rarefaction not usual to common fogs. This effect, which seems to me very natural, is not so very new; it is at most not above nineteen years since there was a like example, which period too brings the moon in the fame position on the same days, and which appears to have some influence on the seasons. Among the meteorologic observations of the academy for the month of July 1764 1 find the following: The beginning of this month was wet, and the latter part dry; and, from the second to the ninth, the wind continued in the north. The mornings were foggy, and the atmosphere in a smoke during the day.This, you perceive, bears a great resemblance to the latter end of our June, so that it is not an unheard-of or forgotten thing. In 1764 they had afterwards storms and hail, and nothing worse need be feared in 1783. I have the honour to be, etc. De La LAnde, de l'Acad. de Science."

I wonder what he thought when he heard about Laki?

You can read more at Wikipedia.