Tuesday, April 2, 2024

A very old book

Quite a few years ago now, a fellow came into the studio and asked if I might like this book. He had carried it with him for decades I think, and as he was clearing up the house he felt that perhaps I could use it in some artwork. Because of its absolute glory, I said yes. 

After several years of having it sit there quietly, I thought to myself I really don't think I can bring myself to tear these pages out or to cut it up. I felt that perhaps it belonged back where it had come from.

So I have begun the enquiries and we are going this way and that with emails and trying to find the best location for it. The area it references has had some serious level flooding in the past months and has been well and truly cut off; so I expect they have more important things on their minds. But I have captured some photos of it here before it heads wherever its next home is.

I find it an extraordinary window into the life of a bank manager in remote North Queensland from the late 1890s.

It is indexed alphabetically, with each person or family listed and the page on which they appear noted.

The book goes on to record the date of visit, their name and occupation. All very innocuous thus far.

It is the next part I find most fascinating, where the bank manager writes their impressions of the person, their character, their wealth and their reliability. 

In this top entry here - "he seems to be of a migratory disposition" and the bank advises caution in dealing with him.

Some folk were identified a steady and hardworking, but being of no means. Others were unsteady and extravagant, yet hitherto had always kept their word.

Some folk began to drink heavily...

Others were of excellent character, straight forward and capable business men.

I enjoyed the differing handwriting, and one of the managers had this lovely way with capitals every now and again, nestling the word within it.

Fingers crossed it finds its way home...


  1. I found it challenging to read the cursive hand until my eyes became accustomed to it ... and thought how much more so it would be for the generations coming up who are often not taught how to write in cursive, much less read it

    1. Deciphering old handwriting is a lovely t way to spend time I think - and you are right how much you need to train your eye to do it ; and each hand is different! I hadn't stopped to think that cursive would prove such a challenge to younger folk; but if you have never created joined up letters; you would not be at all familiar with what the variations might look like. When I am not so busy, I hope to take part as volunteer in this lovely task... https://transcribe.awm.gov.au

    2. what a fascinating project!

    3. Isn't it just?!? And I imagine it would be very rewarding as well.

  2. Replies
    1. I deeply adore it Stephanie, and I love the smell, the feel, the look of it - and some of the stories within are pure gold.


I appreciate your thoughts and comments; thanks for taking the time.