Up, Up & Away, in My Beautiful Balloon

Local History librarian, Antony Ramm, writes about a fascinating little diary held in the collections at the Central Library – and looks ahead to the latest in our Lunchtime Talk series…

A recent search through our collections brought to light a most wonderful discovery: a small, handwritten diary for 1848, written by R.B. Harrison of Leeds.

Of particular note here is Harrison’s use of the Latin phrase Nulla dies sine linea (“not a day without a line”)as a kind of epigraph at the very start of his writing – this is the same phrase adopted by the Leeds antiquarian and Schoolmaster, Thomas Wilson, and found in the vast majority of his manuscripts.

The diary entries themselves are written in a very small hand, which does make interpretation of their contents difficult at times – and making the diary an ideal candidate for a proper transcription and analysis of its contents (do get in touch if you can help in this respect).

For this reason, little is known about Harrison and his life, beyond the bare facts given on our catalogue card entry for his diary:

Occasional biographical details do pop-out on occasions, however, as when Harrison annotates the Almanack section of the diary, noting – for instance – his Father’s birthday in October:

Toward the end of the book, Harrison’s writing becomes larger and somewhat easier to read. One especially interesting passage in that section of the diary details his attendance at a Balloon flight in Headingley, on the 21st of May, 1848:

Harrison was much impressed with this flight of the large balloon “Cremorne” – and it seems he was not alone, as this account from the Leeds Mercury (Saturday 27 May, 1848) shows (accessed via the microfilm collection in our Local and Family History department):


If these accounts of 19th-century ballooning have left you wanting to hear more on the same subject, do please come along to this Friday’s Lunchtime Talk – where we will also be displaying relevant books from our collections, alongside further newspaper reports from Leeds and Yorkshire.

The talk will be held in Room 700, on the 1st Floor or the Central Library from 1-2pm. For further details, please see the poster below.

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