The Chimney Corner: Secret Books from the Secret Library #3

The third in a newly-regular series looking at books and other items randomly selected from our vast collections. In this entry Librarian Antony Ramm takes a look at an obscure (to us) religious manuscript…

The first thing to say about today’s entry – the enigmatically-titled Manuscript – is the sheer solidity of its binding.

And then the second thing to say is that the colours on the contents page (here called the Index) are a pleasant surprise.

After that you might be left saying that the volume peaked rather early. The remaining pages almost entirely consist of the same dense, hard-to-read handwriting – no illustrations and no more colour.

And there are over 700 of these pages! Which means this article is a hard one to write and will require more than a little padding. (Can you tell?)

BUT, having said that, we can tease a few small features from the clues the volume gives us. Firstly, it was written by one W. Camidge – almost certainly William Camidge F.R.H.S. (1828-1909), a British solicitor and author based in York. As far as I can tell we hold no other works by Camidge at Leeds Central Library – his family papers are held by Explore York Libraries and Archive, who presumably also have copies of his other works.

Secondly, we know that the contents of the manuscript are theological in nature. Our catalogue entry for this book tells us it consists of 16 essays on themes such as the ‘Rise and fall of the Papacy’ and ‘Immortality of the soul’.

We can also tell from Camidge’s own introduction notes that “The following essays have been written more to gratify a pleasure than as literary productions.” That sentence partly suggests Camidge intended these essays to be for private consumption; though the fact the introduction exists at all suggests as well that he at least hoped they might find an audience. At any rate, their content does seem slightly different to the works collected in one bibliography – an oeuvre that largely sticks to antiquarian research in the York area.

Throughout the essays Camidge adds his own marginal notes and, towards the end of the volume, all we get are notes, often pasted down into the pages of the book itself. Further evidence, perhaps, that the whole volume was a very early draft of an intended publication.

And, look, I’ve got to be honest, that’s about all I’ve got. I certainly can’t say anything about the text itself – it’s hard to read and well out of my comfort zone. I wouldn’t even know where to start describing or explaining its contents! But maybe that doesn’t matter? Maybe just the simple fact of highlighting the item here on this blog will lead some researcher to say “Ah! That’s exactly what I’ve been searching for.”. Yes, it’s great when we can bring you fully researched articles but, sometimes, perhaps, even a simple record of A Thing’s Existence is enough? (For now)

*****

Slight addition to the above: There was a certain creative disingenuity employed, in that a very small amount of research about Camidge online reveals that he spent a short period of time living in Pudsey. That might explain why we hold this copy of his manuscript in Leeds. Do please add a comment below if you know anything else about Camidge and, in particular, what he was doing during his time in Pudsey.

Do contact us if you would like to take up that opportunity to spend some time with the Camidge volume: LibraryEnquiries@leeds.gov.uk or 0113 37 85005

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