Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Collection Snapshot: Campront Family Cartulary

July 27th, 2015

When I am asked about my favorite item in the Spencer collection, in addition to praising the glorious Vosper Book of Hours, I always mention a much more humble item, the Campront family cartulary, known by its call number, MS D47. A cartulary is a collection of charters, especially a book holding copies of the charters and title deeds of an estate.

Image of the first page of the Campront (de) family papers, La Manche, 1268-1438

First page of the Campront family papers,
La Manche, 1268-1438. Transcript of legal instruments. France,
copied after 1438. Call Number: MS D47. Click image to enlarge.

This small (23 x 16 cm), rather worn, manuscript contains copies of thirty-nine legal documents related to the Campront family of Normandy, France. Most date from the tumultuous years of the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453), a series of conflicts between the rulers of England and France – with their allies – for control of the latter kingdom, the largest in Western Europe at the time. Land transactions, marriage settlements, and documents detailing contested claims were copied in a clear, functional hand. This was a volume designed not for show, but for its content, or, as we would say now, its “informational value.”

Image of a selected page from the Campront (de) family papers, La Manche, 1268-1438

Selected page from the Campront family cartulary. Call Number: MS D47. Click image to enlarge.

I encountered this document as a student at KU. I was thrilled to be able to work with an original manuscript and, although deciphering the old French was a challenge, I excitedly pored over each page, transcribing nearly the entire volume by hand in the days before laptop computers were widespread. I relied heavily on the preliminary work done by the late Ann Hyde, whose exhaustive description was just one example of the legacy she left behind to the Spencer Library. I learned quickly that while I could discover much about the family from this source, it was never intended to be a comprehensive document about the family’s affairs, and I was left wanting to know more about the generations of people mentioned in its pages.

Flash forward many years: I had deposited an electronic copy of my master’s thesis in the open access repository at The Ohio State University, where I then worked. (It’s also available at KU’s ScholarWorks, as is the preliminary research that formed my senior thesis.) Through the magic of Google, the current owner of the property in Normandy where the Campront family lived for hundreds of years came across my research while searching for information about his home. The historical documentation I had uncovered was personally exciting to him and, like many people, he wondered how the document ended up in Lawrence, Kansas. This gave me a chance to explain Kenneth Spencer Library and its amazing collections of early manuscripts, preserved here and made available to both amateur and professional scholars.

Image of a selected page from the Campront (de) family papers, La Manche, 1268-1438

Selected page from the Campront family cartulary.
Call Number: MS D47. Click image to enlarge.

The estate owner placed a copy of a translation of my work into the official archives of La Manche in Lower Normandy, thereby physically and linguistically extending the reach of my work even further. Finally, he offered to host me at this amazing property, parts of which appear not to have changed much from the sixteenth century, should I ever have the chance to visit.

For me, this one humble, centuries-old document, is not only a major signpost along my journey to becoming a librarian. It also captures so richly the power of the written word and the connections we make as human beings.

Beth M. Whittaker
Assistant Dean for Distinctive Collections
Director of Spencer Research Library

Counterparts and Crossed-out Prohibitions against Fornication; Or, Adventures in Indentures

September 26th, 2013

Anyone who has ever tried to read the fine print on a lease or an online click-through user agreement knows that contracts can at times be rather stultifying documents. Even in the early modern period, contracts used formulaic language that could be dry and impenetrable enough to put off all but the most dedicated reader. However the physical formats of these documents can be quite fascinating, especially to modern eyes.

An indenture is a legal contract between two or more parties which reflects an obligation or covenant between those parties. Common types of indentures include leases, bonds, apprenticeship agreements, and marriage agreements, to name a few.

Image of a lease indenture from the Kaye Family Estate Papers, 1639

Lease indenture between John Kaye of Denby Grange and lessee John North of Bankend for land in Almondbury in Yorkshire, 1639.  Kaye Family Estate Papers. Call Number: MS 240B: 111. Click image to enlarge.

The term “indenture” originally referred to the physical form of this contract. As a security and authentication measure, two or more copies of the deed would be written on the same piece of parchment (animal skin), usually head to head (i.e. with top of one copy facing the top of the other) and then the parchment would be cut in two in a wavy or zigzag pattern to produce the two copies of the contract. The authenticity of the indenture could then be validated by reuniting and matching its edges to those of its “counterpart.”

Image of an indenture and its counterpart matched along their serrated edges.

Indenture and counterpart matched along their scalloped edges. Lease between John Kaye, of Denby Grange and lessee John North of Bankend for land in Almondbury in Yorkshire, 1639. Kaye Family Estate Papers. Call Number: MS 240B: 110-111. Click image to enlarge.

In later years, it was not uncommon to see printed indentures–essentially “forms” in which the formulaic parts are printed and the particulars were added in manuscript.  Spencer’s English Historical Documents collection includes many printed apprenticeship indentures from the 19th century.  It is fascinating to see how the printed forms (still on parchment, mind you!) can be tailored to cover the specific details of a given agreement.  A common stipulation of such agreements was that the apprentice agree not to partake in a variety of activities that might negatively impact his Master or divert the apprentice’s attentions (“he shall not play at Cards, Dice, Tables, or any other unlawful Games…” nor “haunt Taverns or Playhouses, nor absent himself from his said Master’s Service Day or Night”).  In the case of the apprenticeship indenture of young Thomas Inkpen (who, based on his name, clearly missed his calling as a scrivener) to the tailor Dennis O’Leary (below), we can see that the prohibition against fornication or marriage has been struck out, leaving him free to marry during his seven-year term of apprenticeship. Indeed, this stipulation may have been omitted because Inkpen was already married or engaged. (It’s also interesting to note that Inkpen signs his own name, but O’Leary, the tailor to whom he will be apprenticed, signs only with his “mark.”)

Image of an apprenticeship indenture with fornication/marriage clause struck out, 1821.

Photograph of a detail from an apprenticeship indenture with clause prohibiting fornication/marriage struck out, 1821

Apprenticeship indenture of Thomas Inkpen to tailor Dennis O’Leary. February 28, 1821. English Historical Documents Collection. Call Number: MS 239:3818.  Click images to enlarge.

Female apprentices might also occasion the alteration of the printed part of the indenture, which most often assumed a male apprentice.  In the 1834 indenture of eleven year-old Rebecca Dale to  Richard Gray, a Tambour worker and Dressmaker, male pronouns on the printed part of the form have been crossed-out and replaced with female ones.

Image of an apprenticeship indenture form modified by hand for a female apprentice, 1834.

Detail from an apprenticeship indenture form with manuscript modifications for a female apprentice, 1834.

He to She and His to Her: Apprenticeship indenture for Rebecca Dale to Richard Gray, Tambour worker and Dress maker . December 13, 1834. English Historical Documents. Call Number: MS 239:3823. Click images to enlarge.

 Female apprentices soon became common enough that some printers left blanks on their forms to allow for the possibility.  Though the following 1842 indenture is for a boy, William Hicks, to be apprenticed to John Weekes, a Tinman, Coppersmith, and Brazier, the blanks permit it to accommodate a female apprentice with equal ease and even allow for a “Mistress” rather than a “Master.”

Image of apprenticeship indenture with blanks to accommodate both sexes, 1842

Image of a detail from a printed apprenticeship indenture with blanks to allow for either a master or mistress or a male or female apprentice

Fill in the blank: M(aster) or M(istress)? Indenture for William Hicks, Jr. to be apprenticed to John Weekes, Tinman, Coppersmith, and Brazier. November 28, 1842. English Historical Documents Collection. Call Number: MS 239: 3787.

Spencer’s English Historical Documents collection, comprising over 7000 English deeds and manorial, estate, probate and family documents dating roughly from 1200 to 1900, offers a rich resource for investigating the changing face of the indenture.  It also offers insight into two prominent English families, the Kayes of Yorkshire, and the North Family, whose illustrious members include Frederick North, Prime Minister of Great Britain during the American War of Independence.   An online finding aid is currently in progress, but in the interim we encourage interested researchers to contact us with their queries.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian
[With special thanks to Mary Ann Baker, processing archivist for the English Historical Documents collection, for locating and identifying the counterparts referred to in this post.]

Collection Snapsot: A Presidential Pardon

February 21st, 2013

In honor of Presidents’ Day (and the upcoming Academy Awards with a certain Lincoln movie in the lead with twelve nominations), we highlight this Presidential pardon signed by Abraham Lincoln on November 25, 1864.

He pardoned one Gordon Lafitte, alias Gibson, for “making counterfeit coin.” Mr. Lafitte had served 4/5ths of his 5 year sentence and was pardoned for good behavior while behind bars.

Photograph of Lincoln Pardon of Gordon Lafitte (p. 1)  Photograph of Lincoln Pardon of Gordon Lafitte (p. 2)

Pardon for Gordon Lafitte. Signed by Abraham Lincoln and William H. Seward. November 25, 1864.
Call number: MS Q2:1. Click images to enlarge.

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services