Stratton, Miss. Manuscript on paper, in English. [Tiverton, UK, and elsewhere, 1837–60]. 4to (20.2 cm, 7.9"). [approx. 72] ff.
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“Miss Stratton” (possibly Ann Stratton) collected signatures and sentiments across almost a quarter century, in this handsome black leather blind-embossed album. She appears to have had connections with, or perhaps even more accurately to have been a “fan” of, the London
Missionary Society, and from these pages we see that one of the significant adventures of her life coincided with one of the great adventures of the LMS: Though her book’s calligraphic “title-page” places her home in Tiverton, in Devon, she apparently boarded the famous missionary barque John Williams (I) in London, as it was setting off on its maiden voyage to the South Pacific (June, 1844); and on the short farewell-filled passage between there and the Downs, she gathered handwritten mementos from those going on, halfway around the world.
Thus, amidst entries from other eras in her life, we find pages bearing sentiments and/or signatures from outward-bound missionaries Stevens, Powell, Heath, and Sutherland; the ship’s captain, R.C. Morgan, also signed boldly. Both David Darling and his wife, Jemima, wrote verses in English and more lengthily in (?)Tahitian; he identifies himself as “34 years Missionary in the South Sea Islands. Especially at Tahiti,” and is now remembered as having helped to translate the Bible into Marquesan. George and Sarah Gill signed—Gill is a name well known in the Cook Islands, and yes, these are “those” Gills. A native named “Aperaamo” (Abraham, according to a Samoan name site) has written his name, and so, just below in a hand that looks as if it may have been learned late in life, has one “Benjamin [Pikan?].” The ship is said to have had “two natives of the Society Islands” on board, and perhaps those two shared this page, which is captioned, in English and (?)Samoan, “Pray for Samoa.” Researchers more knowledgeable than we about missionary figures, and more adept in South Pacific languages, may with more time be able to work out other signatures and make more connections of interest.
Poetic excerpts and original sentiments, most explicitly religious in nature, make up the bulk of the rest of the book. Some of these entries seem to be utterly the usual for ladies’ commonplace compendia of the era—bits of Cowper, Byron, Pollock, neatly written and “signed” with the contributing friend’s unhelpful initials—but others suggest personality even in the copying, such as the “Extract from The Ancient Mariner” set down by, as he signs himself, “Adam Stuart Muir; of the Glasgow University, and Theological Academy.” Some apparently early entries are in a minute shorthand, or signed/annotated in it; some later ones once again evoke the mission-related exoticism of those heady John Williams pages. In 1846, Miss Stratton meets Robert Cotton Mather, LMS missionary and translator of the whole Bible into Hindustani: He writes out John 3:16 in that language and signs himself, “Missionary to Mirzapore.” In 1856, she garners the signature of the Rev. Isaia Papehia, a Tahitian member of the London Missionary Society who offers five lines in (?)Maori (“John 1.6.7”?): His signature includes the thrilling designation, “Rarotonga, South Seas.”
Purple, blue, yellow, green, and orange leaves are bound in among the white; some pages are “embossed” with decorative frames. In addition to the written entries, some in fine penmanship, a handful of engravings are glued in, and there are two accomplished, original pencilled vignettes signed E. Wilson.
Binding: Embossed black calf, featuring a lyre surrounded by foliate designs; single gold fillet around the covers, and all edges gilt.
For dates relating to the sailing(s) of the John Williams, and confirmation of some of the names found in our book, see: Sydney Shipping Gazette and Sydney General Trade List (for 1844), as found digitized at the National Library of Australia website. Binding as described above, neatly rebacked with edges lightly worn. Front pastedown with bookplate (“J.R. Buckle”). A few small spots, mostly to the clipped illustrations; one embossed leaf is tearing along and around its stamped frame. Inside back cover, a writer has used that “last page” to contemplate Last Things. A remarkably personal artifact of the English Victorian missionary-world, this album expresses faith and its era in ways variously charming, interesting, moving, and inspiring.
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