Tuesday, September 1, 2009

following John Quincy Adams

silhouette from National Galleries of Scotland.

The other day on Twitter, where I have been casually following the 1809 voyage notes by John Quincy Adams posted daily in tandem with the two hundredth anniversary of his voyage to Europe. The notes directed me to the Mass. Historical Society's blog where I discovered a post about all the books he was reading to kill the long hours of a two month journey where there was nothing to do but eat, exercise and sleep. Ok, they played some card games too but he did a lot of reading. I was curious about the books he read. Most were very classical histories of Roman men but JQ Adams seemed to be having great fun reading a lady"s letters. I looked the lady's letters up since it is available online. I started reading the same edition he was reading. Now it is on Google books from an original copy preserved in the New York Public Library collection. I found it a fascinating read, all the more interesting on the internet while looking up all the towns the author writes about on Google maps. Words I don't know also easy to look up on google or in dictionaries. What a way to read, it strikes me as very twenty first century: Twitter, Blogs, Google, Historical magic with nearly real time world view of the landscape in addition to numerous pictures posted on the maps by all sorts of modern people. It is like magically melting time and space. I can read descriptions of places and people in 1773 Scotland and go look at the satellite view of the areas and zoom in and observe micro details of towns, roads, lakes and geography and then see modern photographs of the same place as it looks now. I love the future.

copy of the post on Mass. History blog:>>>>
8/11/1809: Mrs Grant's Letters.
Anne McVicar Grant, Letters from the mountains: being the real correspondence of a lady, between the years 1773 and 1807. An 1809 edition (Boston: printed by Greenough and Stebbins) is available via the Internet Archive: Volume 1, Volume 2. In his long diary entry, JQA writes: "I employed much of [the day] in reading Mrs. Grant's letters, which I find more interesting than Plutarch. I return to them of choice, but Plutarch is a task, and a heavy one. I never could read him through. I find it especially hard to read him after a sleepless night; after two harder still."<<<<<
Above is a link to the google page for a look at this old book. I found that the introduction was kind of heavy but if you scroll to the first letter it is a fun historical read. Let me know what you think!

No comments: