Foxhunting Diary, 1816

Today’s post is a bit brief. I want to highlight a tiny (about six inches by four inches) foxhunting diary in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. It was donated by Virginia Fout in 2008. This diary is by an unknown author and covers 1816 to 1820. It features brief, staccato hunting entries.

A foxhunting diary from 1816. Legibility is difficult.
A foxhunting diary from 1816. Legibility is difficult.

Foxhunting is a very old sport, dating back into the 15th and 16th Centuries. Modern foxhunting, however, is generally accepted to have started in the middle of the 18th Century. Many factors contributed to the sport’s rise in popularity. As open fields became enclosed by fences and the Industrial Revolution brought more roadways into rural environments, foxes and hares became a more sporting hunt than the traditional deer hunt. Speaking of foxhunting, don’t forget about our upcoming Foxhunting Roundtable, The Dynamic Role of Lady Masters: A Foxhunting Roundtable. It will take place at NSLM on Saturday, May 23. E-mail us for information on this event

The book is very small, a pocket diary. It's unlikely that notes were made from horseback, as early 18th Century writing utensils were unwieldy and required dipping ink.
The book is very small, a pocket diary. It’s unlikely that notes were made from horseback, as early 18th Century writing utensils were unwieldy and required dipping ink.

The second image shows a diary entry for hunting on December 15 in Stratton Audley. It suggests that the hunter was in South East England. On the inside of the front cover is a news clipping date 1817. It is addressed “To the Editor of the Lichfield Mercury,” and it references the temporary departure of Mr. Osbaldeston’s Fox Hounds to Lincolnshire.

The news clipping. The small size of the book made getting a clear photo nearly impossible for my little digital camera.
The news clipping, with heavy foxing. The small size of the book made getting a clear photo nearly impossible for my little digital camera.

The writing in the diary is very difficult to make out. Hopefully one day soon this little book will be digitized, and then the public will be able to try their hand and transcribing it! What words can you make out? Tell us in the comments!

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2 Comments

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    • Yes, Beth! Foxhunting is very ancient. I forget where at the moment, but I remember reading somewhere that foxhunting might date back as far as the Roman Empire! However, foxhunting as we know it today is a tradition dating back to the 1700s. Over three hundred years and still going!

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