In the Galvin Rare Book Room, a solitary, nondescript ship’s journal continuously captures the imagination and interest of students, staff, and visitors. The journal is about 165 years old, weathered and worn, with almost every inch of space between its covers filled with log entries, drawings, or notes. Occasionally, a dried leaf or a beautiful, swooping signature appears on its faded blue pages. The journal begins with typical, mid-nineteenth century whaling log entries, but they slowly become less formulaic and turn into, what seem to be, long pieces of poetry and stories.
The majority of our information about this journal derives from brief glances, short readings, and photographing, as the library knows very little about the origins or provenance of this particular item. We aren’t sure to whom it once belonged, how it came to be in the library’s collections, or even why it might have arrived in Richmond. After a very helpful consultation with experts at the Mariner’s Museum Library, it seems likely, based on handwriting changes, that there was more than one journalist throughout the book.
A potential journalist might have been a fellow by the name of Vernon Guyon Locke, whose signature appears frequently in both the margins and across entire pages. After a bit of research into this name, it was discovered that Locke, a British citizen, was an accused pirate during the Civil War. There is very little information about Locke during the 1850s, and perhaps this journal could shed light into his story.
In order to try and understand Locke and the other stories held within the journal’s pages, we know that transcriptions and historical expertise are essential. Our hope is that interested community members will visit our digital exhibition of the journal, where each page image is listed alongside an online transcription tool. Once registered, contributors can follow the transcription instructions on each page to add their typed translation of the handwriting.
We will be holding a Transcribathon on Wednesday, November 18th to kick off transcription. Registration is required, and can be completed online: http://library.richmond.edu/about/transcribathon.html
Even if you can’t join us for the event, you can start transcribing, researching, or exploring the journal anytime at sailaway.richmond.edu.