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An Uncommon Place

In the years just prior to Victoria's coronation in England, a family of engravers, located in Cambridge, begins a memory book. The tradition of the commonplace book can be seen as early as the 16th century--a volume of blank pages in which passages important for reference or recollection are gathered. The preface of the Storer family album, however, asks not for "extract however sublime, / From prose or poetic essay, / Nor scrap of inferior rhyme, / Transcribed from the news of the day"; instead, the demand is to "use the Original Pen." The result is an assemblage of drawings and original poetry. Among the art works are landscapes, such as the rendering of waves crashing against the rocks at Cornwall; watercolors of flora; allegorical compositions, such as the one below of a lion with its prey; portraits, some of professors at Cambridge University; and depictions of buildings, both interiors and exteriors, in and around Cambridge.

English draftsman and engraver James Sargant Storer (1771-1853) and his wife Mary Coe (1774 or 5-1824) had eleven children, many of whom were artists and engravers. The preface of the family album is attributed to their daughter Ann (b. 1805), an illustrator and engraver. The book's leading contributors comprise Ann; her father James; her brother, Henry Sargant Storer, who illustrated many books with his father; her sister Selina, an illustrator and engraver; her brother Ernest; and sisters Elizabeth and Sarah. The preponderance of entries range in date from 1829 to 1834, but the codex includes a few newspaper clippings from 1871 concerning "The Death of an Eccentric Lady" and "The Haunted House in Stamford Street," and--contrary to the preface's mandate--copied-out poems, presumably from this later period.

To see more of the Storer family commonplace book, request Ms. Coll.794 in the reading room of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Pencil drawing by Ernest Storer, 14 December 1830

"View in Cambridge"

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