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Common-place book of Harriet Holmes, 1818

Identifier: Coll-1415

Scope and Contents

No place of origin recorded. 1818-1820 4to., 98 pages (approx. 14,000 words) pen and ink drawings, entirely Holograph neat sloping hand, in contemp. red straight grain morocco, marbled paper sides, light wear.

This Commonplace Book commenced at the very end of 1818 and continued only for a few months gives an interesting indication of the interests of a young woman in her early twenties. The subjects are mostly copied and mostly on topical subjects. They include articles on a variety of subjects including 'The Origin of English Counties', the 'Building of Waterloo Bridge', 'Scientific Subjects', Short Stories, the search for 'Longitude at Sea' etc. There are three articles on Musical Instruments illustrated with pen and ink drawings. viz. 'The Icelandic Instrument Lang-spiel', 'The Clarinet, and The French Horn. The final article on the Races of Persia ends abruptly in mid sentence, shortly after the birth of her son.

Unusually, this commonplace book contains articles not normally associated with the readings of a young lady of this period and might well be at least partially influenced by the interests of her husband during the first year or so of their marriage prior to the arrival of their son Herbert.


  • Creation: 1818-1820


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Open to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance of visit.

Biographical / Historical

Harriet Spencer (nee Holmes), daughter of John Holmes, married William George Spencer in early 1819 and gave birth to the author/philosopher/polymath Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) on 27 April 1820.


1 volume

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Material acquired May 2012. Accession no: E2012.44

Processing Information

Catalogued by Graeme D. Eddie 16 January 2013

Manuscript common-place book on a variety of subjects by Harriet Spencer (nee Holmes), c. 1818-1820
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379