From the Research Shelf

Last week, Melissab. Wrote:
“In order to improve my own writing process in this respect, I am trying to build a library of key reference books for romance set in 19th c. Britain. Would you or some of the other Word Wenches be willing to share your “must have” reference tools?”

We Wenches decided that was such a good question, we’ve turned it into a blog. Though we’ve visited this topic before earlier this year as “Research Books I Have Loved” (http://wordwenches.typepad.com/word_wenches/2006/06/research_books_.html#comments), it’s always worth another discussion.

From Mary Jo:
One of my best reference texts is THE LONDON ENCYCLOPEDIA edited by Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert. It’s a big expensive book, but full of the most incredibly useful information. You can get the history of buildings and park, lighting, the police, street peddlers, etc, etc, etc. Worth the investment.

Another book I reach for a lot, though it might be hard to get, is the Automobile Association’s ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO BRITAIN. It’s out of print now, but by going to Amazon UK I found some used copies for reasonable prices. Here’s the url: http://tinyurl.com/zhyxb It was written as a road tour book, but it’s full of pictures from towns and countryside all over the country. There will be brief descriptions of towns and mentions of old building, plus there are special articles on things like trees and British ponies and other cool stuff. Other AA publications are also very useful.

Lastly, I’d get a copy of Emily Hendrickson’s REGENCY REFERENCE BOOK, which is now available in CD form. Dee Hendrickson was a mainstay of the Signet Regency line for years and a meticulous researcher, so she knows what Regency writers needs to know.

From Edith:
I’m on a deadline, and I’m done for the day but I can’t stop typing! (help!)
So here’s my three fave source books:

THE PRINCE OF PLEASURE, by J. B. Priestley – has some errors, but who cares? Beautifully written and illustrated, and gives the whole feeling of an era.

1815 AN END AND A BEGINNING by John Fisher: Again, not complete, but paints a Regency portrait.

THE REGENCY COMPANION, Laudermilk and Hamlin: earnest research.

From Pat:
I have so many more faves that I only chose those closest to me on my desk.

I second MJ on the AA BOOK OF THE COUNTRYSIDE and Dee’s REGENCY REFERENCE BOOK. When I’m writing that era, they stay on my desk.

But I write in several centuries and tend toward more general books to get overall pictures. Aside from the usual costume books, I’ve found ROAD TO DIVORCE by Lawrence Stone to be exceedingly fascinating and informative, especially when I want to play around with the marriage laws. It covers 1587 until the 1980s I believe.

And because I usually write rural settings instead of London, I use the SHELL BOOK OF COTTAGES by Richard Reid for house descriptions. It’s not limited to 19th century by any means.

And because I like going back to the origins of slang, I keep the CLASSICAL DICTIONARY OF THE VULGAR TONGUE, by Captain Francis Grose as edited by Eric Partridge at hand at all times. The insults alone are worth the price.

From Loretta:
Did we include info on how to get Dee’s book (REGENCY REFERENCE BOOK)? She’s got an update CD available. I’ve found her reference more useful, actually, than the Laudermilk/Hamlin. More detail about tricky stuff.
http://www.emilyhendrickson.com/referencebook.html

From Mary Jo:
Actually, the AA BOOK OF THE COUNTRYSIDE is a different book. I have that one, too. It’s also extremely good and I keep it within grabbing distance. It’s well worth browsing the AA books to find ones that might fit a particular story.

Plus, my favorite “thesaurous” is THE SYNONYM FINDER by J. I. Rodale. It’s works just like a dictionary, which I find much easier than the standard thesaurous style.

From Susan/Sarah:
I had already drafted a blog on general sources and haven’t used it yet.. So I’ll polish that up for Thursday to follow up this multi-Wench discussion of research sources for the 19th century

From Loretta:
Hey, you guys are too quick. You’re naming all my faves. No, that’s OK, now I think about it, because it’s hard picking only three. Here’s my contribution:

LIFE IN THE ENGLISH COUNTRY HOUSE by Mark Girouard
THE ENGLISH by Christopher Hibbert
THE BIRTH OF THE MODERN; WORLD SOCIETY 1815-1830 by Paul Johnson. I think I’ve turned to this book at least once in the course of writing nearly all of my historicals.

From Susan/Miranda:
Argghh, you guys ARE fast. I would have suggested both Captain Grose’s VULGAR TONGUE and the Girouard COUNTRY HOUSE.

I’m a visual person, so I’ll make my books “picture books” (for writers, one picture truly can be worth a thousand words), full of illustrations. And since Melissab said she was interested in late Victorian as well as Regency, I’ll add a couple of those.

VICTORIAN AND EDWARDIAN FASHION: A VISUAL SURVEY by Alison Gernsheim. Lots of historical photographs, mostly portraits, with good descriptive notes. One of those fantastic Dover bargains, too, with a cover price under $10.00!

VICTORIANS AT HOME, by Susan Lasdun (and an introduction by Mark Girouard, so you know it’s a goodie). Paintings, drawings, and photographs of 19th century English interiors, both grand and humble.

JANE AUSTEN’S TOWN AND COUNTRY STYLE, by Susan Watkins. Again, lots of photographs, not only of the houses that likely morphed into the ones described in Austen’s books, but also of useful things like a recreated dinner party table, complete with food.

From Jo:
I pretty well stop at 1820, so my stuff is pre that. I’ll recommend primary sources.

A RESIDENCE AT THE COURT OF ST. JAMES by Richard Rush. Century Hutchinson. There are extracts here.
http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/encap/skilton/nonfic/rush01.html

ACKERMAN’S LONDON ILLUSTRATED, Wordsworth Press.
And any copy of the ANNUAL REGISTER you can get your hands on. There’s one for every year and they’re a great snapshot of Britain at that moment. Some pictures are on line here.
http://www.noelcollection.org/noel/ackermann/index.html

And any copy of the ANNUAL REGISTER you can get your hands on. There’s one for every year and they’re a great snapshot of Britain at that moment. There are some on line, but only from the 18th century. http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/cgibin/ilej/pbrowse.pl?item=title&id=ILEJ.5.&title=Annual+Register

27 thoughts on “From the Research Shelf”

  1. Two books that I think novelists might find useful are:
    ‘The Victorian House’, Judith Flanders (London 2003) and ‘A Woman’s Work is Never Done: a history of housework in the British Isles 1650-1950’, by Caroline Davidson (London 1982 / (paperback edn.)1986).
    Flanders goes through the living-spaces of the typical Victorian (British) house discussing the functions and rituals connected with each area. It is social history rather than an architectural study.
    Davidson gives a lot of detail about everyday tasks, many of which are not, of course, specific to the British Isles but have a wider application. Both books are scholarly, properly referenced, well illustrated and readable.

    Reply
  2. Two books that I think novelists might find useful are:
    ‘The Victorian House’, Judith Flanders (London 2003) and ‘A Woman’s Work is Never Done: a history of housework in the British Isles 1650-1950’, by Caroline Davidson (London 1982 / (paperback edn.)1986).
    Flanders goes through the living-spaces of the typical Victorian (British) house discussing the functions and rituals connected with each area. It is social history rather than an architectural study.
    Davidson gives a lot of detail about everyday tasks, many of which are not, of course, specific to the British Isles but have a wider application. Both books are scholarly, properly referenced, well illustrated and readable.

    Reply
  3. Two books that I think novelists might find useful are:
    ‘The Victorian House’, Judith Flanders (London 2003) and ‘A Woman’s Work is Never Done: a history of housework in the British Isles 1650-1950’, by Caroline Davidson (London 1982 / (paperback edn.)1986).
    Flanders goes through the living-spaces of the typical Victorian (British) house discussing the functions and rituals connected with each area. It is social history rather than an architectural study.
    Davidson gives a lot of detail about everyday tasks, many of which are not, of course, specific to the British Isles but have a wider application. Both books are scholarly, properly referenced, well illustrated and readable.

    Reply
  4. OK, here goes. My list is skewed a bit toward the military and the Peninsular Wars, since that’s where my muse has been leading me of late:
    JANE AUSTEN AND FOOD, by Maggie Lane. Sort of a social history of what was eaten and how in the middle and upper classes throughout our era.
    JANE AUSTEN: THE WORLD OF HER NOVELS, by Deirdre Le Faye. Mostly a book-by-book view of the historical background behind each Austen work, with all kinds of useful details of daily life.
    IN THE FAMILY WAY: CHILDBEARING IN THE BRITISH ARISTOCRACY 1760-1860, by Judith Schneid Lewis. Lots of useful detail on pregnancy, birth, and motherhood, and good social history besides.
    Moving onto my military books…
    LIFE IN WELLINGTON’S ARMY, by Antony Brett-James. If you want to write a Peninsular War story or go into detail on your ex-army hero’s background, this is the book to find. Wonderful detail, packed with quotes from memoirs and letters.
    WELLINGTON’S ARMY: UNIFORMS OF THE BRITISH SOLDIER 1812-1815, illustrations by Charles Hamilton Smith, text by Philip Haythornthwaite. Period color illustrations of the various regiments, with helpful background text.
    WELLINGTON’S ARMY IN THE PENINSULA 1809-1814, by Stuart Reid. Dry as dust, but invaluable if you’re an accuracy geek like me who puts your hero in a real regiment and then needs to keep track of where he was and who commanded his division when.
    WELLINGTON’S RIFLES and THE MAN WHO BROKE NAPOLEON’S CODES, by Mark Urban. More readable than the other military sources on my list, and great for getting an overview, a sense of personalities, etc.

    Reply
  5. OK, here goes. My list is skewed a bit toward the military and the Peninsular Wars, since that’s where my muse has been leading me of late:
    JANE AUSTEN AND FOOD, by Maggie Lane. Sort of a social history of what was eaten and how in the middle and upper classes throughout our era.
    JANE AUSTEN: THE WORLD OF HER NOVELS, by Deirdre Le Faye. Mostly a book-by-book view of the historical background behind each Austen work, with all kinds of useful details of daily life.
    IN THE FAMILY WAY: CHILDBEARING IN THE BRITISH ARISTOCRACY 1760-1860, by Judith Schneid Lewis. Lots of useful detail on pregnancy, birth, and motherhood, and good social history besides.
    Moving onto my military books…
    LIFE IN WELLINGTON’S ARMY, by Antony Brett-James. If you want to write a Peninsular War story or go into detail on your ex-army hero’s background, this is the book to find. Wonderful detail, packed with quotes from memoirs and letters.
    WELLINGTON’S ARMY: UNIFORMS OF THE BRITISH SOLDIER 1812-1815, illustrations by Charles Hamilton Smith, text by Philip Haythornthwaite. Period color illustrations of the various regiments, with helpful background text.
    WELLINGTON’S ARMY IN THE PENINSULA 1809-1814, by Stuart Reid. Dry as dust, but invaluable if you’re an accuracy geek like me who puts your hero in a real regiment and then needs to keep track of where he was and who commanded his division when.
    WELLINGTON’S RIFLES and THE MAN WHO BROKE NAPOLEON’S CODES, by Mark Urban. More readable than the other military sources on my list, and great for getting an overview, a sense of personalities, etc.

    Reply
  6. OK, here goes. My list is skewed a bit toward the military and the Peninsular Wars, since that’s where my muse has been leading me of late:
    JANE AUSTEN AND FOOD, by Maggie Lane. Sort of a social history of what was eaten and how in the middle and upper classes throughout our era.
    JANE AUSTEN: THE WORLD OF HER NOVELS, by Deirdre Le Faye. Mostly a book-by-book view of the historical background behind each Austen work, with all kinds of useful details of daily life.
    IN THE FAMILY WAY: CHILDBEARING IN THE BRITISH ARISTOCRACY 1760-1860, by Judith Schneid Lewis. Lots of useful detail on pregnancy, birth, and motherhood, and good social history besides.
    Moving onto my military books…
    LIFE IN WELLINGTON’S ARMY, by Antony Brett-James. If you want to write a Peninsular War story or go into detail on your ex-army hero’s background, this is the book to find. Wonderful detail, packed with quotes from memoirs and letters.
    WELLINGTON’S ARMY: UNIFORMS OF THE BRITISH SOLDIER 1812-1815, illustrations by Charles Hamilton Smith, text by Philip Haythornthwaite. Period color illustrations of the various regiments, with helpful background text.
    WELLINGTON’S ARMY IN THE PENINSULA 1809-1814, by Stuart Reid. Dry as dust, but invaluable if you’re an accuracy geek like me who puts your hero in a real regiment and then needs to keep track of where he was and who commanded his division when.
    WELLINGTON’S RIFLES and THE MAN WHO BROKE NAPOLEON’S CODES, by Mark Urban. More readable than the other military sources on my list, and great for getting an overview, a sense of personalities, etc.

    Reply
  7. I concur with Mary Jo re The London Encyclopedia – it’s wonderful. Also love both of Girouard’s books – English Country House and French Country House.
    Europe at Home: Family and Material Culture, 1500–1800 by Rafaella Sarti is another of my faves along with Elizabeth Sparrow’s Secret Service: British Agents in France, 1792-1815. And, of course, Brohaugh’s English Through the Ages is invaluable, when used in conjunction with the OED, Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and Etymonline.com.

    Reply
  8. I concur with Mary Jo re The London Encyclopedia – it’s wonderful. Also love both of Girouard’s books – English Country House and French Country House.
    Europe at Home: Family and Material Culture, 1500–1800 by Rafaella Sarti is another of my faves along with Elizabeth Sparrow’s Secret Service: British Agents in France, 1792-1815. And, of course, Brohaugh’s English Through the Ages is invaluable, when used in conjunction with the OED, Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and Etymonline.com.

    Reply
  9. I concur with Mary Jo re The London Encyclopedia – it’s wonderful. Also love both of Girouard’s books – English Country House and French Country House.
    Europe at Home: Family and Material Culture, 1500–1800 by Rafaella Sarti is another of my faves along with Elizabeth Sparrow’s Secret Service: British Agents in France, 1792-1815. And, of course, Brohaugh’s English Through the Ages is invaluable, when used in conjunction with the OED, Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and Etymonline.com.

    Reply
  10. “Goddess of the Research Post”, Mary Jo?? It’s more of a Pantheon of Research Goddesses on this blog! 🙂
    I’m glad to see people sharing book titles here. While it’s generally best to go back to the oldest, most original source you can, many times the newer books have the same info, and they’re a whole lot more accessible for quick reference.
    And if we were going to be any particular Research Goddess, I’d probably be the Goddess Wench of Costume Research. Hmmm, that may make another “Research Shelf” blog down the line…..
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  11. “Goddess of the Research Post”, Mary Jo?? It’s more of a Pantheon of Research Goddesses on this blog! 🙂
    I’m glad to see people sharing book titles here. While it’s generally best to go back to the oldest, most original source you can, many times the newer books have the same info, and they’re a whole lot more accessible for quick reference.
    And if we were going to be any particular Research Goddess, I’d probably be the Goddess Wench of Costume Research. Hmmm, that may make another “Research Shelf” blog down the line…..
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  12. “Goddess of the Research Post”, Mary Jo?? It’s more of a Pantheon of Research Goddesses on this blog! 🙂
    I’m glad to see people sharing book titles here. While it’s generally best to go back to the oldest, most original source you can, many times the newer books have the same info, and they’re a whole lot more accessible for quick reference.
    And if we were going to be any particular Research Goddess, I’d probably be the Goddess Wench of Costume Research. Hmmm, that may make another “Research Shelf” blog down the line…..
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  13. Hi. This is great info! I tried the reference to the earlier Research and nothing came up. Is there a more specific cite? Or a date?
    Thank you,
    Laura T

    Reply
  14. Hi. This is great info! I tried the reference to the earlier Research and nothing came up. Is there a more specific cite? Or a date?
    Thank you,
    Laura T

    Reply
  15. Hi. This is great info! I tried the reference to the earlier Research and nothing came up. Is there a more specific cite? Or a date?
    Thank you,
    Laura T

    Reply
  16. Laura T–
    To locate the blog I mentioned, go over the right-hand column of the home page, and scroll down until you see the names of the months. Click on June, and wayyyyyyy down at the bottom of the June blogs, you’ll see “Research Books I Have Loved.”
    A whole lot of scollin’, but you’ll see it.
    Good luck!
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  17. Laura T–
    To locate the blog I mentioned, go over the right-hand column of the home page, and scroll down until you see the names of the months. Click on June, and wayyyyyyy down at the bottom of the June blogs, you’ll see “Research Books I Have Loved.”
    A whole lot of scollin’, but you’ll see it.
    Good luck!
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  18. Laura T–
    To locate the blog I mentioned, go over the right-hand column of the home page, and scroll down until you see the names of the months. Click on June, and wayyyyyyy down at the bottom of the June blogs, you’ll see “Research Books I Have Loved.”
    A whole lot of scollin’, but you’ll see it.
    Good luck!
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply

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