Paradigm, Vol. 2 (2), (October, 2000)

An old copy-book

Chris Stray

‘Some years ago I picked up from an old bookstall . . . ’ These are the opening words of the text reproduced in facsimile here. It first appeared in print in The Leisure Hour of New Year’s Day 1870 over the initials ‘J A H M’. Since then it has sunk into an obscurity from which we are happy to rescue it (a reprint in the Hawick Archaeological Society Transactions for 1910 will hardly have brought it to the attention of a wider public). The opening words apply just as well to the recent discovery of J A H M’s text, found in a battered copy of the 1870 volume of The Leisure Hour in a bookstall some years ago. The author’s initials, J A H M, were part of its charm, since they suggested (as proved to be the case) that the piece was written by James Murray, editor of the New English Dictionary, now known as the OED.

Brought up in Scotland, for some years a teacher himself, Murray must have taken a special pleasure in gaining from his ‘old copy-book’ a glimpse of the life of Scottish schoolboys in the early-17th century. The piece is interesting and consistent with the focus on copy-books in this issue and recent meetings of the Colloquium. Readers concerned with education of the classics as well as general historians of education will find it illuminating.

 


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