The picture above is of one of my favourite museum pieces, a beautiful handwritten book on mine ventilation. The subject matter is not hugely exciting but the piece has a heart and soul...
In the modern age we all write about the things that interest us most on platforms such as social media, whether it is a tale that you believe your friends will enjoy or a picture of the view from your balcony when you're on holiday, one thing is for certain its that we like to share our own interests with our friends and loves ones. But what about sharing information in the late nineteenth century, how would you document your interests in a form which could be shared or saved? In the Museum we have a piece that perfectly illustrates somebody from this period who attempted to just that. The piece is an exquisite handwritten book on the dangers of different gases underground and the advance in technology designed to overcome this issue.
The piece was written in 1895 by Levi Watkin of Maesteg, and at the moment we don't know much more that that. We know that it's all handwritten, littered with beautiful hand drawn diagrams and the text methodical and precise. The piece itself is in remarkable condition considering its over a hundred years old. It is not unusual to have a book written on aspects of industry, in fact it was commonplace, but the fact that it was handwritten is significant. The text has not been written for commission to then be printed and distributed widely, instead there is just one handwritten copy. As somebody who works in a Museum, i find this piece incredibly endearing because you can sense the man's passion for his subject. To sit down and write must have taken great time and effort. It is easy to tell that this man had an incredible knowledge of the industry but more than that he had a passion that spilled over into his private life and drove him to create this piece. We know nothing of Levi Watkin but we can presume that by the sheer scale of his knowledge that he must have worked as part of the mining industry. The subject matter is not revolutionary, or even remarkable, what this piece is instead is Watkin attempting to write down everything he knew and pass it on to a couple of similarly passionate people, but more likely it is just Watkin indulging his passion.
And I like that! I like that people stand out in the rain to go fishing at the side of the canal or metal detecting in a boggy field. If you asked them why they enjoyed the hobby they would probably just shrug and say 'dunno'. It is just an inexplicable feeling of content that you feel in your bones.
Whether it is on Facebook, Twitter or paper, we all do it and we all like to share it with each other.