My collecting story… B.D. in Thornhill, Ontario…

June 5, 2020 by  
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Below we continue our series in which we post the “stories” graciously submitted by our collecting friends during the pandemic of 2020.

Some years ago, maybe fifteen, I purchased a London Chronicle newspaper from Timothy Hughes newspapers. This was mainly for the fun of having an old newspaper from ‘the old country’. I have purchased quite a few since then and actually got round to reading some for the fascinating items that the contain. One such item concerns the creation of the chronometer by John Harrison in the 1700s. I had seen his chronometers displayed at the observatory in Greenwich, produced by Harrison in response to Queen Anne’s contest offering a huge reward for a successful timepiece but I could not find out for certain if Harrison was ever paid by the British Government.

LONDON CHRONICLE, London, 1765. Volume XVIII from Saturday, November 2 to Tuesday, November 5, 1765. Contains, on page 436, A Copy of the Certificate of the Commissioners of the Longitude … relating to Mr John Harrison’s Time Keeper, authorizing the payment to him of the 7,500 pounds, less the 2,500 already paid out. According to Wiki, Harrison received 8750 pounds in 1773 when he was 80 years of age but the “official award (from year 12 of Queen Anne’s reign) of 7,500 pounds was never given to anyone”. Dava Sobel in her wonderful book Longitude (London, Fourth Estate, 1995) says that Harrison’s son, William, sought the king’s intervention (George III) resulting in a payment to John Harrison of 8,750 pounds in June 1773, noting that ‘this amount nearly totaled the remainder of the prize due to him, but that it was a bounty awarded by the benevolence of Parliament – in spite of the Board of Longitude, instead of from it.’ Elsewhere, I have read that his son received this after his father’s death but I cannot recall in which newspaper (one in my collection, I think). This seems to set my questions to rest. It would appear that he was and he wasn’t, depending on how you look at it! He received the cash but not the ‘prize’.

Making the effort to read the newspapers is extremely rewarding but not without it’s difficulties. Some of the older papers, before 1700 are not so easy, especially those using ‘old English’ but it is very rewarding to plunge into the atmosphere created by ‘on the spot reporting’. Some of the items are quite extensive and take a while to plough through. I recently came across the item shown below:

The Supplement for the Year 1793 (to The Gentleman’s Magazine), London, includes on page 1208 an extract of a letter written by an Officer of the Agamemnon of 64 guns, Captain Horatio Nelson, and dated at Tunis, November 8, 1793 (see below). I have had this item for several years and only just spent some time (during this pandemic) reading it properly. I have hundreds yet to scrutinize! Perhaps I will find something that leads to a great historical revelation, or perhaps I will just enjoy reading about history from the pens of people who lived that history!


As additional “stories” are posted they will be available at: MY COLLECTING STORY. We did this many years ago as well – and their posts are also included.

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