Week -4: The Book is Finished!

. . . and it’s away!  Shortly before midnight last night I hit send on the e-mail which delivered a full manuscript of The First Scottish Enlightenment to my editor at OUP.  Alert readers may have noticed that my actual submission deadline was the end of July rather than the end of August.  They may also have noticed my over-enthusiastic conference attendance for much of the summer.  The two combined to put me behind schedule, but after a punishing few weeks I’ve nonetheless succeeded in sending the manuscript off before teaching begins.

In the spirit of this series of blog posts – which were, at least notionally, intended to be about the process of completing a book project – I thought I’d share the academic life-lessons I’ve learnt over the last couple of weeks.  They’re all extremely obvious, especially in hindsight, but maybe that’s also why they’re worth talking about.

Pen?

VI. Never underestimate the importance of having a dedicated research assistant.

V. You don’t need to chase that citation.  Much of my time over the last few weeks has been spent in university libraries trying to chase up obscure books I thought I should probably look at and cite (anyone familiar with Aristide Joly’s 1934 Université de Paris doctoral thesis on the Duke of Perth?).  But very few of these have had any material impact on the book as a whole.  Many more or less frustrating hours could have been saved by simply accepting that it’s impossible to ever be completely exhaustive in your research.

IV. Don’t think about publication.  I’m bad about keeping my head in the present at the best of times, but I’ve been finding myself particularly side-tracked worrying about reviews, about what colleagues will think, and about what the overall reception of the book will be.  The rational part of me knows, though, that such thoughts were less than helpful in bringing this project to its conclusion.

III. Obtain image permissions well ahead of submission.  I really wish I’d done this.

II. Read your publisher’s style guide.  This is something I actually did do, but even so I found myself having to make last-minute changes due to not having read it with sufficient care.

And crucially . . .

I. Use bibliographical software and/or maintain a running bibliography.  I wrote my bibliography from scratch between Tuesday and last night – it was absolute hell.  Next time I think I’ll have a go at using EndNote or Zotero or something similar.

Despite my questionable life choices, the book is still finished!  Now time to prepare for the new semester’s teaching and begin thinking about what comes next (the answer, of course, is lots of carved stones) . . . .

Copyright © 2018 Kelsey Jackson Williams

Back to the Book

When I signed my book contract in February, I wrote that I hoped to blog on the experience of completing The First Scottish Enlightenment. Predictably, term-time intervened and I’ve had little enough progress to report over the last few months. Now that marking is (mostly) over, though, and I have only one or two pressing deadlines to keep me occupied, I thought I would return to the subject and say a little about what I’ve been doing and what I’m planning to do.

For the last year or so I’ve found myself mapping my research and writing schedule ever more meticulously. I’d set longterm goals for myself before, but the sobering sight of the Historian from The Historian’s Desk preparing a colour-coded thirty-six week thesis completion plan and then completing it on the dot encouraged me to be more precise and detailed than I had been previously. Now I draw up a week-by-week plan at the beginning of each semester and at the start of the summer holiday, laying out what I know or can anticipate about my teaching and administrative responsibilities and trying to fit research around those in a reasonably sensible way. I can think of many friends who would find this an appalling way to live life, but for me it helps maintain equilibrium, lets me know what I ought to be doing and when, and gives a larger view of projects and how they’ll be completed.

A couple of weeks ago, then, I did this for the coming summer. While the new book is far from being the only project I need to be getting on with over the next few months, it’s certainly the main one and much of my planning consisted of deciding (a) how much I could reasonably expect to write, (b) which chapters I wanted to write, and (c) what I needed to do to make that happen. In terms of how much, I wavered between three and four chapters as an ideal goal, eventually settling on four. That’s a lot to get done in four months, I know, and it may not happen, so in settling on the which I decided to focus on chapters for which I’d already finished (or almost finished) the research and for which I had substantial notes, outlines, or even portions already to hand.

The chapter I want to write first looks at the new forms of textual scholarship developed by the Congregation of Saint Maur in France, their peak in the works of Jean Mabillon (1632-1707), and their reception in Scotland from the 1690s through the 1750s. I’m planning to organise it around a series of key texts and events which were, I think, definitive in conditioning how Maurist scholarship was received by Scots: the stage-managed “verification” of a medieval charter before the Jacobite court in 1694, James Anderson’s lifelong attempt to create a Scottish guide to diplomatic along the lines of Mabillon’s De re diplomatica, Patrick Abercromby and Robert Keith’s histories of late medieval and reformation Scotland, the long-running debate over the legitimacy of Robert III (which was, of course, not really about the legitimacy of a fourteenth-century king at all, but about forms of government and their implications), and, finally, the creation of a series of forgeries of medieval documents by Marianus Brockie.

Mabillon

A bust of one of the key figures of the next chapter, Jean Mabillon, in one of its key locations, the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris (courtesy French Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0).

It’s a chunky beast, to be sure, but it’s one that’s central to my larger argument and which I’ve already put quite a lot of thought into. I’m aiming to have a draft complete by the end of May. Fingers crossed . . . .

Copyright © 2017 Kelsey Jackson Williams

What David Drummond Read

One chapter of my new book is devoted to the reception of the historical-antiquarian works I study. As part of that I’ve been putting together a sprawling spreadsheet of the 4,000 or so persons known to have subscribed for scholarly texts published in Edinburgh between 1708 (when publication by subscription seems to have first been used by a Scottish printer) and 1740. This sort of data entry is not a glamorous exercise, by any means, but the reward of being able to see who cared about what book and when is well worth it.

Many heavy subscribers are unsurprising. David Freebairn the bookseller appears regularly, as do wealthy collectors like the Earls of Dundonald and Forfar or learned ones like Duncan Forbes of Culloden and James Erskine of Grange. Sometimes, though, you come across less familiar faces and it’s the reconstruction of their habits and contexts I’ve found most rewarding.

One name which appears on seven different subscription lists between 1708 and 1728, the heart of my period of study, is “Mr. David Drummond, Advocate”.

Subscription List

“Mr. David Drummond, Advocate”, situated within a bevy of Drummonds who subscribed to the second volume of George Mackenzie’s Lives and Characters of the Most Eminent Writers of the Scots Nation in 1711.

Drummond’s subscription history begins with volumes 1 and 2 of Mackenzie’s Lives and Characters (1708, 1711), continues with the two volumes of the Catholic historian Patrick Abercromby’s Martial Atchievements of the Scots Nation (1711, 1715), returns to the third and final volume of Mackenzie’s work (1722), and finishes off with James Freebairn’s translation of The Life of Mary Stewart, Queen of Scotland and France (1725) and a new edition of Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie’s History of Scotland (1728). Altogether, solid evidence of a man fascinated by the history of his country.

But who was Drummond? What sort of person was reading these books? The son of a minister, Drummond was a Jacobite and was imprisoned in the Edinburgh Tolbooth for “some time” beginning in December 1689. It may even have been during this imprisonment that he prepared a scribal copy of his cousin Viscount Strathallan’s genealogy of the Drummonds, early evidence of his historical interests. Although described as an advocate in the subscription lists, he had ceased to practice after refusing to take the Oaths of Loyalty to the Williamite regime, instead serving as treasurer to the Bank of Scotland and assisting in the management of the estates of his exiled kinsman, the arch-Jacobite Earl of Perth.

Archers Uniform

The rather dashing uniform of the Royal Company of Archers, of which Drummond was a member (Wikipedia, Public Domain).

Drummond was also a friend of the Episcopal, Jacobite poet Archibald Pitcairne, who addressed several poems to him, as well being acquainted with Allan Ramsay and the other poets and gentlemen associated with the Royal Company of Archers, of which Drummond served as president in the fateful year of 1715. He died in February 1740, still treasurer of the Bank of Scotland, and left behind a son who he had sent to my own alma mater of Balliol College, Oxford, as a Snell Exhibitioner in 1717 (strongly suggesting the family were Episcopalians).

de Medina, John Baptist, 1659-1710; Archibald Pitcairne (1652-1713), FRCSEd (1701)

Drummond’s friend, the bibulous poet Archibald Pitcairne (1652-1713) as painted by John Baptist de Medina (Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh).

On the one hand, a two-paragraph biography such as this one may seem like pretty thin soup on which to sup. But on the other, even these fragments can tell us a great detail. They reveal a man who was at the heart of early Enlightenment Scottish culture, with links to poets, historians, and politicians whose contributions defined Scotland in this period. In many ways, Drummond represents the revisionary image of early eighteenth-century Scotland which my new book will be arguing for: Episcopal, Jacobite, well-educated, with links to the north of Scotland, and deeply fascinated by his country’s past.  The pleasure and the reward of working through the subscription lists I mentioned above lies in the snapshots they offer of people like Drummond: a forgotten reading public who devoured the publications I study.

Copyright © 2017 Kelsey Jackson Williams

The First Scottish Enlightenment: Contract Signed!

It’s a real pleasure to write that as of last week I’ve signed a contract with Oxford University Press for The First Scottish Enlightenment: Rebels, Priests, and History, with a manuscript due-date of spring 2018.  Going into the second book project I felt as if I understood the process much better than when I was working on The Antiquary, but that hasn’t stopped the thrill of signing the contract from being just as intense!

I’ve written about The First Scottish Enlightenment elsewhere, but to recap: I’ll be arguing for a Scottish Early Enlightenment which principally consisted of historical and antiquarian scholarship and which was centered on the Episcopalian and Catholic communities of the north-east.  It is – I hope – a slightly controversial thesis, but also one that desperately needs to be made if we’re to understand early modern Scottish culture on its own terms.  I’ll be looking at a variety of printed and archival sources – notebooks, letters, pamphlets, scholarly folios, not to mention a certain number of paintings, coins, charters, genealogical trees, and similar art historical delights – and will be focusing (if you can call it that) on thirty-seven academics, printers, priests, soldiers, opera singers, landed gentlemen, poets, bureaucrats, and physicians active between about 1680 and 1750.  Most have never been the subject of academic study before now, but a few names are at least familiar in specialist circles: James Fraser (1634-1709), Alexander Gordon (c.1692-1754), Thomas Innes (1662-1744), Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh (1636/38-1691), and Thomas Ruddiman (1674-1757), to name a few.

dscf6756

A detail from the flourishing family tree of the Earls of Wigtown, one of the visual sources I’ll be discussing in the new book.

Now all I have to do is actually finish writing the book, somewhere in between teaching, admin, doctoral supervision, and life outside of academia.  When I was writing The Antiquary I found it tremendously encouraging to read the blogs of other scholars working on their books, not having moments of inspiration high in the ivory tower, but plugging away methodically and thoughtfully in between the other obligations of an academic career.  Over the next year and a bit I’m hoping to provide some encouragement (or at least amusement) in turn by writing a running commentary on the book and how it’s progressing.  For a start I can say that I haven’t worked on it at all since Christmas – too many other deadlines have been pressing – but that will hopefully change fairly soon.

Stay tuned . . . .

Copyright © 2017 Kelsey Jackson Williams