"The game's afoot" is what Sherlock Holmes said to Dr. Watson to entice him to join in a search for clues to a mystery.
In July 2009, my second cousin Christine in the south of England told me that in about 1989 she had donated our shared great-grandfather's notebooks to the Derby County Archives. She had, as she said, lugged them from attic to attic in her moves across England, and it was time. She passed them over to a connection who was traveling to Derby (this being Great-Grandfather's home county for the last many decades of his life) and would see them safely into the hands of the archivist.
Apparently that didn't happen. I contacted the Derby County Archivist, who searched and did NOT find the notebooks. I had it in mind to arrange for them to be photocopied, and then I would produce a companion volume to the "Victorian Antiquarian..." book I finally finished last winter. The archivist recommended consideration of the Derby County Library system as a possible repository of the notebooks, and undertook to make inquiries.
My lack of results was duly reported to my second cousin, who undertook to make some inquiries of her own, and a few days ago emailed in triumph: the notebooks have been located! There are fourteen of them; at about 200 pages each we estimate between us that photocopying them would cost in the neighborhood of two thousand dollars. This is daunting, but not an insuperable obstacle. Now I await further word from Christine, who awaits word from the archivist at Friends' House, London, England, where the precious notebooks ended up. The Archivist is to send Christine scanned copies of a few pages from the notebooks; she will forward them to me, and leave it with me to negotiate about photocopying the whole.
Having transcribed the three notebooks which found their way to Canada and included them in full in the Victorian Antiquarian book, I know their value. They are partly diaries, partly records for Great-Grandfather's antiquarian business, partly his ruminations about life, the universe and everything. The Crystal Palace of England's Great Exposition in 1851 is a historical fact with many references including illustrations available on the Internet. But it it is another matter entirely to read my Great-Grandfather's thoughts upon seeing it. Christine said she had remembered the notebooks as being mostly about business, but it had been decades since she had looked at one of them; the Friends' House Archivist told her they were much more than that. I am looking forward breathlessly to see the rest of the notebooks.
Several days on and Christine has forwarded the scans of several pages of the notebooks sent her by the Friends' House Archivist. The sample page included reference to my great-grandmother's imminent delivery of her fourth child, Annie, grandmother of Christine. I MUST HAVE THIS MATERIAL! The most immediate obstacle to getting it is the Archivist's word that Friends' House does not have the resources to photocopy this much material - he estimates 2500 pages - and that it would cost 600 pounds to have it microfilmed.
My next task will be to contact the Archivist directly and see what I can persuade him to do! Meantime I will look into finding a microfilm reader. I am prepared to argue that if he can send out the precious notebooks to be microfilmed, maybe he can lend them to me (under a suitable bond) and I can do the photocopying myself. I am further prepared to "bribe" him with a copy of my first Henry Thomas Wake book, and will start the negotiation by sending him a copy of the index.
To be continued.