Old friends, New Fragments, old inscriptions

Last Monday, I made an all-too-rare tryst with an old friend. We met at the small town of Sedbergh in what was once part of Yorkshire, but is now part of Cumbria. I have something of a soft spot for Sedbergh on two accounts: it was the town where Charles Darwin's friend and mentor Adam Sedgwick went to school (he was born a few miles away in Dent); and it is the home of one of my favourite second-hand book shops. The book shop was the reason we had arranged to meet in Sedbergh: my friend and I both suffer intractable addictions to old books.

Amongst the books I bought was a set of essays, New Fragments, by another of Charles Darwin's friends, John Tyndall. I also have something of a soft-spot for Tyndall: I managed to sneak him into two of the chapters of the book I have been writing about my local moor. He was a thoroughly good chap, and, unlike Sedgwick, one of Darwin's strongest supporters.

Although I would never dream of writing inside a book, I am always delighted to see the marginalia and other inscriptions of a book's previous owners. The title page of my new Tyndall book bears a rather dramatic inscription:

John Tyndall's ‘New Fragments’.
John Tyndall's ‘New Fragments’ (1892)

Received at [the?] Temple Chambers on Friday 15th January 1892 (on a bed of sickness that has been well nigh unto death)

I guess I'll never know the story behind these words—which is one of the appeals of such enigmatic inscriptions.

Postscript (Feb, 2018): Not so fast, Richard! I might have tracked down the writer of the morbid inscription!

Richard Carter, FCD

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteNewsletterMastodonetc…

One comment

  1. A Tyndall timeline for project participants shows New Fragments as being published in June 1892, yet this copy shows that it was received in January of that year.

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