Thursday, April 30, 2009

TannerRItchie Series 2 for 1 offer

It's the great way to obtain a large library of historical sources on your computer for a one off fee. For the next month, if you buy one issue of the TannerRitchie Series on DVD-ROM, you can choose any other year free of charge. Simply check out the books listed in each issue, and then contact us to arrange payment.

Each issue of the TannerRitchie Series contains at least 100 complete, searchable ebooks on DVD-ROM, which are yours in perpetuity to store on your computers or to print out.

That's perpetual, offline access to hundreds of our complete searchable ebooks for half the usual price of the TannerRitchie Series, and a small fraction of the cost of buying the ebooks individually.

View the complete contents of each issue of the the TannerRitchie Series

View pricing details.
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How dirty was a 17th century floor? Evidence from saltpetre diggers.

Today's Twitter extract from MEMSO reminds us of just how strange people's behaviour in the past can seem to us today.

The extract recounts the results of an examination of the behaviour of two saltpetre diggers (saltpetre being a key component of gunpowder). The men clearly had royal commission to seek saltpetre on private property, but were going beyond the bounds of decency in how they exercised their rights (see large copy of the report here). They were digging up the floors of churches, parlours, malting houses, dovecots, and even the private chambers of women 'in "childbed" (ie, in labour).

Why the men sought saltpetre in the (probably dirt) floors of private houses and buildings is not immediately clear, but a solution seems to appear in the facts relating to the historical manufacture of saltpetre.

Urine has also been used in the manufacture of saltpeter for gunpowder. In this process, stale urine placed in a container of straw hay is allowed to sour for many months, after which water is used to wash the resulting chemical salts from the straw. The process is completed by filtering the liquid through wood ashes and air-drying in the sun. (Wikipedia, extracted 30 April 2009)

The soil floors of the population's houses and barns were seemingly a rich source of both urine and straw, which also perhaps were allowed to build up over the months in a way which encouraged the crystalization process required for saltpetre.

A more detailed account of historical saltpetre manufacture can be found in an account of Joseph Leconte for the American military in 1862, which seems to confirm the process by which saltpetre built up naturally in the confined surroundings of the poor.
These conditions are often found in nature, as in the soil of all caves, but particularly those in limestone countries; and still more frequently under a concurrence of circumstances which, though not strictly natural, is at least accidental, so far as the formation of nitre is concerned, as in cellars, stables, manure-heaps, &c. In crowded cities, with narrow, dirty streets and lanes, the decomposing organic matter with which the soil is impregnated becomes gradually nitrified, oozes through, and dries on the walls and floor of the cellars, as a whitish crust, easily detectible as saltpetre by the taste.

If you know more about the history of salpetre, please post a message below.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

MEMSO 3.0 launched

MEMSO 3.0 Launched!

We've launched a new version of MEMSO, with lots of new features. Read more

Click on the screenshot to see MEMSO 3.0 it in all it's glory. The screenshot illustrates how a user can have mutiple open books at once, or view different pages from the same book side by side.

Key new features include:

  • Ability to open and navigate multiple books and manuscripts side by side
  • Personal bookshelf: save books and manuscripts to your 'bookshelf' to have them quickly available every time you visit the site.
  • Taskbar saves search history and allows you to manage many open books.
  • Change and save the interface colour scheme.
  • More manuscripts with more metadata.
  • A host of other improvements to the interface.

Monday, April 13, 2009

April 2009 - TannerRitchie newsletter

In the April 2009 issue:

  1. Call for suggestions
  2. Latest publications
  3. Latest manuscripts
  4. MEMSO 3.0 - new features
  5. New places to find TannerRitchie: Blog, RSS feed, Facebook & Twitter
  6. Historians who can program: invitation to programmers to try our API.

1. Send us your suggestions for books and manuscripts to publish

TannerRitchie is looking for great new series and collections to publishing during the years 2009-2012, and we need your help!

What series would you like to see added to our collections? What series do you think would be popular with our clients and users? The only requirement for digitising printed books we have is that material is out of copyright, and within a broad definition of British medieval and early modern history. As a rule, books published by HMSO or the government are covered by Crown copyright, which expires 50 years after publication.

Alternatively, let us know of collections of manuscripts in the UK National Archives, or elsewhere in Britain, that would be a useful and popular addition to MEMSO.

Send your suggestions to office at tannerritchie dot c o m.

2. Latest publications

Register of the Privy Council, series 3: remaining volumes are being published this week, completing this huge series on which we began work in 2002!

Calendar of Letter-Books Preserved in the Archives of the Corporation of the City of London at the Guildhall: Series completed, and available for only $15 Canadian per volume.

Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, volume 1650 (1650-1650)

3. Latest Manuscripts

State Papers, Foreign, for the reign of Elizabeth I (SP 70), completed (over 21,000 images)

State Papers, France (SP 78), 1587-1631 completed (30,000 images)

Already available: State Papers, Foreign, Edward VI (SP 68), State Papers, Foreign, Mary (SP 69), State Papers, Foreign, Spain (SP 94) (total, over 34,000 images).

Collectively, these now form an incredible resource for early modern historians, and one which we intend to develop in new ways to enable increasingly easy access to these manuscripts in the future.

4. MEMSO 3.0

In the next 7 to 10 days we plan to launch version 3.0 of the MEMSO interface, introducing some major usability and speed improvements.

Key new features:

  1. Save books and manuscripts you use frequently to your personal bookshelf.
  2. Open and browse multiple books and manuscripts at once.

If there are features you'd like added to MEMSO, please let us know.

5. New places to find TannerRitchie: our Blog, RSS feed, Facebook and Twitter

TannerRitchie can now be found in a range of new places on the internet apart from our main website.

  1. News, new titles and articles about interesting material we find in MEMSO.
  2. RSS feeds. Subscribe to updates from the blog, or get instant notification of new titles via our RSS feed at
  3. Become a fan of TannerRitchie at our Facebook page:
  4. Follow us on Twitter (we'll follow back) at We publish a daily excerpt from MEMSO that gives an interesting snippet from the past in 140 characters or less.

6. Can you program? MEMSO has an API, would you like to use it?

If you know what an API (Application Programming Interface) is, then chances are that you know a little about programming, and the possibilities that using APIs opens up for reusing data across different websites and applications. We are now working on the first generation of a MEMSO API, which is integral to MEMSO 3.0.

We are interested in speaking to subscribers who would like to be involved in working with MEMSO data. Could you use MEMSO data on your website?

Contact roland at tannerritchie dot c o m to discuss ideas with us.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

State Papers, France (TNA SP 78), 1587-1631 completed

We have completed the addition of the current batch of manuscripts from the State Papers, France, held in the National Archives, covering the years 1587-1631. Login to MEMSO to use them. Additional features coming to MEMSO within days should also assist with using the manuscripts to their fullest effect, while we are also going to integrate quite extensive metadata on the series from the National Archives into the resource.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

TNA SP 78, State Papers Foreign, France, now available

The first batch of manuscripts from the State Papers, Foreign, France, are now available on MEMSO, covering the dates 1587-1597. This is just the first group of manuscripts of comprehensive coverage coming in the next few days.
  • TNA SP 78/17: 1587 (357 images)
  • TNA SP 78/18: 1588 (417 images)
  • TNA SP 78/19: 1589 (316 images)
  • TNA SP 78/20: 1589 (351 images)
  • TNA SP 78/21: 1590 (387 images)
  • TNA SP 78/22: 1590 (301 images)
  • TNA SP 78/23: 1591 (265 images)
  • TNA SP 78/24: 1591 (364 images)
  • TNA SP 78/25: 1591 (353 images)
  • TNA SP 78/26: 1591 (332 images)
  • TNA SP 78/27: 1592 (321 images)
  • TNA SP 78/28: 1592 (350 images)
  • TNA SP 78/29: 1592 (456 images)
  • TNA SP 78/30: 1593 (385 images)
  • TNA SP 78/31: 1593 (351 images)
  • TNA SP 78/32: 1593 (499 images)
  • TNA SP 78/33: 1594 (483 images)
  • TNA SP 78/35: 1595 (256 images)
  • TNA SP 78/36: 1595 (224 images)
  • TNA SP 78/37: 1596 (314 images)
  • TNA SP 78/38: 1596 (333 images)
  • TNA SP 78/39: 1597 (377 images)

State Papers, Elizabeth, completed

The final batch of manuscripts from the State Papers, Foreign, for the reign of Elizabeth, were added to MEMSO today, completing our project to make the manuscripts images for the period 1558-1572 available. Subsequent manuscripts are made available in separate collections. More manuscript news coming very soon...