“Feelings I know”: Laboring and Feeling Through Sailors’ Journals at the Phillips Library

Mark Kelley

"Sailors - Companion to the Tailors", ca. 1855, Photo © Peabody Essex Museum

“Feelings I know very well to experience, but not how to discribe.” So wrote Horace B. Putnam, first mate aboard the trading bark Emily Wilder. Despite this claim, Putnam ably described a range of feelings in the journal of his 1850-1851 voyage from Salem to the east coast of Africa. Even the sailor’s claimed incapacity reveals something easily recognized, but often overlooked: like many shipboard experiences, sailors’ feelings required new language. Indeed, Putnam was far from alone in his disposition. Sailors, as he noted, “are as a class, of as fine natural feelings as any persons within the pale of the Americas.” The multitude of sailors’ journals housed at the Phillips Library provide a rich stock of feelings successfully expressed. Feeling through the archive provides a singular opportunity to understand and appreciate sailors as a class of laborers and writers.

Read more

Recent Discoveries Among Our Japanese Books

So many Japanese books ready for refinement

I’ve been working on our woodblock-printed Japanese books for several months now, refining their bibliographic records to be more accurate and complete. I thought I would share some of the recent discoveries of books (and more!) we didn’t realize we had. I have let the choice of materials to review be dictated mostly by happenstance, and that has led to a pleasant variety of time periods, sizes, subjects, and creators. Our early Japanese acquisitions were never collected with a narrow focus, and this post shows some of the fascinating objects that made their way into our hands. Each one is a new challenge and each one taught me something about these materials and their bibliographic description.

Read more