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The Material Culture of Record-Keeping in Early Modern England

The Material Culture of Record-Keeping in Early Modern England

Chapter:
(p.179) 8 The Material Culture of Record-Keeping in Early Modern England
Source:
Archives and Information in the Early Modern World
Author(s):
Heather WolfePeter Stallybrass
Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197266250.003.0008

This chapter focuses on the material aspects of early modern filing systems—files, bundles, bags, boxes, and drawers—and their roles in the short and long-term retention of a wide range of documents. Household filing systems largely mirrored institutional ones, and yet flexible retention policies allowed for the storage of documents with evidentiary status as well as documents that serve as family history. These early filing systems are largely invisible to us now, as generations of custodians have rearranged and rehoused family papers. However, physical clues on the documents—such as holes, folds, and endorsements—as well as ‘occupational portraits’ of early modern bureaucrats and surviving ‘filing’ furniture—reveal a rich and complicated system for organising and retrieving vast quantities of paper and parchment.

Keywords:   filing, bundles, bags, boxes, drawers, string, archives, loose papers, storage, Northern genre paintings, Gossaert

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