Introduction to Notebooks

The Commonplace Notebooks of Augustus Lane Fox

1862 Catalogue of Arms notebook [PRM ms collections]

The Pitt-Rivers family kept a series of notebooks which were created at some point just before 1845 (when he joined the Grenadier Guards) and around 1875 when the last of his dated (or dateable) entries was added.

A paragraph in the front of the notebook which was titled (presumably by Pitt-Rivers) as ‘Miscellaneous No. 1’ says:

‘These notes were begun very early when at a private Tutors the first 50 pages or so were noted down before entering the Guards. It The book was then left unused for some years & the subsequent notes were made chiefly since my return from Malta in 1856’

In fact it is clear that the early notes (which mostly relate to military affairs) were written between 1843 (the earliest date) and 1845. The private tutor was presumably employed to cram Lane Fox before his entry in the Guards. The first fifty or so pages relate to this period and there is evidence that the tutor corrected Lane Fox’s notes.

The next set of notes seem to relate to books published in 1850 and it may therefore be that the notes were written in that year or shortly after (that is, slightly earlier than the note suggests). They are very varied, extracts from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, ‘Evangeline’ (1847). There is also a loose sheet of paper headed ‘School of Musketry Hythe’, with pencil note ‘by 3 tomorrow’ which is a form to be filled in regarding the records of rifle shots which must date to after April 1852.

1862 Catalogue of Arms notebook, first page [PRM ms collections] In the later 3 ‘Miscellaneous’ volumes the contents are a similar mixture of extracts from books he has read, sometimes relating to archaeology and anthropology but more often general reading, and sometimes parts or whole poems. A fifth miscellaneous volume (which is not labelled as such and is a different sort of notebook) contains witty sayings, short comic stories and jokes (and gives the lie to Lane Fox (and Pitt-Rivers) not having a sense of humour). It even contains a slightly ‘dirty’ story.

In addition to the Miscellaneous notebooks there are the following other books, with the titles given to them by Pitt-Rivers:

Klemm no 2

Religions No 1

Religions No 2

Religions No 3

Religions No 4

Building and Architecture No 1 / Agriculture

Building and Architecture No 2 / Pipes Smoking

Personal Ornament, Sepultre


Survivals / Conservatism

Locomotion, Roads, Carriages, Bridges, Transport Animals, Path finding (note that there is only one entry in this notebook despite its long title!)

Catalogue of Arms belonging to Lt Col. A Lane Fox (1862)

And two other booklets without titles

It seems likely that some of these notebooks were intended to serve as notes for future publications (like the notes in the book marked ‘Klemm No.2’ (note: there is no known ‘Klemm No. 1]. It is not known why such an odd selection of subjects were chosen. It is possible that these are just the (known?) surviving notebooks and he had other notebooks relating to other subjects.

As regards the Klemm notebook. In the 1906 edition of The Evolution of Culture, edited by John Linton Myres, the preface says:

The footnotes demand a word of explanation. The author, has the original publications show, was not precise in indicating his sources; he frequently gave, as a quotation, the general sense rather than the exact words of his authority; and occasionally his memory played him false. In the reprint, the precise references have been identified, and are given in full, and obvious errors in the text have been either amended or corrected in a footnote.’ [Pitt-Rivers: 1906: Preface]

This confirms the experience of the author, when the extracts handwritten in the notebooks were checked against other sources it was most often found that there were small errors of transcription, mostly words omitted rather than changed or being added.

The notes in Klemm must refer to Werkzeuge und Waffen (Sondershausen, 1858). Lane Fox has caused each page to be filled with what appears to be a full translation and transcription of Klemm’s text relating to figures in his book etc. The handwriting appears to be too neat and different from Lane Fox’s to be his so he perhaps commissioned a translation (though his handwriting is very changeable over the period of the notebooks). It is possible that it is Lane Fox’s own work because he is known to have holidayed in German-speaking areas of Europe many times and, of course, it is helpful to speak the language of the area you are travelling in. Certainly he is known to have written and spoken French as other notebooks testify.

In the days before photocopying and scanning, copying was the only way of making notes about texts which you did not own or which you wished to condense. Of course, in the case of Klemm the text was in German whilst Lane Fox’s notes are in English. We must therefore assume that the transcriber was able to read German and that he or she was translating it as they went along, a true labour of love? Or a paid commission. Presumably Klemm No. 1 notebook had contained earlier pages from the volume, but No. 2 starts at Figure 124. We are very grateful to Elin Bornemann of the Pitt Rivers Museum who confirmed that the transcription appeared to be a full translation of Klemm’s text, though she commented that it was not always entirely accurate.

AP May 2012

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