I recently read that in 1953 staff at the British Library found some eighteenth century condoms made from sheep-gut which had been used as book-marks in a Guide to Health, Beauty, Riches and Honour, dated 1783, (Paul Bahn and Bill Tidy, Disgraceful Archaeology (Tempus Publishing, 1999), p. 21). It must come as a severe disappointment to many of our readers that during my career at NLW I have encountered nothing so curious. However, it is not uncommon to find other organic items enclosed in manuscripts. In June 1754 Ellen Owen of Brogyntyn sent her mother a sample of the fabric from which her new gown was made:
I have got a new gown and have sent you a bit of it to see how you like it & would have sent you a bit of my spring Gown but could not show you the pat[t]ern without cutting a great pi[e]ce of it. (Brogyntyn estate and family records, PEC5/9/77)
In the same collection there is a tiny wisp of hair from Admiral Sir George Francis Seymour, whose daughter Emily had married George Ormsby Gore, second Lord Harlech. (Ibid., PEC6/9/54). It was customary in the past to keep a lock of hair as a memento and to make mourning brooches or rings. The hair is enclosed in a letter addressed to Emily, the envelope of which is entitled My dearly loved Father’s last letter to me before his fatal illness dated January 12th. 1870. The letter itself is barely legible in parts; amidst family matters and political news is the poignant remark:
My nights are detestable which increases my weakness more and more…
Equally interesting is a botanical specimen found in a diary of John Griffith of Garn, 1746-7 (Garn estate records, FPN2/1). Unfortunately the enclosing pages are blank and for written evidence of this family interest we must look to his grandson.
John Wynne Griffith was a proficient amateur botanist and horticulturalist, who corresponded with Sir Joseph Banks, James Hunter of Birmingham, and William Withering senior and junior. The depth of his knowledge may be judged from the plant lists which he exchanged with William Withering in 1794:
226. C[ircaea] intermedia. The specimen bearing this no. according to shape of the pairs belongs as you observe to C. lutetiana but the shape of the leaves much resemble those of C. alp. (Garn, FPG3/11/40).
I should be interested to know of any further interesting artefacts discovered among the archives of NLW or in other institutions.