Editing the Documents
The manuscript archive for these documents is held at East Sussex Record Office (document references are listed here), who are considering making images of these available online. This website displays searchable transcripts of the documents.
Like all documents from this period, there are numerous spelling variations in the originals, and these and the unfamiliar punctuation (or lack of it) make them difficult to read. The transcripts are therefore displayed here in two versions:
- with the original spelling, capitalisation, contractions and punctuation
- with all these modernised
Deletions and insertions have been retained in both versions. Contractions are indicated in the 'original' version with apostrophes. Missing or illegible words are indicated in both versions with dashes.
Only the modernised version is searchable, because the standardisation of its spelling makes it suitable for systematic searching. The 'original' version of each document (or each page in a document) has been placed below the modernised text in the form of an image. In this format - which reproduces as nearly as possible the layout of the manuscript - the position of its deletions, insertions, line breaks and missing parts is shown, retaining the original features regardless of display size.
Many of the manuscript pages are frayed or torn down one or both sides. Since these omissions can sometimes make the text difficult to read, keeping the line-lengths of the manuscript in the 'original' version can help make sense of the text that is legible. The worst example is the deposition of Elizabeth King, shown below.
The line-lengths in these images vary in size according to the size of the sheet of paper, or of the scribe's handwriting, or both, and if they are very long, the text may be reduced in size to fit onto the webpage.
Very occasionally a line that is longer than most of the others in the document has been split - a plus sign indicates this, with the overflow of the line right-aligned on the page (example here, near the bottom of the webpage). Exceptionally, in the final document (BL Harley MS 358 no.47 fol. 188, which is not in the ESRO collection) in which all lines are very long, the line overflows (sometimes there are two) are left-aligned with the + sign.
A distinctive feature of these documents is the speech of the townspeople that is often recorded in them. Most of this speech is unfortunately rendered in the third person by the town clerk for legal reasons, but in order to increase its immediacy for the reader, it has here been italicised. If on occasion the town clerk forgot to record the speech in the third person, it has been both italicised and surrounded by quotation marks (example here).
Not being able to search for original spellings has one particular drawback - the use of Sussex (or in this instance, Kentish) dialect for the word fairies by George Taylor. Plurals sometimes involved adding two 's's to a word, in particular rendering fairies as fayereses (see his letter). This was noted in 19th century discussions of this topic (when they were sometimes confused with the biblical Pharisees, so we are told!).*
Note that it is not always clear from the manuscript whether a letter is capitalised or not, and also whether variations in spelling are simply that, or actually indicate different words (e.g. teld and told).
* Simpson, J. 1973. The Folklore of Sussex, p.53.