A 92 year old book about a 2000 year old wall

Hadrian’s Wall was a massive structure constructed by the Roman Empire during its occupation of Britain. Its purpose was to secure lower England from the “barbarian” hordes to the North- and, it did that. Only, now, it’s a series of ruins. What was once a mighty and impenetrable barrier at which the legions of Rome held the line, and that tends to captivate people.

In 1922, Jessie Mothersole published a novel recounting the history around the Wall. Everything contemporarily known about the purpose, construction and day-to-day functions of the society around the structure was scrupulously documented and recited with a surprising degree of clarity. Reading through the book, I found myself somewhat taken off guard: I had expected to understand it simply due to my anthropology and history background. While they did not hurt, the writing was actually fairly easy for the layman to understand and painted a vivid portrait of the Wall’s history, and even went so far as to describe Roman conventions and history beyond the scope of simply the Wall itself.

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Perhaps most interesting from this nearly hundred-year-old book, however, is not what was originally contained within the now aged and delicate paper. In 1950, a previous owner of the book had inserted several news articles (themselves artifacts!) with regards to Roman history and the Wall.

A previous (and main) owner's signature and one of his modifications and notes.
A previous (and main) owner’s signature and one of his modifications and notes.

Mr. Oliver B. Searivan (I believe that’s his it, but I am having trouble reading the cursive of his surname) came into possession of this book and altered it, possibly to fit research he was doing at the time. Google searches of his name do not yield any results (bear in mind that I may be misspelling his name), so I am uncertain as to whether this was an academic venture or a personal one. Regardless, the work is there, and quite visible.


The book itself is a very interesting read, but these modifications make it all the more intriguing to read. In fact, due to the information they add, it enhances it beyond the main text- it’s incredible to see what information added 28 years after the fact can do, even if all of this is over 60 years old at the very least.

Note: as of 1:05PM on October 5th, 2014, the Booktraces link had not yet been posted. This post will be updated with links to the content there as soon as it is available. The pictures listed here are identical to the ones posted to Booktraces, but are in their original resolution due to file size conflicts on Booktraces.


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