Historic Parchment from 1583 Hidden in Alice in Wonderland

I like used books, especially ones that are more than 20 years old. You never know what you’ll find inside – someone’s random notes, maybe some doodles, perhaps an old bookmark; the possibilities are endless. Lorraine Smith of Warrnambool, Australia, discovered something truly unexpected when she opened a 1924 edition of Alice in Wonderland

A small piece of parchment, made from calf-skin, with a note written in elegant script, that Smith could tell was old – possibly valuable as well. 

Image courtesy of The Age. 

“I didn’t do anything much about it because I didn’t know what it was,” she told The Age. “Finally,” she continued, “I mentioned it to my daughter who lives in Brisbane and she’d studied English history at Uni, and I described it to her and told her it had a date on it – 1583. And she said, ‘Well, that’s the Tudor period, I’ve got a special interest in the Tudor period, you’d better send it up to me.”

As soon as Smith’s daughter received the parchment, she knew that was a legal document “because of the shape of it with the zig-zag top.”

Image courtesy of The Age.

From this random find, a university professor was able to transcribe the first 10 lines of the legal document, leading to “the biggest breakthrough.” Apparently, the piece of parchment “had been written about in a family history book back in 1914.” From hard research and collaborating with a number of people, Ms. Smith ended up writing a book, Journey of a Lost Manuscript.

Image courtesy of Spectrum Books

I must admit, the book looks fascinating: “Discovered to be an Elizabethan manuscript, this is the enthralling story of its travels from Gildersome, Yorkshire in 1583 to Warrnambool, Victoria in 2013. It is a journey with so many twists and lucky escapes it should be a novel – but this is a true story.”

Next time you’re holding an old book, do yourself a favor and flip through the pages. Something precious and worthy of a book just may plop into your lap!

Featured image courtesy of The Culture Trip.