Nelson Family Journal Turned Copybook
On first glance, this notebook appears to be the math journal of Alexander Lockhart Nelson. However, upon closer inspection the book contains much more than the intellectual musing of someone well-versed and educated in mathematics, as indicated by the wealth of pages of problems, proofs and justifications for solutions. Personal elements as well as genealogies are scattered in both its pages as well as loose sheets that were shoved haphazardly in between the pages, a selection of which are displayed here.
Initially, the book sets up a structure for an index; there is a narrow column on the outside of every page with a capital letter denoting the sub-section, and on the inside of every page there is a larger section that is marked by a lower case letter. The beginning of the journal indicates that the user should create or adopt a system of creating this index by placing key words in the smaller margin and an explanation in the larger one. However, as the journal continues, this structure degrades.
In addition, the journal records the genealogy of several families, and the writer of the original journal is believed to be either A.L. Nelson’s mother or aunt. It is surmised that the journal was originally a female family member of A.L. Nelson who worked to trace family ancestry from their 1600’s immigration to the US. The last recorded genealogical record was in 1910. Due to the high prices of paper and books at the time, it is believed Nelson used the empty pages for math proofs and profession. However, the book follows no discernable pattern.
While this journal records precise and thorough genealogy, complicated and well laid out mathematics, poignant personal notes, and weather records, the collection lacks any decipherable structure. The author(s) identity remains unclear, as several different hands and writing instruments were used throughout the journal. However, overall, the journal serves as an important window into life in Lexington as well as Washington College / Washington and Lee and is worth the time needed to comb its pages.
A selection of the loose pages stuffed into the copy book.