On 18 September 2009, the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters welcomed delegates to “Footprints in the butter: looking for the elephant in the archives”, the latest in a series of postgraduate conferences that have been organised by CELL staff and students. Thanks to the hard work of our speakers, chairs, and delegates, the day was a triumph and the best possible beginning to the new academic year.
Six papers were discussed in three panels over the course of the day. Ariel Franklin and Daisy Hildyard set the tone as their papers on Lucy, Countess of Bedford, and the taxonomy of John Ray and Martin Lister so clearly communicated the perhaps surprising joys of archival research.
After lunch, a fascinating panel saw delegates discuss papers from Will Tosh, who introduced his new project for a biography of Anthony Bacon, and Elizabeth Williamson, who gave us a sophisticated unravelling of a sixteenth-century letter of travel advice.
Our final panel – featuring Dan Starza Smith, out hunting for John Donne in the archives, and Tessa Whitehouse, whose paper was on the system of education in eighteenth-century dissenting academies – returned us neatly to many of the themes brought up in the earlier panels.
Finally, the various strands of the discussions generated by the papers, notably the tension between the completeness and incompleteness of archives and the creative freedoms that result, were picked up in a round-table discussion led by CELL's Director, Professor Lisa Jardine, before speakers and delegates alike retired to cake and cocktails.
The staff of CELL extend our thanks not only to those who gave such fascinating and involving papers, but also our panel chairs, Dr Hannah Crawforth, Dr Rosanna Cox and Dr Warren Boutcher, as well as to all the delegates. We look forward to publishing the conference proceedings in a forthcoming issue of CELL's peer-reviewed journal, Lives and Letters.