The Digitisation of Mabel Bent, Christmas 2021

Two pages (December 1883) from Mabel Bent’s diary written in the Cyclades (Greece) (The Hellenic and Roman Society, London).

“Christmas Day [Naxos in the Cyclades, 1893] was a downpour and as our rooms are not watertight [it] came in through doors and windows. The wind howled and our prospects of food were faint. A wild duck, that was found just before luncheon, cheered us however so much that we ate it all but a wing, which I prudently cut off to keep…”


Well, here indeed is a unique and long-awaited Christmas present for those who like to try and keep up with the breathless Bents over their twenty years (roughly 1880-1900) of exploring and excavating around the Levantine littoral (Greece and Turkey), Africa (North and South), Southern Arabia, and other lands.

‘Mrs Bent and her Camera’,  probably Spring 1895. From ‘The Album, A Journal of Photographs of Men, Women and Events of the Day’ (Vol. 2, no.2, 8 July 1895, pp. 44-45).

As part of the new digitisation programme of the Roman and Hellenic Societies’ (London University) manuscript collection, Mabel Bent’s travel ‘Chronicles’ (as she calls them), and some of her husband’s (Theodore Bent) notebooks, are due to appear online in early 2022 (mostly using ‘a Bookeye 4 Kiosk book scanner to capture the image data and BCS-2 imaging software to process and format the images once they have been transferred from the scanner’).



Part of the Bent Collection in the Archives of the Hellenic and Roman Societies, London.

This means you will soon be able to delve into all of Mabel Bent’s manuscript ‘Chronicles’ (except for the missing Ethiopian tour volumes of 1893 – anyone know where they are?), and one or two of Theodore’s notebooks as well (significantly some of his Hadramaut jottings).

Researchers who now cite Bent’s monographs and published papers on Great Zimbabwe, Aksum, Yemen, Greece and Turkey, etc., will soon also be able to refer to his wife’s on-the-spot accounts, adding new details, dimensions, dangers, and the odd fresh dinner duck as well!

More information on the Bent Collection digitisation project is available from the Roman and Hellenic Societies.

Edited editions of Mabel Bent’s travel Chronicles can be had from Archaeopress, Oxford.