The transcription of Mabel’s Chronicles

When faced with the long transliteration process presented by these Chronicles, the first decision taken by this editor was to try and speed the reader along as much as possible over Mabel’s twenty-year journey. Any journal writer, or private diarist, writing longhand, will be aware of the stylistic shortcuts, idiosyncrasies, and disregard for consistency and accuracy that develop after a while … ampersands, repetitions, one-line paragraphs, inconsistencies of spelling (particularly for place names, accents/diacritics, and the like), and much else besides. They, inevitably, tend to impede or trip up newcomers to the chronicler’s work, so they have been smoothed over, as much as possible, in the pages that follow.

These, then, are not facsimile transcripts of Mabel Bent’s travel notebooks – although her actual words are unmolested. No attempt has been made to retain Mabel’s pagination. (She averages about 120 words per page.) In the whole series of notebooks, only three or four pages look to have been deliberately removed. Occasionally there are blanks left for names and dates – obviously Mabel intended to fill them in later. Her handwriting is remarkably clear (unlike Theodore’s) and only a handful of words in the following thousands have proved illegible and defeated the wonders of digital enhancement. For graphologists a sample page is reproduced. The actual size of Mabel’s writing does vary – depending on her nib (almost never resorting to pencil), her location, her state of health or mind, and whether she felt she had enough pages left in her notebook for the weeks to come. Several journeys are recorded in more than one book: she travelled with only a small stock of them.

Readers should be aware of the calendar differences then in effect between Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, and elsewhere. Place names, too, present the usual difficulties. Phonetic variations result in frequent spelling inconsistencies. Generally, Mabel’s first choice has been adopted for future references, but where there may be justification to vary them her preferences have been respected. Editorial intrusions, within the text itself, are limited and placed within square brackets.

It was thought helpful to emphasize and extend dates in bold type.

Footnotes have deliberately not been provided to these extracts and this may trouble some: apologies are extended in advance. Search engines will help on occasions, and, for the most assiduous Mabel follower, the online and print versions of Mabel’s Chronicles (available via Archaeopress and select databases) have footnotes to the heart’s content.

So many Victorian attitudes and prejudices are unacceptable today, and Mabel Bent was very much of her time and class. There must be, however, social and historical value in these attitudes and prejudices, so the present editor has deliberately opted not to delete words and phrases that would sit very unhappily and unwelcomed in modern texts.