Featured Object: Johnson’s Shagreen Squill Bottle

2001.158 resized (2)Our Featured Object for February is this shagreen squill bottle, which belonged to Samuel Johnson himself.

It is covered in a type of green leather made from shark skin, known as shagreen.  The case has a hinged lid which opens to reveal the bottle with its neat glass stopper.

For many years it was thought to be a vinaigrette filled with smelling salts (ammonium carbonate) which were used commonly in the eighteenth-century to revive people.

However, since there is no evidence that Johnson used smelling salts and the bottle is very small, it is now considered more likely that the object is in fact a squill bottle used to carry vinegar of squill (acetum scillae). Johnson may have carried this bottle around with him in his later life to help relieve his ongoing heart condition.

Squill (Urginea maritima) is a plant, the bulb of which has been used since ancient Egyptian times to treat heart conditions. It contains cardiac glycosides, compounds of which slow the pace and increase the efficiency of each beat of the heart. It is also a diuretic which brings relief from the retention of liquid, a common symptom of the condition dropsy.

Johnson administered this medicine himself, taken in small doses of between 0.9ml and 3.5mls, in aromatic water. The liquid is clear and yellowish in colour. It has a bitter acid taste and smells of vinegar. A slight brown-yellow residue can still be seen inside the bottle that may be remains of Johnson’s squill vinegar.

In June 1783, Johnson suffered a stroke which led to a short period of aphasia (impaired speech, usually as the result of brain damage). During this time he was unable to speak or write properly, however, his mind remained clear and he was not paralysed. Helped by the squill, Johnson made a good recovery, writing ‘the squills have ever sufferage, and in squills we rest for the present.’

Towards the end of his life, the squill appeared to be less effective in treating Johnson’s condition. At this point he may have been prescribed foxglove leaf (digitalis purpura). Digitalis was still very much experimental at that time, with no recognised standard for dosage or prescription levels and it is possible that Johnson may have died of an overdose of this drug.

The records kept in Heberden’s Index by Johnson’s doctor, the famous William Heberden (1710 – 1801), make reference to ‘Doctor Sam Johnson’ and another patient to whom ‘an infusion of digitalis leaf,  2 ounces of leaf to 8 ounces of water […] every hour for 9 hours’ was given.’ The record sadly concludes ‘He died suddenly in the evening.’ Samuel Johnson died on 13th December 1784 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Johnson’s death stimulated further research into the question of the dosage of digitalis in the treatment of heart failure. Doctor William Withering  a Shropshire man and the son of a pharmacist,  contributed significantly to the understanding of digitalis’ use in treating heart disease. In 1785 he published “An account of the foxglove and some of its medical uses; with practical remarks on the dropsy, and some other diseases” (Birmingham: Swinney, 1785)

Contributor: Annemarie Powell is a long-standing museum volunteer. Prior to that she was an English teacher and first got to know the Birthplace Museum when bringing her students here on school visits.

Advertisements

How Johnson Created His Dictionary: The Important Role of His Amanuenses

Emma Bown, a student at the University of Birmingham, recently completed a placement at the Birthplace Museum. Here she shares her research into Johnson’s creation of his famous Dictionary, including the important role played by his assistants, known as amanuenses. 

Fascinated by some of the books in our collection that have been annotated in a modern hand imitating Johnson’s annotations, I have researched the process that Johnson and his amanuenses followed to create Johnson’s Dictionary.

Garret2

The below image has been taken from our collection’s 1677 edition of Cocker’s ‘Arithmetick’ (2001.1875) and closely resembles how Johnson annotated his own copy of the book. It was these markings that influenced the work of his amanuenses – those tasked to help assemble the Dictionary by copying and ordering Johnson’s abundant highlighted definitions and quotations.

Johnson embarked on the ambitious task of creating a dictionary that consolidated the current English language by providing a comprehensive list of the usage and the exhaustive meanings of each word, colloquial or idiomatic, jargon or slang. To demonstrate the usage of these words, he aimed to include exemplary quotations from the authors and scholars he believed to be most praiseworthy from the preceding 200 years.

Cocker for postFaced with the challenge of creating an extensive dictionary, Johnson began to read and ‘deface’ his own books, and those of his friends, that he had borrowed to ensure that his dictionary would include a wide selection of important authorities. When he encountered key words, definitions or good examples of usage, he marked each book in the same distinct way, like in the image above. While reading Cocker’s ‘Arithmetick’, Johnson was impressed by the example of the usage of ‘addition’. So, he underlined the noun ‘addition’ and wrote the letter ‘A’ in the margin; then, he marked the beginning and end of the passage on ‘addition’ that he wanted to use in his Dictionary with diagonal slashes.

While Johnson continued to search for key sections from over 500 different books, the amanuenses started their invaluable job of compiling. Between 1746 and 1755, Johnson employed six amanuenses: one Englishman, five Scots. A maximum of four would have been employed at the same time. These men included: Francis Stewart (d.1752), Alexander and William Macbean, Robert Shiels (d.1753), Peyton (the Englishman) and Maitland. Johnson was kind to his amanuenses and even offered them accommodation when they were struggling financially.

Thirteen of Johnson’s annotated copies have survived and from these, we understand how the Dictionary was compiled.

After annotating some books, Johnson would pass these to the amanuenses who would work in pairs on one book at a time. They would then copy the underlined word on to a sheet of paper that had been folded into quarto sections and divided by a pencil line into two columns. On the far left of the margin, they wrote the main word and underneath, they wrote the definition/example from the book with a large enough gap above and below, so that Johnson could later add his own definitions, explanations and etymologies. Having done this, the amanuensis would strike through the letter in the margin to show that that word has already been copied.

Johnsoncopyists

Interestingly, each amanuensis had their own style of striking through the letters and this can be seen in the second image. From the extant books, we can see how many of their transcriptions entered into the Dictionary and these books show that some amanuenses had the job of transcribing only certain letters. The different strikes have not yet been linked to each amanuensis.

After transcribing quotations on to the sheet, it was cut into separate slips, each containing only the information for one word. Next, these slips were deposited into separate containers. Later, some of the alphabetised slips were copied or pasted onto large pieces of paper and some were likewise inserted into small, unbound notebooks (Johnson’s method changed several times over the years). Eighty notebooks were filled with the entries and supporting quotations; sometimes Johnson wrote the examples from his books straight into these. The amanuenses wrote at the top of each page the first three letters of these word lists, as shown at the top of each page in the Dictionary.

Next, Johnson wrote extra lexical additions in the gaps surrounding the words and quotations. Comparing his wordlists to those of previously published dictionaries, Johnson ensured that he had not omitted anything important. This was when Johnson edited some of the quotations, such as shortening them for clarity. He changed some spellings, such as ‘poyson’ to ‘poison’, in an attempt to standardise the English language.

The amanuenses did not just passively and laboriously copy Johnson’s annotations; they contributed to the writing of the Dictionary, too. Although at the editing stage, Johnson refused the majority of their additions from the meanings of certain words in the Scottish dialect to their quotations from Scottish authorities. Some that did receive Johnson’s approval include the definition of ‘scambler’ and quotations from the Scottish poet, James Thomson.

Once the additions had been entered, pages were sent separately to the printer and Johnson was paid for each delivered leaf.

Overall, the amanuenses had essential roles in the compilation process and contributed to the publication of more than 110,000 quotations to support the Dictionary’s 42,773 entries.

Featured Object: Samuel Johnson’s Walking Stick

Johnson's walking stickThis is Samuel Johnson’s walking stick, presented to the Museum by A.C. Lomax in 1909.

It is a fine sturdy piece, unpretentious and serviceable. It is made from Malacca cane which comes from the stem of an East Indian rattan palm. It has an ivory handle with a pleasing symmetrical pattern marked on it by metal studs. The hole through the handle must have once had a cord threaded through it once to carry it on the wrist. The ferule is quite large, metal and shows heavy wear. The stick is 98cm (just over 3 feet) long, which suggests its owner had been tall. As indeed Johnson was – nearly 6 foot.

From at least 1720s and throughout Johnson’s life, carrying a stick was very much part of a gentleman’s normal dress. From the time when a little boy was breeched (put into male clothes and out of the infant petticoats) he would expect to carry a cane or, on special occasions, perhaps a sword.

Johnson’s style of cane is quite plain. He was not really a follower of fashion, but for many the cane was an essential accessory. The head could be of gold, silver or a semi -precious stone; amber was especially popular. Sometimes the heads could unscrew and in the space inside might be a mirror or scent. Ribbon streamers might be attached, in the case of gentleman usually black. The ferrule in such elegant examples might be of silver.

In a cartoon by Thomas Rowlandson from 1786 we see Johnson and Boswell roaring up the High Street in Edinburgh. Johnson is carrying an oak stick. Such oak walking sticks were sturdy and intended more to help the walker or defend him. They were not fashion accessories.

We can get an idea of Johnson on his travels from the description Boswell gives us when they were in the Hebrides. ‘He wore a full suit of plain brown clothes, with twisted-hair buttons of the same colour, a large bushy greyish wig, a plain shirt, black worsted stockings, and silver buckles. Upon this tour, when journeying, he wore boots, and a very wide brown cloth great coat, with pockets which might have almost held the two volumes of his folio dictionary; and he carried in his hand a large English oak stick’

Boswell relates a sad story of his friend’s walking stick when they were in the Hebrides. We gather that the journey had been hard – those ‘wild peregrinations’ -and the stick had been very important ‘for he has not been able to walk easily.’ On the morning in question the stick ‘was intrusted to a fellow to be delivered to our baggage-man’ but they never saw it again, and it was presumed stolen by Johnson. This stick had not only helped Johnson walk, but it had added worth ‘It had too the properties of a measure; for one nail was driven into it at the length of a foot; another at that of a yard’- which he uses as a measuring tool! It is amusing now to read that he stated that he would have made ‘a present of it to some museum’

Johnson was not above using his stick as a weapon. Back on home territory in Lichfield, Thomas Davies the Bookseller told Boswell about the close shave that one Mr Foote of the theatre had with the wrong end of Johnson’s stick. Foote intended to exhibit ‘living characters,’ and ‘had resolved to imitate Johnson on the stage, expecting great profits from his ridicule of so celebrated a man’ When Johnson was told of this, he armed himself with the best oak stick and made it clear that if ‘Foote means to take me off, … I am determined the fellow shall not do it with impunity.’ The story ends peaceably as Davies kindly warns Foote, but Boswell adds ‘I have no doubt that, old as he was, he (Johnson) would have made his corporal prowess be felt as much as his intellectual’.

Contributor: Annemarie Powell is a long-standing museum volunteer. Prior to that she was an English teacher and first got to know the Birthplace Museum when bringing her students here on school visits.

Featured Object: Samuel Johnson’s Jackfield Teapot

SJB 29 - CopyThis is Doctor Johnson’s Teapot, which he used himself every day. He really loved tea.

It is a piece of Jackfield pottery, a type of earthenware famous for its black lustrous lead glaze and decorations in oil paint and gilt. It is named after the village of Jackfield in Shropshire, where Richard Thursfield built a ceramics factory in 1713.

This teapot is very typical of the style. It is the customary black and the decoration painted in gold is imitation Chinese, as was the fashion of the day. The lid is decorated with golden flower sprays.

There is a ‘back’ and a ‘front’ to this teapot. The back shows an ornamental table with flowers and the front a Chinese traveller. He carries a stick over his shoulder. There is not a bundle on the end but a beautiful bird, whose partner with outspread wings and flowing tail seems to be waiting for them on an elegant branch. Perhaps Johnson had fellow feeling with this little travelling figure. The rest of the teapot is filled with exuberant flowers and foliage.

This is not the most elegant example of Chinoiserie (a European style of art from 17th century onward which imitates Chinese motifs), but it must have been a very lovely companion to Johnson’s passionate tea drinking.

I suppose no person ever enjoyed with more relish the infusion of that fragrant leaf than Johnson.’ (Boswell’s Life)

The teapot was donated to the museum in 1912 by Rev W. J. Houlgate, a Lichfield man who had inherited it from his parents. His mother had been the servant of a Mr Feary, who had given her the teapot as a wedding gift. Mr Feary, also a Lichfield man, had lived on Bird Street and came to own the teapot in 1794, some ten years after Johnson’s death.

In the 18th century tea became one of the leading social drinks of the day. Around its drinking developed an array of new equipment and customs – the tea-table with teapot and cups and sugar bowls, with the lady of the house presiding over a convivial gathering – just the place for Doctor Johnson.

Johnson loved tea. On the trip he took with Boswell to the Hebrides, for example, the narrative is littered with references to their tea-drinking. When Johnson was a bit tired and grumpy ‘a dish of tea, some good wheaten cakes and fresh butter did him service’ Many of us have fellow feeling with that.

But Johnson’s affection for tea was not passive. As with many newfangled things that burst upon society there were those who thought tea a very bad thing, amongst whom was Jonas Hanway (1712 -1786). In 1757 he wrote ‘An essay on tea as pernicious to health, obstructing industry and impoverishing the nation’ For him tea was the source of all evils including the weakening of male prowess and the dulling of female beauty. It led to idleness, especially amongst the working classes ‘it is the curse of this nation, that the labourer and mechanic will ape the lord’.

Johnson reviewed this attack against tea in a vigorously worded article in the Literary Magazine and when Hanway, offended by the review, replied with equal force, Johnson responded with the full power of his fine mind.

He said that he had drunk tea for years without ill effect; tea had nothing to do with idleness. It was simply another symptom of a time wasting society and he hadn’t noticed a lack of good hardworking labourers. As for lack of female beauty, that was the sentimental view of the older generation looking back to its youth.

Interestingly, Johnson pointed out that, as tea required boiled water, it was better for people who would otherwise drink contaminated water. Tea drinking might also cut down on the consumption of spirituous liquids – a point close to his heart as he himself drank tea and tried to control his intake of alcohol.

As Johnson said of himself:

‘A hardened and shameless tea drinker… whose kettle has scarcely time to cool; who with tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, and, with tea, welcomes the morning.’

Contributor: Annemarie Powell is a long-standing museum volunteer. Prior to that she was an English teacher and first got to know the Birthplace Museum when bringing her students here on school visits.

Featured Object: Johnson’s Copy of ‘Travels Through Portugal and Spain, in 1772 and 1773’

Twiss openDavid Garbutt, an undergraduate student at Birmingham University, conducted his placement with us in 2018. Here he shares his research into one of the many books belonging to Samuel Johnson and now held in our collection. 

Samuel Johnson was presented this book by the author, Richard Twiss, on 28 March 1775.

On the fly-leaf the author’s dedication and Johnson’s response can be seen.

Just 10 days after receiving this book Johnson dined with the Literary Club in London, which contained some of the most famous thinkers and writers of the time, such as Charles James Fox (M.P.), James Boswell and the painter Joshua Reynolds. Here, Johnson expressed how he was quite impressed with Twiss’ Travels, and Boswell recorded Johnson saying that “they are as good as the first book of travels that you will take up. There are as good as those of Keysler or Blainville; nay, as Addison’s, if you accept the learning. They are not as good as Brydone’s, but they are better than Pokocke’s.”

Johnson’s moderate praise of the book should be seen in relation to his attitude to travel literature at this time. As Johnson travelled throughout his life, he demanded high standards in the travel books he read. He was annoyed (as recorded in Boswell’s Life of Johnson) that the current age of explorations and grand tours had led to many “narrations of travellers” which “disappoint their readers”. Johnson also stressed that these rushed journeys led to hastily written books which were too descriptive and lacked reflection. Therefore, the praise he gave to Twiss’ Travels shows that he was pleasantly surprised with its quality.

Johnson admitted to the rest of the Literary Club that he had not read the entire book, stressing that “I do not suppose that what is in the pages which are closed is worse than what is in the open pages”.

However, just because he did not read the whole book does not mean that he did not enjoy it or understand it. Johnson learned to read books incredibly quickly, and he had the unusual ability of being able to read whole pages at a glance whilst still retaining the gist of what was being said. Therefore, Johnson rarely needed to read a book all the way through to form an opinion on it.

This form of scanning, or perusal, reading was practiced by Johnson a lot in later life. Whereas in his youth he had read books thoroughly, either by curiously reading romantic novels and plays or by doing hard study reading on educational texts, in his later years he had less time to read as most of his time was spent writing. Also, the older Johnson read texts lightly as he increasingly felt embarrassed about being seen in public engrossed in romantic fiction or educational works. Perusing texts allowed him to continue his love of reading in public without feeling self-conscious and it ensured he could read multiple books at once without finishing them. Therefore, Johnson was more likely to read works for reading’s sake, as he did when he read newspapers, or he would scan books for useful information, as he had done when he read Twiss’ Travels.

Richard Twiss, ‘Travels Through Portugal and Spain, in 1772 and 1773’ (London: 1775), Museum Number: 2001.951                 

Featured Object: David Garrick’s Shakespeare Jubilee Bicentenary Medal

2000.149 Reverse

Megan Farrell, now studying for her postgraduate degree at Birmingham University, conducted a placement with us in 2017. In this post, she shares her research into the famous actor David Garrick, a close associate of Johnson, and tells us about Garrick’s association with the jubilee of William Shakespeare. 

This twentieth century medallion is a commemoration of a commemoration! It is a gilt silver medal made to celebrate 200 years since the first Shakespeare Jubilee, held in the city of Stratford upon Avon between 6 – 8 September 1769.

The jubilee was held to commemorate Shakespeare’s birthday however the famous playwright was actually born in 1564, not 1569 – so the people of Stratford were actually celebrating his birthday five years late! This delay happened because the council needed to build a new town hall to host the festivities. Whilst the original quote from the builders was within budget, and work commenced, it took longer than expected and construction soon became too expensive. As a result, the council had to find new sources of money to finish the project.

As funding trickled in, work on the building slowly progressed but the council still needed decorations to finish the inside of the new hall. In 1767 a local attorney called Wheler, on business in London, heard about actor, playwright and theatre manager David Garrick’s love of Shakespeare, and decided to flatter Garrick into giving something to the new town hall.

The plan worked and, seeing an opportunity to both honour Shakespeare and boost his own profile as a patron of the arts, Garrick decided to send the council both a statue and painting of Shakespeare from his own personal collection.

In return, the Council decided that Garrick should be awarded the first freedom of Stratford, in the form of a mulberry-wood medal and box made from the wood of one of Shakespeare’s trees, which had apparently been cut down by an irate Reverend, Francis Gastrell, eleven years before.

To coincide with his donation and award, Garrick decided the city should hold a Shakespeare jubilee to celebrate the opening of the new town hall. He planned for three days of spectacular fun, attended by major figures from London’s cultural and political scenes, as well as from fashionable society. To accommodate the envisaged crowds, Garrick oversaw the construction of a large rotunda on the banks of the River Avon, capable of holding 1,000 people. Its design was based on the rotunda in Ranelagh Gardens, London.

The festivities began with the fire of thirty cannons and the ringing of church bells (one way to wake up the visitors!), followed with a public breakfast in the town. Garrick was then awarded his mulberry-wood medal, signifying his new office as Steward of the Jubilee. The day ended with a ball at the rotunda and records show that dinner was attended by 700 people! Stratford, a town of approximately 2,200 inhabitants at the time, struggled to cope with the influx of fashionable visitors bought in by the celebrations.

On the morning of the second day, the heavens opened. Rainfall cascaded down the streets and burst the banks of the river, flooding parts of the rotunda. Despite the rain, Garrick still performed his ‘Ode to Shakespeare’, and there was an unveiling of a statue in the new town hall. Garrick also gave a speech thanking the Shakespeare Ladies Club for increasing the popularity of the bard, and for their contribution to Shakespeare’s memorial statue in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey.  The masquerade ball in the evening also went ahead but the planned firework display was a failure due to the inclement weather.

The third day was to have been marked by a grand pageant of Shakespeare characters but continuing heavy rain forced its cancellation. By the afternoon, most of the visitors had attempted to leave rain-soaked Stratford and only a small group attended the horse race.

Despite initial negative response from the upper class towards the celebration, who claimed it was ‘vulgar’ in nature, the Jubilee left its mark. Garrick later staged the cancelled pageant successfully at the Drury Lane Theatre, where it ran for ninety performances. The disastrous events were also turned into a satirical play, which was performed at Drury Lane one hundred and fifty-three times! The festivities also contributed to the re-appreciation of Shakespeare and his works that led to establishment as the English national poet.

Interestingly, although lots of commemorative events were planned, none of Shakespeare’s plays were performed at the jubilee. However it did catapult Stratford onto the map, making his hometown into the destination for Shakespeare-lovers the world over that it remains today.

Our medal was commissioned by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the jubilee celebrations.

On the obverse is a portrait of Garrick in his role as Steward, underneath theatre curtains. His ‘Ode to Shakespeare’ is written beneath, whilst the masks of Comedy and Tragedy are at the bottom.

On the reverse, Shakespeare is flanked by a man and woman, who are paying homage to him. The reverse text states ‘200th Anniversary of the Stratford Jubilee’, with the dates ‘1769-1969’ at the bottom.

Our numismatic collection holds seven medals, and there are two other Garrick medallions under our care, both from the eighteenth century.

Designed by P Vincze, 1969. Gilt Silver. Commissioned by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Museum number 2000.149. Purchased by Samuel Johnson Birthplace 6th November 1969

 

Featured Object: Bust of Samuel Johnson

SJ BustIn 1777 the Royal Academy annual exhibition included the only sculpture of Samuel Johnson to be taken from life.

The bust by Joseph Nollekens (1737-1823) has been called the finest work that the sculptor had ever produced. However, within Johnson’s circle of friends his natural pose and wigless appearance caused much debate.

The Birthplace cast of the bust by Nollekens has an important history, as it was believed to have been given by Nollekens to John Hawkins, Johnson’s friend and executor.

Johnson and Nollekens became friends around 1772 through their mutual acquaintance Saunders Welch, whose daughter Nollekens married.

Taken from the life, Johnson was a reluctant sitter. Boswell recalls one occasion when Johnson arrived very late and was berated by the sculptor, to which Johnson’s rather eccentric reply was: “Bow, wow, wow”. Nollekens intended the writer to resemble an ancient poet, with serious expression and flowing hair. He continued work on the bust between sittings, and used an Irish beggar and regular model for artists named George White as the inspiration for Johnson’s hair. Nollekens was known to be a miser and White is said to have refused the shilling that the sculptor offered him for his time, telling him that he would have earned more from begging.

The sculpture was originally created in clay, and that is likely to be the version which would have been displayed at the Royal Academy. He then cast it in plaster and also lead (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum). Unusually for Nollekens he did not carve a version in marble, although marble copies have been made by others in later years.

Johnson admitted to his step-daughter Lucy Porter that he had heard “different opinions” of the bust and that “it was condemned by Mrs Thrale, Mrs Reynolds and Mrs Garrick”. He arranged for a copy to be sent to Lichfield for her, and she admitted: “you judged rightly in thinking that the bust would not please”. He did not like it much himself, but had a great respect for his friend ‘Nolly’, calling him: “a man of reputation above any of the other sculptors”. Johnson did not generally hold the art of sculpture in high esteem, once saying that the value of statuary was in the difficulty of cutting into marble, and so “you would not value the finest head cut upon a carrot”.

The bust appears in another item in the birthplace collection, a painting attributed to Johann Zoffany RA, c.1785, showing Johnson’s friend Bennet Langton contemplating Nollekens’s work. A touching memorial to Johnson, it suggests that his representation of the writer was held in high regard.

The Museum also has a tactile version of the Nollekens bust for visitors to handle, created by local sculptor Allen Necchi.

Bust of Samuel Johnson by Joseph Nollekens RA, 1777. Plaster Cast.

Museum number 2000.63. Donated by Mrs E. L. Browne, 1904

 

Welcome to The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Blog

Hello and welcome to The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Blog!

The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum has been a cornerstone of Lichfield life since 1901 (the above picture shows it in 1900, shortly after it had been acquired by the city – if you look closely, you can see the tenants of the building in the ground floor windows!).

The house was originally built for Samuel Johnson’s parents, Sarah and Michael, in 1708 and the family ran their bookshop business on the ground floor. You can find out more by clicking the About Us tab at the top of the page.

We’ve set up this blog so that we can share some of what we get up to behind the scenes at the museum. Daily life here is very varied so we want to show you a little of what our staff and volunteers do, whether that’s considering new items for the collection, setting up exhibitions, hosting a visiting school group or carrying out preservation work.

As well as being a public museum, we’re also home to a collection of over 8,000 items relating to Samuel Johnson, his circle and eighteenth-century Lichfield. The collection includes prints and paintings, furniture, manuscripts, books and letters, so we will be showcasing some of our favourites in regular Object of the Month and Featured Object posts.

We would also like to invite contributions to the blog from researchers interested in Johnson’s life, works or wider literary fellowships, as well as genealogists and historians interested in eighteenth-century life in Lichfield and the surrounding area. To find out more about writing for us, please see our Contributions page.

We hope you enjoy seeing behind the scenes at The Samuel Johnson Birthplace. If you would like to arrange to visit us, or would like more information on our collection, please visit our website. In the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe so that you don’t miss a post, and to follow up on our social media at Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.