Monday, November 2, 2015

Records and files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts

Records and files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts (late 17th century)

Open Library direct link (volume 2)
Open Library direct link (volume 3)
Open Library direct link (volume 4)
Open Library direct link (volume 5)
Open Library direct link (volume 6)
Open Library direct link (volume 7)

Open Library main page

The New York Times interviewed Stacy Schiff (10/25/15) and she mentioned this "irresistible anthology of infractions and abominations" which sounds like must reading.  (The NYT gave Schiff's new book on the Salem witch trials--the reason she was reading this--a lukewarm review.)  It's not quite the parade of crimes and domestic squabbles it's made to sound - most of the cases involve debts, land, livestock and drunkenness.  And a fair amount of "fornication" the sentence for which was whipping or a fine.  (The records don't indicate which was chosen.)

Some examples:

On page 337 of volume 2 a man entered court "in an uncivil manner", said they were "robbers and destroyers of the widows and fatherless", that their worship "was not the worship of God" and refused to be silent.  They placed him in the stocks.

On page 121 of volume 5 a man is fined for swearing and will pay in "merchantable fish".  On page 409 a man gave "retorting and saucy language" saying he could wear silver buttons.  (There must have been sumptuary laws.)

And on it goes, these are after all actual court records not newspaper accounts.  I only found five out of apparently nine volumes but it won't much matter for browsing.  If you want a more literary account of various newsworthy events try Félix Fénéon's Novels in Three Lines.