Today, at the dockyard library, I entered a lot of volumes mainly concerned with naval and marine terminology. One of these books was the Navy List of 1766…though it was a 2001 reprint with a few explanatory notes helpfully provided by the editor.
The book includes just about everything you could want to know about the Navy from the names of ships to the colour of the button on a captain’s coat. There’s lists of people and their wages. There’s lists of people’s jobs. One of the jobs listed in the book is that of the Necessary Woman.
Why it had to be a woman I have no idea but her job consisted of emptying the chamber pots. How delightful. I don’t know how much she was paid (the book didn’t lend itself for discovery of something so entrenched within it’s pages) but I’m fairly certain it would have not been enough. I’m equally certain the job title didn’t refer to the woman as being necessary but rather the job being of a necessity and it was a woman who did it.
In another book, shortly after discovering the Necessary Woman, I came across an ad showing a product that she would have probably needed.
In the 1840’s, the firm of A Rowland and Son had a bit of a problem with counterfeiters producing inferior versions of their Kalydor. According to a short piece published in, of all places, the Asian Journal and Monthly Review 1845, it stated that the original and real Kalydor was made with all natural ingredients while the inferior fakes were full of “…mineral astringents utterly ruinous to the complexion, and by their repellant action endangering health.”
In order to ‘protect’ the paying public from buying cheaper and dangerous versions of their body lotion, Rowland’s went to the trouble of having made a special image featuring the Grecian Graces printed by Perkins, Bacon and Co. They also had labels made up featuring a government stamp with the proprietor’s name affixed thereon.
What really drew my eye to the ad was the fact that the Kalydor purports to being able to remove freckles. That sounds rather astringent to me if not downright scary. These days it takes a doctor with a laser beam rather than a jar of Ponds.
Rather more lovely than the effects of counterfeit face cream, was the colour plate at the beginning of the bound copy of the full catalogue for the Royal Naval Exhibition held in Chelsea in 1891. It was painted by an Italian marine artist living and working in London. His name was Edoardo de Martino.
Born in Meta di Sorrento in 1838 he joined the Italian navy but, by the time he reached 30 was convinced he should paint ships rather than work on them. He started his artistic career in Naples then, eventually, gravitated to London where he spent the rest of his life. He died there in 1912.
Queen Victoria was particularly fond of his work…which is probably why he was used to illustrate this ‘Royal’ catalogue. He also left almost £12,000 in his will so he must have been quite successful.
And there was me thinking I’d left artists behind when I stopped working on the Art Project at the Science Museum.
So my day progressed, entering books, making up abstracts, thoroughly enjoying myself.
As I was leaving Heather said that once I’d finished the V section I’m working on, she wants me to dive into the Filing Cabinet of Wonders which holds all manner of mysterious things in need of categorisation. That’ll be fun, fun, fun.