Dream of having copies of La Belle Assemblee at your fingertips? Wish you could get your hands on hard to find manuscripts and journals? Well here's your chance!
Interview with Susan Broadwater
by Cybil Solyn
Q: What is the Regency Library and Research Library?
A: Regency Library and Research Library are document distribution systems that are provided to subscribers. Each week documents are distriburted via a electronic mailing list. These documents are from period resources. The Regency Library distributes a number of documents from Regency Era periodicals such as La Belle Assemblee and the Lady's Monthly Museum and The Lady's Magazine. In addition to these other works such as Simond's Journal of a Tour to England in 1810-11 are also distributed. Other works currently being distributed include Paterson's Road Book 1811 and a conduct book called Domestic Duties.
Research Library works pretty much the same way but it doesn't focus on one period--it has a broader range of times/subjects. Much of Research Library does concentrate on the Victorian era but Colonial America is another subject. There are also more topical things covered, such as holiday customs, the paranormal, internet resources, cities (such as New York, London, etc). In January 2002 for instance articles were run from several period magazines on the history of Central Park, and the construction of the Crystal Palace for the Exhibition.
Q: It's such a bold idea. What gave you the impetus to start it?
A: Carmel Thomaston at Painted Rock and I first started something similar when Painted Rock was established. We ran the Research Assistant. It was during that period that I got the idea for a list that was devoted entirely to the Regency and I started producing that on my own. Eventually Carmel moved into other areas and I wanted to continue so I continued alone and called the other list the Research Library. Part of the impetus behind the Regency Library happened because it came to my attention that some book breakers were tearing La Belle Assemblee and Ackermann's Repositories apart and selling them piecemeal at E-bay and other auction sites. I wanted to save as many of these intact as possible and decided that a list devoted soley to the Regency could help me buy these things and benefit a great number of people who could not afford to buy them on their own or might not even be able to have access to them through their local library systems. So it was really an effort to save the books and to make them available at a reasonable price to a large audience who could appreciate and use them for research.
Q: Where do you get your resources from?
A: I check bookfinder, ABE, and E-bay. I also made a deal with a guy that was breaking the books and selling them piecemeal to buy all that he had to keep them from being torn up. Other people have graciously loaned me their materials and in return, after I have digitized those I will give them the volumes that I have so that sets can stay together. I had half a year of 1816 La Belle Assemblee and another woman had the other half--we made a deal that I could borrow hers for the Library and in return she would be sent mine. This keeps entire years intact and in good hands. Another lady bought a 1799 Lady's Monthly Museum only to find that she already owned that volume so she sent me that in return for something she didn't have that I own in my collection.The same lady had one half of 1807 La Belle Assemblee (without plates) and I just bought the other half of 1807 at E-bay. When mine came I realized that it had all the plates instead of just 6 months. I contacted her and she is sending me her half of 1807 and when I'm done, she will get my half and will have a full set of plates. It all works out.
Q: What are your dreams for the future?
A: I'd like to produce E-books that can be downloaded to PDAs so writers and others can take all this stuff with them in a compact form when they go on trips and have easy access to it. I'd like to somehow get a grant so I could save more books from the breakers but that is something I have to look into. Eventually I hope that this can be my full time job.
Q: If you didn't have any impediments standing in your way, what would you do differently?
A: I would start over again and implement some of the lessons I learned in just doing this for the first time and having to learn as I went. For instance, I think I would set a year's schedule in advance and adhere to it with specific works and those works only being distributed for that year. I would also do the web site differently (the subscriber's area).
Q: Anything you are looking forward to putting up?
A: I have a set of books called Belles and Beaux that I am looking forward to producing in full; I'm also looking forward to putting up the Memoirs of Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Memoirs of Princess Charlotte and a little book of magic that was printed in 1813 which I find to be very interesting.
Q: What's on your "wish list" of resources?
A: I want to get my hands on some contemporary etiquette books for the Regency period and I am trying to get an entire set of the European Magazine and London Review (I am making headway on this). I also would like to get access to a full set of La Belle Assemblee so we can have a full set produced through the Library. I think this is do-able. I have already gotten access or own full years 1807 (one part loaned to me) 1810, 1813, 1814, 1816 (one part loaned to me), 1817 and 1818. I also have several volumes from the later period that will appear on Research Library list.
Q: Are you seeking any help or volunteers?
A: I am seeking people who are willing to share their resources with the Library. I believe that if we can begin publishing E-books that business may pick up enough that I might be able to pay those willing to help. Right now the Library makes enough to pay for the books we distribute. Laura Wallace currently contributes to the Library and she will be contributing some very interesting things in the next year.
Q: Anything you would like to add?
A: Well I will be updating the web site soon and putting more articles in the free area as well as a promotional issue. We need more money to buy books and people will be able to donate using the Amazon Honor System when the new page goes up. Any money donated through that system will be used to buy materials to be put up in the public areas of the site and those things will be made freely available to anyone. Subcription money will continue to be used for materials for subscribers.
The cost for a year subscription to both services is $45.00 To find out more about the Regency Library and the Research Library, or to subscribe please go to www.moonstonerp.com