A guest post by Danielle Skeehan
Even before research libraries shut down in March 2020, digitization efforts had already changed how we access archives and how we can do research. From the comfort of my home, I can do a keyword search in Readex, EEBO, Shaw-Shoemaker, and other databases, and access thousands of results in seconds. But, of course, digital archives cannot replace the valuable feedback and support provided by archivists, library staff, your fellowship cohort, and often the fellow sitting next to you in the reading room. So, I decided I would use this post as a plea for help in tracking down a figure who refuses to conveniently reveal himself in digitized databases. It’s an archive story about a missing person (or persons) and that person (or persons) is named Richard Daniel, Esquire.
In what follows, I’ll introduce you to the two versions of Richard Daniel I’ve come across so far: the penman and the cartographer. I have more questions than answers at this point. Who was Richard Daniel? Was the Richard Daniel who penned a 1664 handwriting guide the same Richard Daniel who hand drew a new map of British occupied North America in 1684?
And if it was the same author, what does this tell us about the relationships among handwriting, cartography, and colonization? What can the penman teach the cartographer about colonization? And what can the cartographer teach the penman about handwriting and empire?
But why do I want to find the penman and the cartographer? I’m hoping that he or they may be the missing link in what I’m calling the cartographic history of handwriting. We know that European colonization in the Americas spawned the publication of maps, ethnographies, and natural histories surveilling and detailing “New World” geographies, peoples, birds, beasts, trees, and so on. We also know, that the very same age saw a massive increase in the publication of penmanship guides and copy-books. Judging by the number of penmanship guides listed in research library catalogues, it seems that there were actually a large number of early modern Europeans with little or no knowledge of alphabetic letters and that they sought to remedy this condition.
As a growing number of these writing manuals flooded European (and later North American) markets, and Europeans flooded American shores, alphabetic literacy became a naturalized marker of European identity, establishing ties between handwriting, whiteness, and the settler colonial project. In this sense, Indigenous-European contact was, in fact, integral to a European history of handwriting even as being with or without alphabetic letters became central to colonial ideologies. The early years of European colonization initiated a history of handwriting that naturalized both history writing and handwriting as distinctly European.
I propose studying these print histories (maps, natural history, penmanship literature) as linked. And perhaps even linked through one individual if—with the help of my readers—we can track him down. But, first, let me introduce you to Richard Daniel the penman.
Richard Daniel, Esquire. Penman (circa 1664)
In 1664, Richard Daniel published Daniel’s copy-book. It was engraved by his good friend and well-known penman and mathematician, Edward Cocker, and sold by Mathew Collins and Francis Cossinet at the Three Black-Birds and the Anchor and Mariner, respectively. Copy-books were handwriting guides and might include instructions for round hand, print hand, secretary hand, running hand, court hand, as well as different alphabets and examples of popular forms of handwriting from different regions of the world. Through copy-books and penmanship guides, English handwriting came to have specific rules, regulations, and classifications. Copybooks are the disciplinary artifacts of print culture. However, like maps, natural histories, ethnographies, early copybooks are part of the “civilizing process.” They make empire one body and quill at a time. And in doing so, make the makers of imperial print cultures.
What drew me to Daniel’s copy-book was the addition of “sundry portraitures of men, beasts and birds, in their various forms and proportions.” By 1664, the phrase “birds and beasts” would more commonly be found in a different genre of books, namely those belonging to colonial exploration, settlement, and possession: natural histories, promotional tracts, and maps. Moreover, in addition to addressing his book to gentleman, scholars, and penmen, he sought the patronage of merchants and travelers.
But why birds and beasts and merchants and travelers? What do they have to do with handwriting? Did he have the North American colonial project in mind when he composed his book? Handwriting was certainly important to merchants and travelers heading to North America. Logs and ledgers must be kept. Flora and fauna must be recorded. Coasts, harbors, rivers, and territories must be inscribed. Before there was the book in the Americas, there was handwriting. And before “men, beasts and birds” were engraved, they were drawn. The birds and beasts included in Daniel’s book certainly represent the global aspirations and potential spoils of a bourgeoning British empire: birds and beasts from the Americas, Asia, and Africa, such as camels, elephants, lions, ostriches, turkeys, peacocks, and parrots, find themselves cohabitating pages with native English birds and beasts such as horses, swans, falcons, and owls.
Daniel’s copybook was an invitation down the archival rabbit hole, so to speak—but there are real rabbits in this story, too! His copy-book went through several editions but he didn’t seem to write new copy-books or penmanship guides, unlike his friend Edward Cocker who wrote nearly a dozen between 1650 and 1670. The next time the name Richard Daniel shows up as “author” in digital databases is roughly twenty years later as the maker of a new map of British occupied land in North America. If this is the same Richard Daniel, it’s possible he might be around 65 years old at the time the map was drawn.
Richard Daniel, Esquire. Cartographer (circa 1679-1684)
In 1684, Robert Morden and William Berry printed a new map of British occupied North America, attributed to Richard Daniel, engraved by William Binneman, and titled, “A Map of ye English empire in ye continent of America viz Virginia, Maryland, Carolina, New York, New Iarsey, New England, Pennsilvania.” Though there is some evidence this is a reprint of a 1679 map also drawn by a Richard Daniel, this version contains a treatise on the history of British exploration and conquest, an account of King Phillip’s War, and detailed lists of the men, beasts, birds, and trees in each of the British colonies. Daniel claims to have drawn the map in order to correct Dutch and French maps (regularly reproduced by English printers) that did not accurately represent the extent of England’s “possessions” in North America or its claims to lands “discovered” by the earliest English sponsored explorers.
My interest, however, is in the map’s men, beasts, and birds. The map is populated with what appear to be moose, deer, sheep, wild boar, turkeys, beavers, flying squirrels, partridges, geese, eagles, cranes, wolves, fox, otters, and raccoons, among others.
The map also includes what appears to be a group of Indigenous whalers in row boats, whaling off the coast of Long Island.
And yes, there are rabbits.
One of the few portraits of an individual settler colonist (rather than a ship or town) shows him attempting to bludgeon a rabbit (or possibly a pig?) that looks up at him in a supplicating manner.
In addition to claiming territory, the map does the rhetorical work of natural history (naming, taming, and commodifying nature) and ethnography (naming and assessing the potential threat of Indigenous communities). And among other things, the map is a menagerie—a fantasy of colonial possession.
By way of a conclusion, I think it is important to mention that, among the many early English explorers and military men named on the map, Richard Daniel (cartographer) makes significant mention of John Eliot’s role in colonial conquest, adding that his “care, and charitable endeavors for their conversion, may not be forgotten.” John Eliot, of course, translated the bible into Algonquian and also published “The Indian Grammar Begun; or an essay to bring the Indian language into rules” (1666). Eliot is the only “scholar” mentioned among what otherwise might be characterized as “men of action.” But his inclusion certainly shows the role that writing, ink, and paper—the word made flesh—plays in conquest and dispossession. Colonial law, like grammar, brings the “Indian into rules.” And both relied on what one early penman, William Panke, called “faire writing.”
“Faire writing” is produced as much by the disciplined body as by the mind, and disciplining the writing body was therefore integral to the production of the civilized subject. This is significant for understanding how writing serves as a technology not only for civilizing individual bodies (such as the writing student) but also for disciplining populations in England and entrapping populations in the Americas. And William Panke’s use of the word “faire” tied to “writing” is important. Increasingly, the hand that produced the alphabetic word was understood to be white. Or to put it another way, whiteness and writing become linked in the production of emergent racial categories, and in the Americas, these are categories enforced by the grammars and primers, as well as the maps and laws of settler regimes.
So, readers, I end by returning to my original query: who was Richard Daniel (penman and/or cartographer)? My contention is that he (or they) may have played an important role connecting these two print histories. If you see him in your searches or have any leads, I’d gladly follow you down the rabbit hole!
Danielle Skeehan is Associate Professor of English and Comparative American Studies at Oberlin College. Her work has appeared in The Eighteenth-Century: Theory and Interpretation, Early American Studies, Journal of the Early Republic, and The Appendix. She is the author of The Fabric of Empire: Material and Literary Cultures of the Global Atlantic, 1650-1850 (JHUP 2020). Her current book in progress is tentatively titled Imperial Ink: Writing, Dispossession, and Grammars of the Flesh.