Lancaster University

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Quaker Website at Lancaster University

01/30/2009 11:16:53

Fox's Pulpit At Firbank Fell: photo courtesyof Meg Twycross
Fox's Pulpit At Firbank Fell: photo courtesy of Meg Twycross

Lancaster University’s links with the Quakers are being strengthened with a three year project to create a website about the movement and its founder George Fox. Researchers in the Department of English and Creative Writing have just released a pilot sample of their website on ‘The Journeys of George Fox 1652–1653’ as he travelled the country preaching.

Lancaster University has strong Quaker links - its first Vice-Chancellor, Charles Carter, was a member of the Society of Friends, the University colours are Lancaster red and Quaker grey, and a major recent building development is the George Fox lecture theatre. Dr Hilary Hinds, Professor Alison Findlay, and Professor Emeritus Meg Twycross are working on a project which aims to trace the social and religious networks which made Quakerism catch on with such energy when Fox, James Nayler, Richard Farnsworth and others went about Cumbria and North Lancashire on their mission from God.

It starts with Fox’s vision on Pendle Hill in 1652 of ‘a great people coming to the Lord’, the same year he was tried for blasphemy at Lancaster Castle before a bench which included Thomas Fell, vice-chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, whose wife Margaret became a Quaker and later married Fox.

The project’s starting point is Fox’s own account, and there is a completely new electronic edition of the relevant sections of all three versions of his Journal: the ‘Short Journal’ (manuscript dictated c.1664), the ‘Long Journal’ (from the ‘Spence’ manuscript, dictated c.?1675–8), and the first printed edition, edited by Thomas Ellwood (published in 1694). All three are markedly different, and are presented on screen so that readers can compare each with the others, as well as with images of the two manuscripts and a modern-spelling version of each text.

Fox dictated both manuscript versions to amanuenses – in the case of the Long Journal, his son-in-law Thomas Lower – and made corrections as he went along. A new set of very high resolution digital images of the manuscript have made it possible to see exactly what those corrections are, and at what stage in the process he made them. They cast valuable light on his methods of oral composition.

Links in the text lead to other materials – interactive Google maps and contemporary maps; photographs and early engravings of key locations; short biographies; other contemporary accounts by Friends and anti-Quakers; and videos. The project plans to extend its coverage to a less Fox-centred narrative by bringing in further material about the other ‘First Publishers of Truth’ and their activities during those initial years. The final version is expected in 2011.

The pilot sample, which only covers Pendle Hill to the great meeting on Firbank Fell, is about one-eighth of the projected final size of the website. It has been put on-line for assessment and feedback.

Comments on the website can email the project team at: