Laura Turner is one of the volunteers at Shropshire Archives converting the catalogue of the Shrewsbury Library Collection (a large collection of assorted historic records that were transferred to the care of the service when archives and libraries merged in the 1990s). Laura reports the below:
Many of you might believe that autograph collecting, or philography, is a fairly modern phenomenon, but that’s where you’d be wrong. The earliest considered autograph is part of a Sumerian Clay table from c 3100 BC which includes the name of the scribe Gar Ama. The earliest known written autograph is by the major historical figure El Cid which dates from 1098. Recently three autographs were found at the Shropshire Archives. Sir Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill, served in the Napoleonic wars under the command of the Duke of Wellington. He was to become Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in 1828. Another related to William Ormsby Gore, 4th Baron Harlech, who was a conservative politician. The third was that of Charles Cecil Cope Jenkinson, 3rd Earl of Liverpool. These were an interesting find.
Also unearthed were two letters from Tom Stevens, first Bishop of Barking, who was educated locally at Shrewsbury School. His letter is beautifully written and illustrated and addressed to a Gertrude. Born in 1841 he was educated at Sherborne and Magdalene College Cambridge and was the son of Thomas Ogden Stevens of Salisbury. He was awarded a Degree of Doctor of Divinity from Magdalene College in May 1901. His first post led him to Charterhouse School as Assistant Master, later becoming the Bishop of Barking 1901 – 1919. He was succeeded by James Inskip. The second of the two letters was written one month before his death in 1920.