Nova Scotia Archives

Colonel John Gorham’s Account Book

The Account Book as a Physical Object

While we have scanned each page of the account book and made the content available online, the book itself remains an object of interest separate from its content.

Account Book Cover


The volume measures 34 cm x 11 cm x 2.5 cm (13.5" long x 8.5" wide x 1" thick). The cover has a tantalizing inked title that looks readable, but defies reading.


The spine of the book has a glued-on paper label, added later, with a title that appears to read 'Attic Ledger 13'. The paper label also seems to be glued over another label.

Account Book Spine

From the contents of the account book, it appears to have been used very much 'in the moment' to record the distribution of supplies and other transactions of an immediate nature; the book probably served as a transitory record for a more precise and formal ledger of accounts kept by Gorham, or more likely by a clerk. The physical object is worn and battered, with a broken closure and various nicks and cuts on the cover consistent with daily wear-and-tear.

Account Book open

The account book was constructed by joining two 'signatures' of approximately equal-size paper (about 23 leaves each) to an inner cover made of thicker paper – which is actually a map that has been folded a number of times. Eight thicker cords join the signatures and the used-map wrapper to the heavy parchment (animal-skin) cover.

The 18th century paper-making process is clearly evident in the pages of Gorham's account book, although the identity of the papermaker is less obvious (most paper from that time carries unique imbedded designs traceable to known manufacturers). The chain-and-laid marks of the frame used to make the paper are plainly visible. Each page, as the leaves were folded, is about 9 inches in width. The watermark is about 4 inches wide and shows a lion carrying a corn sheaf and a spear, standing on a plinth with the letters 'VRYHEID'. An inscription circle, topped by a crown, surrounds the lion and plinth; it appears to contain the words 'pro patria' and others less clear.

Account Book paperAccount Book paper

The pages also contain a smaller countermark consisting of a crown over the initials 'LB'. The marks are consistent with mid-18th century paper manufactured in the United Kingdom — see W.A. Churchill, Watermarks in Paper in Holland, England, France Etc., in the XVII and XVIII Centuries and Their Interconnection (1935) — and suggest that the paper used in the Gorham account book was manufactured in Kent, England by James Whatman, a noted papermaker of the time.