Searching Philadelphia for Maryland Beer
After reading his book online and fumbling across some of his papers, it became clear to me that it might just be possible to find his recipe. Finding the first Eastern Shore beer recipe and including it in my book, would be a massive coup. I had to head to Philly to have my computer repaired. The best way to have your Mac die, it turns out, is to get behind on your writing schedule and then engage on a wild goose chase. The Apple people took it from me and sent it off to have the hard drive replaced. I thanked God for Google Drive (where my book was stored) and bounded up town looking for a 350-year-old beer recipe.
I stood before the glass dumbly for awhile, walked back among the old stacks and then returned. Eventually, a librarian and I happened to cross one another's paths and he conducted me up to the proper research part of the library. Making conversation in the elevator, the liberian asked my name, and appeared genuinely excited to hear it.
"We have almost everything together for you," he said. "We weren't sure when you'd be getting here so we just started."
The way the rare books and manuscript section works is you register online the day before for the books or papers you want. Then, the librarians pull everything you request from wherever it is in the library and bring it to you on a trolly of boxes. Then, you check out one box at a time. If the contents require gloves to handle, they let you know, but none of mine did, most were encased in plastic sleeves to protect against aging. Some were books. As it turned out, Bordley was an avid annotator. He annotated letters as well as books, meaning I had to read the correspondent's assertions, just to make sure I wasn't missing anything important.
As I prepared to leave, I had very little new information, but a ton of leads. I could go to the Library Company of Philadelphia and to the Maryland Historical Society, both of which had his papers. If I went to either of those places, at least I would have a solid starting place. The frustrating thing was a family history by one of his descendants who knew him, a grand or great-grand child, I think. She had his books and talks about how much he loved making beer and how nice it is to see his notes. Whether the notes were in another collection or lost to history, I wouldn't know until after the book was going to press.