We found the manuscript containing the stories of Thomasine and Kit in a little antique shop in a small town in Northamptonshire. It was shoved in between a trashy 1901 children’s book called The Boy Castaways of Blacklake Island (I would have bought it just for contents of the fly-leaf: ‘die, you child-stealing Scottish bastard, die, die, die’ written in a slightly unhinged copperplate, and a British Rail lost property office stamp, but it was £10, so I didn’t), and an extremely dull looking Elizabethan play called Aethelbert: A Tragedy in Five Acts. It consisted of a couple of early seventeenth-century notebooks, bound in vellum-backed blue boards and more than slightly foxed: one containing an elaborate but messy Italic hand, and the other a functional Secretary.
It took several years just to crack the cipher in which they were written, but as soon as we had, it became apparent that a third volume was needed to complete the set. Our strenuous researches took us as far afield as the Bahamas, New Zealand, New York, Newcastle, China, Newfoundland, New South Wales, Newer North Wales, Old West Wales, Paris, Rome, Venice, Madrid (and in the case of my colleague, Sir Yves, for reasons I do not entirely understand, an entire week at the Crufts Dog Show), but we eventually tracked it down as being in the hands of one Sän Inman, a freelance pirate and part-time artist working off the coast of one of our former colonies. She had pillaged it from a Mr Snicket, writer, researcher and accordian player (from whom, coincidentally, I also succeeded in pillaging a rather lovely little prose style.) Rather than submitting to being keel-hauled by Captain Inman, Mr Snicket leapt overboard with a cry of, ‘Beatrice, Beatrice, now I will be with thee forever.’
Captain Inman enthusiastically joined the translation project, and, once discouraged from interpreting Joan Chapman’s typically mid-Jacobean humanist italic clubbed ascenders as signifying the syllable: ‘Arrrrrrrr’, she proved a worthy scholar.
As for the contents of the manuscript, I shall allow the words of Mistress Joan and Master-mistresses Thomasine and Kit to speak for themselves. Suffice it to say that this must surely be one of the most astonishing literary finds of the twenty-first century. For more information, see our forthcoming monographs: Bobtail Tike or Trundletail: A Queer Theory Reinterpretation of Canine Imagery in Early Seventeenth Century Prose and Drama; Vncouering ‘The Truth’? Dr Jude Sanbecke and the Voynich Manuscript and The Bumper Book of She-Pirates (xxxxx-rated version): An Illustrated Prosopography of the Jacobean Coastal Underworld.
Thanks go to the cast and crew of Cambridge University Library, Newnham College Cambridge, UCH at Rothwell, the hospital wing of Hogwarts School and especially to our three husbands, Captain Inman’s wife and all of Yves’ dogs (even the imaginary ones) without whom none of this would be possible
The Right Revd Prof. Dame Catriona Mackay, MA, M.Phil. MBE, OBE, KGB, ACDC, ORC (Bishop of Bath and Wells, Retired*)
* That’s “retired”, NOT “resigned” and certainly not “helping the police with their enquiries”. They NEVER proved ANYTHING about the babies, and besides, it’s less yucky than eating dead cows.
An annotated edition of the introduction will become available if and when I can be bothered, but vntil then you can have fun spotting the references for yourselves. If you want to ask about any of 'em, do.