Fortean Notes

Go to content

Main menu:

Charles Hoy Fort's Notes


Introduction



Charles Hoy Fort utilized a vast number of notes to write his iconoclastic books.

From what I have been able to ascertain, Fort might begin an excursion to the New York Public Library or the British Museum's Reading Room by cutting up sheets of paper into pieces that were about the size of a business card. As he spent the day, reading books, newspapers, and whole series of journals, he would scribble down a note when he found something that caught his interest. At the end of the day, he might copy his notes to sort them into a variety of topics and series of chronologies, (into a simple relational database consisting of several boxes). Thus, when writing a chapter for one of his books, he might take a series of notes and could refer to them, while typing a draft page of a chapter and providing his source references.

Fort's notes could include newspaper clippings, letters, and whole pages from his typed pages. Some unused typescripts of his book Skyward Ho! were thus utilized as notes and later re-written into Lo! When Fort went to London, he disposed of many, (if not all), of his notes; and, he made new notes that referred to The Book of the Damned, (writing "D" and the page number from that book, as his source reference).

Before Fort's death, he wrote a letter indicating that his notes were to be preserved and made available to others for their researches. Tiffany Thayer acquired most of the notes from Annie Fort, (Fort's widow), and published his "translations" of part of them in The Fortean and Doubt. Thayer's widow gave these notes, along with other items, to the New York Public Library, where they are included in the Tiffany Thayer collection.

In the early 1970s, Ivan T. Sanderson sought a volunteer to copy Fort's notes, ("Charles Fort's Notes." Pursuit, 5 no. 2 (April, 1972): 44-45), and to have them published in Pursuit. Carl Pabst was chosen for this task, provided with a private space for his work at the New York Public Library, and spent years examining these notes. Pabst typed his "decipherments" onto index cards, and many of these notes were published in Pursuit. Unfortunately, Pabst became unwilling to allow the remainder of his "decipherments" to be published and died without having completed his effort. Pabst's collection of index cards were retrieved by Dr. John H. Reed, in 2014. In 1973, Sanderson wrote: "The last stage in this truly monumental undertaking will be to check the original sources cited by Fort to make certain that he did not 'goof'," ("Members' Forum." Pursuit, 6 no. 1 (January, 1973): 21).

Another small collection of Fort's notes were gathered by Damon Knight, during his research for his biography Charles Fort: Prophet of the Unexplained. These notes may have been kept by someone who obtained them from Fort about the time of his death, and Thayer may not have been aware of their existence. Photocopies of these notes are in the Damon Knight collection at Syracuse University, but Knight did not remember where he had obtained them.

Fort's original notes were most often written with a pencil, with his own system of abbreviations and a handwriting that can be very difficult to read. At times, Fort could not read his own handwriting, so errors resulted in the writing of his books, as well as Thayer's "translations" and Pabst's "decipherments."

In this version of Fort's collected notes, I have combined the two chronological series into one series, (in chronological order). Pabst's "decipherments" on index cards have been utilized, with their continued use of Thayer's slashes to indicate breaks in the writing. Omissions from abbreviated and missing writing were indicated by Pabst inside of square brackets. Where simple errors have been found in Fort's notes, (for example, a wrong date, number, a misspelled name, etc.), I may correct the error, directly, or may elaborate upon the error and its correction in the following square brackets. Fort often utilized Samuel Palmer's Index to the Times Newspaper to identify potential references; thus, a note might provide a date followed by a page and column, (for example, "L.T. / Ext phe in sun / 1815 / June 21-3-d"), however, Fort may not have even read these articles, (since errors in Palmer's Index persist into its modern digital version, without any corrections, and some of these articles remain difficult to find).

Notes are identified in following square brackets, first, by their group, and, then, by a number, (which may have a decimal indicator); thus, "[A; 95.]" would indicate group A and note 95. Where the note continues onto other pieces of paper and were indicated by Pabst thus: "95(1), 95(2), 95(3)," these notes are herein identified with a decimal notation, (thus: 95.1, 95.2, 95.3, etc.).

Catalogs frequently used by Fort include Fletcher's lists of meteorites, Greg's meteors, Mallet's earthquakes, Milne's earthquakes, etc.  To avoid their citations being frequently repeated, I simply shall refer to them, and the relevant page(s), thus: "Greg, 62" and "Milne, 698."

Backer

Backer, Louis de. "Tremblements de terre et explosions volcaniques constatés dans les Indes néerlandaises, depuis le commencement du XVIe siècle jusqu'à nos jours." Comptes Rendus, 70 (April 18, 1870): 878-882. This is a translation of a list of volcanic activity compiled by Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn. A list of the Dutch names of these volcanoes and their geographical coordinates is found in the Indisch Magazijn, (v. 1, at p. 292).

Finley, John Park. Report on the Character of Six Hundred Tornadoes. Professional Papers of the Signal Service No. VII. Washington: Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 1882.

Finley

Fletcher, Lazarus. An Introduction to the Study of Meteorites. London: British Museum, 1914. Fort used the 1914 edition

The 1904 edition is at: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/umn.31951000521444p  
The 1908 edition is at: http://pds.lib.harvard.edu/pds/view/4740530

The 1914 edition is at: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/002003123

Fletcher

Greg, Rupert Philips. "A Catalogue of Meteorites and Fireballs, from A.D. 2 to A.D. 1860." Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1860, 48-120.

Greg

Lowe, Edward Joseph. "Meteors, or Falling Stars. Recreative Science, 1 (1860): 130-138, at 136-138.

Lowe

Mallet, Robert. "Catalogue of recorded Earthquakes from 1606 B.C. to A.D. 1850." Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1854, 1-326.

Mallet

Milne, John. "Catalogue of Destructive Earthquakes." Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1911, 649-740. Milne uses Greenwich mean Civil Time in his entries, as well as the most destructive earthquakes, (not "foreshocks" and "aftershocks"), so his dates and times may not agree with the local times and dates recorded elsewhere.

Milne

Roper, William. A List of the More Remarkable Earthquakes in Great Britain and Ireland During the Christian Era. Lancaster, England: n.p., 1889.

Roper

The divisions of Fort's notes, where they continue onto the reverse side, (indicated by Thayer with "Over" and indicated by Pabst with "Reverse side"), are not indicated other than with another slash. Thayer, Pabst, and Kieswetter occasionally questioned or corrected something in Fort's notes. I have included these notations.

Fort's own set of abbreviations include:

about

ab

according to

ac to

???

augs

Fort's unidentified source of astronomical information, (probably an "almanac")

(Al) (A 1)

Milne's catalog of destructive earthquakes (7 AD to 1899 AD)

BA 11

Mallet's catalog of earthquakes (1606 BC to 1842 AD)

BA 54

Greg's catalog of meteors (2 A.D. to 1860 A.D.)

BA 60

blood

bld

Thayer stated that this was an indicator for use in a proposed book

BO

"The note copies information from page 79 of The Book of the Damned."

D-79

detonating meteor

det met

Fletcher's lists, (not Lo! as stated by Thayer)

(F)

frogs

frgs

ghost

ghst

Milne's catalog indication of a "smaller" destructive earthquake

I

Milne's catalog indication of a "greater" destructive earthquake

II

Milne's catalog indication of a "greatest" destructive earthquake

III

lightning

lght

London Times

LT L.T.

[Mallet's catalog???]

(M)

meteorite

met

poltergeist

polt

earthquake

q

Refer to

R—

substance, fall of

(S)

similar

sim

thunder

th

thunder storm

th storm

Transit of Mercury

Tran Merc

volcano

volc

Vulcan (an intra-Mercurial planet)

(V) Vulc

whirlwind

whirl

unknown indicator

(+)


Dr. John H. Reed continues to provide me with optical scans of Pabst's index cards; and, it may take a few more years to transcribe all of these scans into text and to examine their source references.

 
Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
Back to content | Back to main menu