It is a couple of years since the Society published a book. Discovering More About Hitchin (2018) was a mammoth exercise, involving many members who contributed material and wrote chapters – a fitting sequel to Discovering Hitchin, published way back in 1995.
This book started with a conversation Simon Walker (author of Underground Hitchin, and several other local history publications) had towards the end of 2017 with the late Dr Leslie Mustoe. They agreed that the Hitchin Journal, which has been published for the last forty three years, was full of interesting articles – over 500 of them at the last count – many of which were no longer available to most members of the Historical Society, and many of which would be of interest to non-members too.
This turned out to be a much larger exercise than I ever envisaged. It was not as easy as just selecting an interesting collection of items for the book and copying them into a new document.
A large proportion of the articles were stored as images in PDFs, so they needed to be converted into an editable format. That had to be done a bit at a time, and then the text had to be checked against the original. It wasn’t until I took over the layout, and later as editor of the Journal, that we moved on to a more pliable format.
On top of that was the problem of images. Until the 1990s they were in black and white. Literally – no shades of grey. That meant tracking down the original pictures, or replacing them with alternatives; not an easy task either way. New printing techniques also mean that we have been able to use colour. Though I wanted to stick to the original wording, in some instances it needed correcting in light of new information. An example is The Archaeology of Hitchin since the Norman Conquest by Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews. Originally written in 2007, Keith agreed to update it for me. There is therefore new material included. Have we used all the material available? By no means! I’m currently working on a second volume for next year.
The resulting book will be available in October. A typical HHS launch is, in the current pandemic situation, out of the question. However, we have secured a stall on Hitchin Market on Saturday 24 October. Look out for the Hitchin Historical Society gazebo. Make sure of your copy … and the book will also make a great Christmas present!