George Berg’s Experiment Book: About Berg’s Notebooks
“George Berg’s Experiment Book” is actually six paper notebooks that were bound together, probably in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. Each notebook consists of about twenty folded sheets enclosed in a crudely marbled cover. All but one are the same size; the other is slightly wider and longer. The current binding makes it impossible to see how or how well the notebooks were made, but they appear to be waste books made from leftover paper of the sort that any eighteenth-century printer or stationer might offer. And, in fact, bound into one of the notebooks is a billhead for a London tea merchant.
The notebooks are numbered, and contain dated and continuously numbered (1 to 672) experiments. Notebooks 1 and 2 were written in two directions: To read the pages at the back of each you must turn to the back cover and then turn the notebook upside down. The reverse contains transcriptions from books or lectures about chemistry or glassmaking, and notes of personal conversations. Comparable types of information appear only on the inside of the covers and on the first page of the last four notebooks. I do not believe that Berg continued to write in the first two books as he recorded experiments and observations in the later ones, but as most of these entries are undated, there is no way to be certain.
All six notebooks include interleaved papers, now attached to the notebook pages. Some of the inserts include sequences of experiments that are transcribed into the experiment book. Other papers record notes from discussions, lectures, or publications, materials purchased and costs, and such miscellaneous information as the sailing dates of ships carrying goods used by Berg in his experiments. Some but not all of these interleaved papers are dated. A number are written on the reverse of papers from Berg’s other lives: a letter from someone at the war in Germany in 1763, a draft of the dedication letter included with his published sonatas, and mysterious lists of names that might be patrons, students, creditors, or colleagues.