Rick Van de Poll
Department of Environmental Studies
The Sylvester Judd Manuscript, comprised of close to 70 unpublished volumes, is housed in the Special Collections at the Forbes Library in Northampton, Massachusetts. Sylvester Judd was born in 1789, and spent much of his life in Northampton where he was publisher of the local paper for a dozen years. But he was also a self-taught scholar and dedicated historian who spent the last 26 years of his life – from 1834-1860, chronicling his region’s history, genealogy, culture, and natural history. Of interest to me were his eight personal Notebooks of Journals, their several thousand pages contained hundreds of descriptions of the local landscape and its natural history. The paths I have taken through my own neighborhood often corresponded to those once travelled by Mr. Judd, and I was fascinated to discover what he knew, and how it might compare to my present understanding of home. I have taken the records and impressions I culled from Sylvester Judd’s eight Journals, and woven them into three essays that contain my own understanding of a landscape we’ve both called home. They are meant to be a plain and literate expression of my own feelings about this land, and also to convey a core understanding of a man I’ve come to greatly respect, Sylvester Judd.