All posts by charlotte

The happiest day of your life (#ArchivesAreYou)

A bride in wedding dress and veil posing for the camera holding a corgi dog, c. 1960s

Bride + corgi, c. 1960s, ©Bodleian Libraries

Helen Muspratt (1907-2001) was a skilled experimental and documentary photographer of the 1930s who produced haunting photographs of pre-war Russia and Ukraine as well as the Welsh valleys in the depths of the Great Depression. For most of her life, however, she was a hardworking studio photographer. From her studio on Cornmarket Street in Oxford she staged lively portraits of everyone who crossed the threshold, from playful toddlers to students celebrating degree days. And she was also a skilled wedding photographer, a job which consumed many Saturdays. Our collection of her wedding photographs spans the 1940s to the 1970s and showcases ordinary people, usually unnamed, in a beautiful array of wedding fashions.

 

Her Majesty’s stationery

When I came across a large tranche of letters from Queen Victoria to one of 19th-century Britain’s longtime Foreign Secretaries, George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon (in office 1853-58, 1865-66, 1868-70), I didn’t expect to find one of the most striking things about them to be the queen’s writing paper.

Queen Victoria wrote hundreds of letters to George Villiers over a span of 21 years, mainly about foreign policy matters, but while these letters have been partially published (in a 1907 edition which you can find in the Bodleian Libraries and digitised at Project Gutenberg) what those published transcripts don’t convey is the festive, even gaudy, quality of the queen’s headed writing paper.

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Mystery items in the Clarendon archive

Did we just find Victorian condoms in the Clarendon archive?

Emptying out a leather wallet found with a box of mainly 1850s letters sent to the 4th Earl of Clarendon, I came across a few stray items: a bad sketch of a woman called Josephine, a scrap of newspaper [*see an important update at the end!], and some folded tissue. It’s not unusual to find scrumpled bits of tissue paper in archives, and sometimes that tissue is wrapping something precious, so it’s always worth investigating.

This tissue struck me as unusual, however – what caught my eye was the shaped and curved edge, and the tiny hint of ribbon. Was this a folded glove, perhaps?

Tubes of yellowed paper or parchment or tissue with ties of narrow blue ribbon

Folded tissue with ribbon

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Dear Papa

'My Dear Papa, I want so to see you again. I love you so much. Your affec[ate] son'. Letter from young Francis Hyde Villiers to his father, the 4th Earl of Clarendon

Letter from young Francis Hyde Villiers to his father, the 4th Earl of Clarendon [click to enlarge]

Too cute not to share, this heavily folded letter was written by Francis Hyde Villiers to his father George, 4th Earl of Clarendon, in the mid 1850s.

Sir Francis Hyde Villiers (1852-1925) went on to be Minister to Portugal, Ambassador to Belgium, and possessor of a formidable moustache, but here he’s just a very young boy who misses and loves his dad.

The letter is preserved in the archive of the Earls of Clarendon (2nd creation), currently being catalogued.

 

IP Federation archive in the Weston Library (open from mid-2021)

Sonia Cooper, the Federation’s current President, 2021-2022. Courtesy Sonia Cooper.

Sonia Cooper, the Federation’s current President, 2021-2022. Courtesy Sonia Cooper.

Following a decision by the IP Federation to make its archive available subject to a “30-year” rule, legal scholars, business historians, and others have access in the Weston Library to a wealth of previously unavailable material showing how business reacted to and lobbied on intellectual property (IP) law from 1920 to 1989.

The IP Federation [1] has today 42 member companies, engaged in a wide range of manufacturing and service provision. Member companies all have a strong UK presence but are mostly parts of international groups, not necessarily headquartered in the UK.

Gerard Arden Clay, the Federation’s first President, 1920-1930. Courtesy Robin Baden Clay.

Gerard Arden Clay, the Federation’s first President, 1920-1930. Courtesy Robin Baden Clay.

Since its foundation with 13 members in 1920, the Federation has had as its prime object the promotion, in IP matters, of the interests of national and international business [2]. (The Federation’s role has never included representing the interests of the legal professions.) To achieve this object, the Federation has always taken a highly commercially-informed policy view of IP law, a focus that makes the Weston Library archive of especial interest. The Federation has a Council (chaired by a President) that meets monthly, and in addition there are Committees for the various aspects of IP and competition law. The Federation responds rapidly to IP issues that arise, whether as a result of official consultations or otherwise.

The Federation approached Oxford University with a view to donating its 1920-1989 archive for various reasons, including because it has a longstanding Intellectual Property Rights Centre. Dev Gangjee, currently Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Oxford, supported the case for the acceptance of the archive by the Bodleian, and a Senior Archivist, Lucy McCann, worked with the Federation to organise the selection and receipt of the material. The material is sorted into 67 archive boxes, each approximately 7 cm deep. There are boxes containing, from the early years of the Federation, wonderful well-preserved Minute Books with gold lettering on the spine and highly legible manuscript entries. Loose papers are grouped chronologically in folders within boxes.

Coincidentally, the activities of the Federation since the end of 1989 have been written up and published professionally through approximately annual reviews, now all on the internet at https://www.ipfederation.com/ip-federation-review/ [3]. The first review was published under the Federation’s previous brand of TMPDF in 1990 [4] with the title REVIEW of trends and events; the 29th in the series was IP Federation Review of December 2020. Therefore, the Weston Library collection joins up chronologically with what was already publicly available, so that scholars have the opportunity of studying business’s views on IP matters from the foundation of the Federation in 1920 to the present day – although in principle a further donation in due course of post-1989 material would allow them to form a more complete view.

A 1968 policy paper of the Federation. Courtesy of the IP Federation.

A 1968 policy paper of the Federation. Courtesy of the IP Federation.

The Federation Council and Committee minutes included in the archive were meticulously and informatively drafted, and supporting material was retained; so, the archive includes, for instance, official consultations and reports, correspondence with other representative organisations, and the final lobbying output of the Federation. It needs to be remembered that the collection was all created in pre-internet days, when a key service of the Federation to its members was to inform them of IP developments worldwide (regardless of whether these were within the scope of its lobbying). From 1952 to 1989, the Federation issued hard-copy monthly private newsletters based on material received from third parties. Not only the Federation documents in the archive but also many third-party documents will be the only copies in the public domain – or even the only copies in existence.

The user of the Weston Library collection will be guided, first, by the library catalogue https://archives.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/repositories/2/resources/9593. The listing of the contents of each box may merely be a general one specifying the range of dates of the material and identifying the IP issues of the time. In some cases it identifies particularly intriguing historical items such as –

in 1943, “Pamphlet … being a detailed report by the [Federation’s] patents committee on matters arising out of wartime emergency legislation;” and
ca 1970-1, ” ‘Paper by T[imothy] W[ade] Roberts for CIPA informals’ discussing ‘peripheral’ vs ‘central’ claiming (a key issue in the runup to the European Patent Convention …).”

Often, the user of the collection will be greatly assisted by manual indexes assiduously created by past Federation Secretaries and included in the boxes. Office computerisation began to resemble what we know today only around 1985. Therefore, manual indexing by topic was essential if the Secretary was to be able to retrieve any previous internal discussions of a particular topic, for instance when a new official consultation was started.

Michael Jewess, michaeljewess@researchinip.com, 17 October 2021

Honorary Fellow of the IP Federation

 

[1] A brief account by the same author of the Federation’s first 100 years is given in the December 2020 issue of IP Federation Review under the title “Snippets from the archives”, accessible from https://www.ipfederation.com/ip-federation-review/.

[2] The original Memorandum and Articles of Association referred to “traders in the British Empire and Foreign Countries”.  The second object was to promote international “conventions” and “arrangements” relating to IP, a clear reference to the benefits that had arisen from the Paris Convention of 1883 establishing priority rights and from the Berne Convention of 1886 on copyright.

[3] The Reviews refer often to the Policy Papers issued by the Federation.  These are also available to scholars, either published at https://www.ipfederation.com/policy-papers/ or else available from the Federation’s Secretariat.

[4] The official name for the Federation (registered in England as company number 166772) from 1920 to 1951 was “Trade Marks Patents and Designs Federation Limited”, from 1951 to 2014 the same without the “Limited”, and from 2014 “IP Federation”.

Congratulations, have a fish

Congratulation letters are a common feature of archives, celebrating milestones like getting a new job, having a baby, or winning awards and honours. There are many bundles of these letters and telegrams in the archive of George Villiers, the 6th Earl of Clarendon (1877-1955) which pat him on the back at moments including the birth of a son (July 1916), and being appointed Governor General of South Africa (1930). They range from paid-by-the-word concise telegrams to long and effusive letters, but they’re pretty predictable – there aren’t too many ways to say congrats on your new job after all.

Tag for a congratulatory fish, from the archive of the Earls of Clarendon (2nd creation), April 1938

Tag for a congratulatory fish, April 1938 [click to enlarge]

Until I came across this, in a pile of about 100 letters celebrating Lord Clarendon’s appointment as Lord Chamberlain of the Household.

The congratulatory fish was sent to the Earl by the Fisher family from Ednam House Hotel in Kelso, Scotland. Hopefully it arrived in London in lots of ice.

The Lord Chamberlain post was the culmination of the 6th Earl’s long career in government and public service. It also reflected the Hyde and Villiers’ families longstanding connections with the royal household which went back to the 1st Earl of the 1st creation, Edward Hyde, who not only served as Lord Chancellor to Charles II in the 1660s, but was the grandfather of two queens: Mary and Anne. More recently, the 6th Earl’s own father, the 5th Earl, Edward Hyde Villiers, had served as Lord Chamberlain from 1900-1905.

The job is an onerous one. As the most senior officer in the royal household, responsibilities include organising all ceremonial activity, including coronations and the State Opening of Parliament. Before 1968, the Lord Chamberlain also acted as the official theatre censor and bane of playwrights, with the power to ban plays when it was “fitting for the preservation of good manners, decorum or of the public peace“.

The 6th Earl was Lord Chamberlain for 14 years until officially relinquishing the role on 21 October 1952 at the age of 75, on medical advice. He was the second longest-serving Lord Chamberlain of the 20th century and during his term was responsible for the ceremonial for royal events including the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1947 and the 1952 funeral of King George VI.

These papers, of the Earls of Clarendon of the second creation, are currently being catalogued and will be available to readers in 2022.

The World’s Best Food At Your Doorstep

Another wonderful list of foodstuffs from the Clarendon collection!

Typescript catalogue of Le Buffetier's Delicatessan, London, Sep 1954

Catalogue of Le Buffetier’s Delicatessan, London, Sep 1954 [click to enlarge]

This plain but inspiring catalogue is the September 1954 list of foods available from the London postal delicatessan Le Buffetier’s (Piccadilly Parcels Ltd: “The World’s Best Food At Your Doorstep”). It’s a four-page cornucopia of exotic tinned and jarred foods from countries ranging from Denmark to China and it’s both modern (food by post!) and deeply retro. Foie gras aside, just about everything listed is something you now wander past in the average supermarket but in 1954 it was expensive deli fare. For well-off, cosmopolitan British customers like Verena Villiers, Countess of Clarendon, who had experienced foreign travel and foreign postings, it may have been the only way to taste the foods that they had grown to love.

1954 was also the last year of food rationing, and unless Le Buffetier’s customers had black market sources or kind overseas friends to pay companies like Piccadilly Food Parcels to send them care packages (as in this 1948 advertisement in a South African newsletter, PDF, page 26), this could have been the first time they had had access to these delicacies in the 14 years since rationing was introduced. (Verena Villiers did, in fact, have kind overseas friends sending her food parcels from abroad, including eggs, breakfast tea and bacon from Canada; vitamin-enriched margarine, lard, and tinned beef from South Africa via Denmark; and cake from New Zealand.)

From South Africa, where the Countess of Clarendon lived in the 1930s with her husband, then Governor-General, Le Buffetier’s offered tinned rock lobster, as well as tins of mangoes, paw paw and guavas. (‘Last month we offered these fruits to those looking for “desserts with a difference”. This month we offer them as established favourites’.)

The list of vegetables on offer, meanwhile, included up-market things like artichoke bottoms but also the now incredibly prosaic tinned sweetcorn, tomato puree and Italian peeled tomatoes. Today, a standard 400g/14oz tin of Italian peeled plum tomatoes will set you back 40p in Sainsbury’s, and you can buy them for less. In 1954, a 16oz tin was 1s 9d, or a little over £2 in 2017 money.

Catalogue page of Le Buffetier's Delicatessan by Postal Service, Sep 1954

Catalogue page of Le Buffetier’s Delicatessan, including Chinese food, Sep 1954 [click to enlarge]

And those humble tinned tomatoes were among the cheapest items on offer. In their Chinese food and condiments section, a 7oz bottle of soy sauce was 3s6d (roughly £4.18), or you could introduce more umami to your food with “Ve-Tson” gourmet powder (you can still buy Ve-tsin gourmet powder, aka monosodium glutamate, or MSG) which would set you back 4s10d, or £5.77.

The list includes other brands that we recognise today, like Knorr Swiss soup, which in 1954 you could enjoy in a range of flavours that outshines 2021, including egg scramble, napoli and asparagus, as well as the still-available chicken noodle and spring vegetable. The price is startling though: 6 packets for 10s6d, or £12.53. (This part of the list also introduced me to the word ‘goluptious’, which means delightful or luscious. Use it in a sentence today!)

Even more pricey and, as far as I can tell, no longer available, is something that might now be considered much more exotic than soy sauce: tinned grouse and partridge. Two tins of whole roast grouse in port wine jelly was 30/-d, or £1 10s, which is £35.80 in 2017 money, or approximately one day’s wage for a skilled tradesman in 1955. (You could have a 15oz tinned parfait bloc de foie gras, meanwhile, for 112/-d, or £133.65.)

Also exotic today, and very reminiscent of TV chef Fanny Cradock, who made her TV debut in 1955 and loved a piping bag, is the egg mayonnaise from Germany: ‘this item of exceptional quality is packed in a tube with star shaped opening for decorating and completing cold dishes’ (four tubes cost 12s, or £14.32).

It’s a lovely, evocative glimpse at 1950s food culture, and a heady reminder of the ways British tastes, and supply logistics, have transformed over the past 70 years.

These papers, of the Earls of Clarendon of the second creation, are currently being catalogued and will be available to readers in 2022.

To prevent mail robberies!

A United Kingdom General Post Office printed poster on how to securely send bank notes through the post, 9 Feb 1782

General Post Office poster on how to securely send bank notes through the post, 9 Feb 1782 [click to enlarge]

A helpful 18th-century public information campaign by the General Post Office advises the unwary about how to safely send bank notes through the post.

It is recommended to all Persons, at present uninformed, who may have Occasion to send BANK NOTES by the Post, to cut them in two Parts, according to the following Specimen where it is marked with a  black Line, and send them by different Posts; first writing the Name, Date and Year at one End of the Note, and the Letter and Number at the other End; by this Means each Part will contain a sufficient Specification of the Whole, and prevent any kind of Difficulty in the Payment of it at the Bank of England…in case of the Loss of the other Part.

Highway robbery–your money or your life!–was a very real and present danger in 1782, so this was useful advice.

Bank notes, which were issued in denominations up to a staggering £1000, were a much more discreet and sensible way to carry or send money than hauling around bags of golden guineas, and interestingly, it seems that the growing circulation of notes was one of the reasons for the decline in highway robbery in England in the 19th century, because paper currency was more traceable than coins. And it tickles me to think that it’s possible that enough people started using this secure, two-step technique to send their money through the post that it was no longer worth the effort to hold up a mail coach.

Also notable? This poster only concerns Bank of England notes. The Bank of England did not have a monopoly on issuing paper currency in England and Wales in the 18th century (or for a surprisingly long time afterwards), but this reminder that the Bank would make good on half a note might have encouraged people to use their notes rather than a provincial bank’s.

Another thing it’s interesting to see is the use of the placeholder names John Doe and the now less well-known Richard Roe. To a British reader these might sound very American, but those names have actually been used in English law since the middle ages, and John Doe still is, in some instances, even though we don’t use it to name unidentified bodies!

These papers, of the Earls of Clarendon of the second creation, are currently being catalogued and will be available to readers in 2022.

Royal velvet

Vivid purple and gold artificial flower made from Queen Elizabeth's 1937 coronation robe by the Girls of the John Groom's Crippleage

Artificial flower made from Queen Elizabeth’s 1937 coronation robe [click to enlarge]

This gorgeous purple lily with downward-curling petals and a golden stem is one of two pieces of royal fabric in the archive of the Earls of Clarendon (2nd creation), along with a swatch from a dress of Princess – later Queen – Alexandra. The artificial flower was made in 1937 from the velvet coronation robe of Queen Elizabeth and presented to Verena, Countess of Clarendon, who attended the coronation.

It deserves a better picture (sorry about that) but you can see just how vivid and deeply coloured the purple velvet still is, as are the petals’ golden undersides, the gold thread-wrapped stem and the five tubular stamens at its centre. Although a tiny gold bauble “anther” is still delicately glued in place at the tip of one stamen, it looks like it might have lost four others, and if so, perhaps that’s because it was actually worn by the Countess enough times to damage it slightly. But for an artificial flower (and fabric!) made so long ago, it’s in remarkable condition, thanks to the fabric spending the last 84 years safely hidden and protected from light, damp and insects in its small presentation box.

For me, though, the most interesting thing is the label which tells us who made it: the Girls of The John Groom’s Crippleage.

Who were they?

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Jenny Joseph poetry notebooks digitised

Digitised copy of 'Warning', from Jenny Joseph's poetry notebooks [MS. 12404/41]

Digitised copy of ‘Warning’, from Jenny Joseph’s poetry notebooks [MS. 12404/41]

Five of Jenny Joseph’s poetry notebooks [MS. 12404/41have been digitised and you can now see every page on Digital.Bodleian.

The notebooks are a rich distillation of 60 years of Jenny Joseph’s writing career, starting in 1949, just before she came to the University of Oxford to study English. The third notebook (page 3) includes a draft of her most well-known poem, ‘Warning‘ – When I am an old woman I shall wear purple / With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me – two famous first lines which you can see corrected in this draft.

She wrote the poem in 1961 and first published it in the newsletter of the old people’s home her husband was working in at the time, and then in the magazine The Listener in 1962. She revised it further for her 1974 Cholmondeley Award winning poetry collection Rose in the Afternoon. The poem was a slow burner which surged in popularity in the 1980s, particularly in America, and it was widely anthologised and re-used for everything from tea-towels to cancer campaign adverts. The poem took on a life of its own, even losing its author at times – the Jenny Joseph archive includes a poster that attributes the lines to a mythical ‘Anonymous’. In 1996 ‘Warning’ was voted Britain’s favourite post-war poem and it even inspired new social groups like the Red Hat Society, a club for women over 50. You can find recordings of Jenny Joseph reading ‘Warning’ on YouTube, and readings of four other poems at the Poetry Archive.