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Reader notice: Library catalogue downtime

Requesting items from closed stacks

Exclamation mark graphicBetween 16 – 23 August, you will not be able to use SOLO to request items from closed stacks or offsite storage. We strongly recommend that you place any requests through SOLO by 5pm on 11 August.

Libraries will extend item due dates, and items will not be returned to the stacks during the upgrade period.

We will be running a limited service to handle urgent stack requests placed between 16 – 23 August. To place a request, email book.fetch@bodleian.ox.ac.uk. You will only be able to pick up ordered items from the Bodleian Old Library or Weston Library. Please allow 48 hours for your item to be delivered.

 

Orders for manuscript and archival material will be unaffected. Rare Books held onsite can be ordered by emailing specialcollections.bookings@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

Please email specialcollections.enquiries@bodleian.ox.ac.uk for further assistance.

Photographer Helen Muspratt’s archive is now available

A bride in a flower-decorated Oxford punt, being steered by the groom or a groomsman, c. 1960s

The punting bride, a wedding photograph by Helen Muspratt, Ramsey & Muspratt, c. 1960s, ©Bodleian Libraries

The archive of the portrait and documentary photographer Helen Muspratt is now catalogued and available in the Weston Library.

Helen Muspratt (1907-2001) first made her name as a skilled, experimental portrait and documentary photographer in the 1930s.

Muspratt was introduced to Lettice Ramsey (1898-1985) by their mutual friend Fra Newbery, the retired head of the Glasgow School of Art. Lettice Ramsey was a Cambridge graduate and a widowed young mother of two who had excellent contacts in Cambridge and in the winter of 1932, Muspratt joined her in Cambridge to create the studio Ramsey & Muspratt. They soon expanded into Oxford. Some of those Ramsey & Muspratt photographed during this period were the intellectual and left-wing luminaries of the day, including Virginia Woolf, C.P. Snow, Dorothy Hodgkin, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt, as well as Julian Bell, who was Lettice Ramsey’s lover. Muspratt’s photographs in the 1930s are notable for her experimental approach, including the use of double negatives and solarisation, inspired by the photographer Man Ray.

Muspratt met her husband, Oxford University graduate and Communist Party organiser Jack Dunman (d. 1973) in Cambridge where he was working for the railway. In 1936 Muspratt went on a tour of the Soviet Union with a group organised by the Society for Cultural Relations with the USSR, and her photographs from the trip were used in lecture tours to drum up support for the Soviet Union during World War II. With a commission from the Left Book Club in 1937, Muspratt did her last major documentary series, producing haunting photographs of out-of-work miners and labourers in South Wales and Liverpool, and she also joined the Communist Party. Ramsey and Muspratt’s business partnership was formally dissolved at the end of February 1945, but their respective Cambridge and Oxford studios retained the name Ramsey & Muspratt, and the pair remained friends.

From World War II onwards, while her husband worked as a full-time, rural Communist Party organiser and editor of The Country Standard, Helen Muspratt supported her family as a hardworking studio photographer. From her studio on Cornmarket Street in Oxford she staged lively portraits of everyone from babies to brides to new graduates. Muspratt also loved to photograph architecture, and she photographed Oxford and its environs for John Betjeman. She did a final documentary series when she was commissioned in 1946 by a group of campaigning doctors to photograph elderly patients in the Victorian workhouse-like conditions of the Poor House near Wantage.

Her archive, which mainly comprises prints and negatives, is a wonderful window into Oxford and its environs in the latter half of the twentieth century, as well as pioneering experimental photography of the 1930s. It also includes correspondence with her husband and her parents that are relevant to British Communist Party and left-wing political history. Muspratt’s work, including her 1930s experimental portraiture, is celebrated in the book Face: Shape and Angle by her daughter Jessica Sutcliffe (available from the Bodleian shop).

[Guest post] Lewis Namier and the First World War: the “S.O.S. signal” letter of 5 January 1915

Opening paragraph of the letter from Lewis Namier to Robert Brand written 5 Jan 1915 [from MS. Brand 26/1, Bodleian Library]. The letter opens: "I am so sorry to trouble you on a Mon, but this letter is truly written under the S.O.S. signal." Copyright Lewis Namier

[Click to enlarge] The opening paragraph of the letter from Lewis Namier to Robert Brand, 5 Jan 1915 [MS. Brand 26/1, Bodleian Library], ©Lewis Namier

One of the occasional delights of research is the happy chance discovery of a document unrelated to your project but of value in another field. This is especially satisfying when it relates to a subject famous for the limitations of its archival sources.

Working in the Papers of Robert Brand, sometime Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford and well-connected banker at Lazard Brothers, I came across a six-page letter, written in scratchy black ink, from L. B. Namier. It is dated 5 January 1915, when Namier was a soldier in the Royal Fusiliers in a PSU (public schools and universities) battalion in Epsom. It is located in MS Brand 26/1.

Lewis Bernstein Namier (1888-1960) became, after the war, one of the most admired historians of his generation. Deploying immense knowledge and meticulous scholarship, he set rigorous new standards in documentary research and pioneered the use of prosopography – and delivered his findings in powerful prose. Constructing an account of his life is hampered by the lack of a substantial personal archive.

There are three major studies of Namier. In Lewis Namier: A Biography (1971), his widow, Julia Namier, is protective of his reputation but captures a sense of him as an individual and gives an account of his brief period in the army based on what Namier had told her. She also utilised various unsorted materials Namier had left, but he burned many of his papers in June 1940, perhaps in fear of a Nazi invasion. Namier’s collaborator on the History of Parliament project, John Brooke, helped bring order to these sources for her. On completing her book, she also destroyed some documents (especially her own letters) in this collection, which is now held by the John Rylands University of Manchester Library.

Linda Colley’s concise volume is a deft, incisive analysis of Namier’s outlook and talents as a historian. She tracked down a number of his letters in various collections in the Bodleian Library but her main sources were the same as those available to Julia Namier. It is not surprising, therefore, that her narrative of this period largely follows Julia Namier’s treatment.

D. W. Hayton’s superb large-scale biography, Conservative Revolutionary: the Lives of Lewis Namier (2019) is the product of painstaking research in an impressive range of archives and benefits from his discovery of a substantial number of documents in the History of Parliament offices, sources unavailable to Linda Colley. He makes use of them to challenge some of Julia Namier’s claims.

None of these studies makes any kind of reference to the letter of 5 January 1915; nor do they cite any other text by Namier on his time in the army. It appears, therefore, to be the only example of Namier’s own words revealing his attitudes and depicting his circumstances in this period. The letter also contains details that allow us to expand our understanding of this episode in his life.

By the time Namier wrote the letter he had been in the army for over four months and had a mounting sense of frustration with life in the camp and was growing desperate to find a means of escape – he twice describes his message as an “S.O.S. signal.”

Hayton accurately explains how unpleasant an experience Namier found his time in Epsom and uses the letters of another soldier serving with the Royal Fusiliers to capture the daily routine of recruits – the drilling and the long days full of menial duties (Hayton, p. 68). But the 5 January 1915 letter provides Namier’s vivid descriptions. He objects to having “every atom of self-respect knocked out of me”; and concludes, “Mentally and morally it amounts to slow, gradual bleeding to death.”

The letter also reveals how Namier enlisted as an ordinary soldier, thereby hoping to contribute to the war effort more quickly than “if I waited for a commission.” But he has become deeply disillusioned by his daily experience as a soldier and by the change in the composition of his unit. It began with many public school and university men with whom he shared similarities of outlook but virtually all his friends have departed for commissions and “my foreign extraction makes it much harder for me to be left among strangers.” Namier is desperate to get away.

Yet there is ambivalence in what he seeks. On the one hand, he writes of wishing to secure a commission in the Army Service Corps, since he could bring to it important skills. This, however, is hindered by his colonel who is “wild” about people leaving for commissions. Nevertheless, he asks Brand if he could intercede on his behalf. On the other hand, he mentions how F. F Urquhart, Namier’s tutor when he studied at Balliol College, Oxford, was trying through Lord Eustace Percy, the diplomat and former fellow student at Balliol, to secure some work for him at the Foreign Office. Hayton discounts the role of Balliol and Oxford (Hayton, p. 70) yet Namier’s words indicate that Julia Namier was accurate when she referred to “Sligger” Urquhart’s endeavours (Julia Namier, p. 119).

There appears to be no record of Brand’s response to the request for help in obtaining a commission. Perhaps he knew through his contacts about Percy’s efforts and regarded them as more promising. In any event, this line of escape from Epsom proved more fruitful. On 1 February Percy invited Namier to the Foreign Office, the wheels were set in motion for his transfer, and by 14 February Namier had been discharged from the army and begun working at Wellington House, the Foreign Office’s new propaganda bureau aimed at promoting American sympathy for the Allied cause in the war. Meanwhile, later in the year Brand himself also joined the civilian war machinery as a member of the Imperial Munitions Board of Canada.

Michael F. Hopkins
Sassoon Visiting Fellow, Bodleian Library Oxford, Hilary Term 2023,
and University of Liverpool

Additional Earls of Clarendon family papers are now available

Following the recent release of the catalogue for the archive of the Earls of Clarendon (2nd Creation) an additional, and final, tranche of the family’s historical archive has now been catalogued and is available to readers in the Weston Library. These papers mainly comprise correspondence and papers of Victorian statesman George Villiers, the 4th Earl of Clarendon, but include some additional Villiers and Hyde family papers, including earlier correspondence and papers of Lord Cornbury (the son of Henry Hyde, the 4th Earl of Clarendon, 1st creation) and Thomas Villiers (later the 1st Earl of Clarendon, 2nd creation) as well as family genealogical notes.

George William Frederick Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon (1800-1870), diplomatist and
liberal statesman [Dictionary of National Biography], was ambassador at Madrid, 1833-1839, Lord Privy Seal, 1839-1841, President of the Board of Trade, 1846, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1847-1852, Foreign Secretary, 1853-1858, 1865-1866, 1868-1870 and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, 1864. In 1839 the 4th Earl married Lady Katharine Barham, the widow of politician John Foster Barham, and as a result this archive includes some John Barham correspondence and financial papers.

This tranche of the 4th Earl’s correspondence and papers makes available significant additional material from his time as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1847-1852) as well as letters concerning foreign affairs (1835-1841) and hundreds of letters of general correspondence spanning his long career in government service (1820s-1870).

The archive of development economist Richard Jolly is now available

The catalogue can be found online at Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts.

Richard Jolly graduated in economics from Magdalene College Cambridge in 1956. Due to his Christian religious convictions, he registered as a conscientious objector and did his National Service not in the military but as a Community Development Officer in the Baringo District of Kenya from Jan 1957-Jan 1959, although he reassessed and relinquished his religious convictions during that time. Jolly’s Baringo service, meanwhile, sparked a change in career focus away from business and into the development field and eventually into the United Nations.

(Immediately after leaving Kenya, however, Jolly took part in the British Alpine Hannibal Expedition, which attempted to retrace, with an elephant called Jumbo, Hannibal’s route across the Alps.)

During the 1960s Jolly studied for a Masters and PhD at Yale University in America, and participated in a research tour of Cuba soon after the revolution. After his masters he became a research fellow at the East Africa Institute of Social Research, Makerere College in Uganda (1963), and did short-term economic consultancies in countries across the world.

He became a fellow and later director of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex in 1969. In 1970 he was seconded from the IDS to work for the United Nations as the Senior Economist in the Development Division of Zambia’s Ministry of Development and Finance. Through the 1970s he continued to work on technical assistance and advisory programmes for the UN focussing mainly on labour and employment, including heading missions on agriculture and basic needs to Bangladesh and Zambia.

From 1975 Jolly sat on the governing council and executive board of the Society for International Development (and was vice president of SID from 1982-1985). He helped develop the North-South Roundtable as a project of the Society for International Development, chairing the Roundtable from 1987-1996. The Roundtable was a group founded by Barbara Ward (1914-1981) which incorporated equal numbers of representatives from developed and developing countries to discuss and brief policy makers on global development issues.

Jolly was appointed Deputy Executive Director (Programmes) of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in July 1981 with the rank of UN Assistant Secretary General, serving from 1 Jan 1982 until 1995. He had responsibilities for UNICEF’s programmes globally. His focus on paying more attention to the needs of women and children in economic adjustment policies led to his work on the co-authored book Adjustment With a Human Face (1987).

He was appointed to the UN Development Programme (UNDP) from 1996-2000 as Special Advisor to the Administrator of the UNDP and co-ordinator of the UNDP’s Human Development Report which published reports on a human development approach to growth as well as on poverty, consumption, globalization and human rights.

From 1996-2000 Jolly chaired the UN Sub-Committee on Nutrition and from Sep 1997-Dec 2003 and Nov 2004-Aug 2005 was the Chair of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council. Following retirement from the UN he was a trustee of the charity Oxfam [Oxfam’s archive is also at the Bodleian Library, with multiple catalogues] and chairperson of the United Nations Association (UK), an independent policy association.

In the 2000s Richard Jolly became the co-director of the UN Intellectual History Project based at City University in New York which produced a sixteen volume history of the UN’s contributions to development. His papers here at the Bodleian Library form a significant part of a collection of archives from United Nations staff (the UN Career Records Project), a collection that Richard Jolly has been involved with since its inception.

An Interpreter’s Gift: Tokens of Sino-British Friendships in the First World War

Among recent donations to the Bodleian Library is a stunning lace edged silk cushion cover, now part of the Weston Library Special Collections under shelf mark MS.Chin.a.25. Delicately embroidered with floral patterns and measuring about two feet long and wide, the piece features a calligraphed dedication in Chinese and, at its centre, a watercolour painting reading “Memories from Péronne” in French.

Bodleian Libraries, MS. Chin a.25

Bodleian Libraries, MS. Chin a.25

It is no coincidence that the name of Péronne should immediately evoke the history of the First World War through its association with the Battle of the Somme. Pictured above (Figure 1), the cushion cover was gifted during the war by Zhang Jiantang, a Chinese interpreter and medical dresser enrolled in the Chinese Labour Corps, to Frederick Jones (1890-1975), Serjeant Shoemaker serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) in France.

In recent years, historians of China and Europe have shed increasing light on the long-forgotten role of an estimated 140,000 Chinese men who were sent to Europe to perform manual and support labour between 1916 and 1920. As the French and British governments were being faced with hefty war casualties and acute manpower shortages, they negotiated agreements to recruit Chinese labourers, who then became enlisted as part of the colonial troops administered by the French Ministry of War, or as part of the Chinese Labour Corps (CLC) under the British Expeditionary Forces. These men performed a variety of tasks including factory, agricultural, building, and demining work, before being sent back to China around 1918-1920. Among them, an estimated four to five hundred were formally enrolled as interpreters, with many more who, through linguistic skills acquired at various stages of their lives, performed translation and interpreting duties on top of other tasks.

Among the latter was Zhang Jiantang, who signed as “dresser and translator at the Chinese hospital in France” on the cushion cover that he presented to Frederick Jones. The embroidered piece was a gift for Serjeant Jones to bring back to his wife, Annie Lydia Durbin, whom he had married in January 1916 during a short permission home to Fulham, London. The inscription in Chinese reads as a powerful testament to the deep friendship that developed between the two men, despite them having known each other for a mere two months, and despite the “far-reaching racial and linguistic differences” which should have separated them.

Wedding picture of Frederick Jones and Annie Lydia Durbin, January 1916. Private family collection, courtesy of Ms. Iris Jones.

Wedding picture of Frederick Jones and Annie Lydia Durbin, January 1916. Private family collection, courtesy of Ms. Iris Jones.

In all likelihood, the mention of “Chinese Hospital” on the dedication should point towards the two men having met at the No. 3 Native Labour General Hospital in Noyelles-sur-Mer, which was set up in April 1917 as the “Chinese Hospital” before being renamed as part of a larger system of native labour hospitals for colonial workers. The Noyelles hospital was by far the largest on the Western Front employing and treating Chinese labourers. However, several other medical institutions did employ Chinese personnel, and records show that Chinese medical assistants were often transferred from Noyelles to other institutions when practical needs arose. In particular, the N°7 Native Labour Hospital in Le Havre did employ a sizeable number of Chinese workers, as well as a Serjeant Jones from RAMC who reported for duty in August 1918 from the neighbouring 52nd stationary hospital.

Hospitals, of course, have been described as a key site which both affirmed and questioned colonial and racist hierarchies during the First World War, as well as perhaps one of its most intimate places of encounter (Maguire 2021). Despite the segregation in place and despite frequent descriptions of Chinese medical staff as “lacking knowledge and discipline” in various war diaries of field hospitals, the amount of care, work, and language skills that went into the creation of such a gift in wartime keep reminding us of the importance of looking beyond Eurocentric administrative archives for writing deeply textured, human sized histories of the First World War.

While the exact geographic origin of the cushion cover cannot be pinpointed yet, working alongside Chinese medical workers undoubtedly left a deep impression on the RAMC Serjeant. His daughter, who turned a hundred and one years old this year, still remembers vividly the deep impression that Chinese stretcher-bearers left on her father, and the soothing words in Mandarin that he picked up from them – words that still soothe her to this day.

Coraline Jortay
Laming Junior Research Fellow
The Queen’s College

Our grateful thanks go to Ms. Iris Jones, Frederick Jones’ daughter, for this wonderful gift to the library.

Sources:
Oral history interview conducted by Dr. Coraline Jortay (Laming Junior Research Fellow, The Queen’s College) with Ms. Iris Jones on 9th October 2022; Jones family papers; UK National Archives WO 95/4115 and WO 372/11.

Further readings on the history of Chinese labourers in the First World War:
Chen San-ching, Huagong yu ouzhan, Taipei: Academia Sinica, 1986.
Dendooven, Dominiek. Asia in Flanders Fields. A Transnational History of Indians and Chinese on the Western Front, 1914-1920. University of Kent, 2018.
James, Gregory. The Chinese Labour Corps:(1916-1920). Hong Kong: Bayview, 2013.
Li Ma. (eds.). Les Travailleurs chinois en France dans la Première Guerre mondiale. Paris: CNRS, 2012.
Xu, Guoqi. Strangers on the Western Front: Chinese Workers in the Great War. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011.

Further readings on the colonial politics of WWI Hospitals:
Buxton, Hilary ‘Imperial Amnesia: Race, Trauma and Indian Troops in the First World War’, Past & Present, 241 (2018).
Hyson, Samuel and Lester, Alan ‘“British India on Trial”: Brighton Military Hospitals and the Politics of Empire in World War I’, Journal of Historical Geography, 38, 1 (2012).
Anna Maguire, ed., ‘On the Wards: Hospitals and Encounters’, in Contact Zones of the First World War: Cultural Encounters across the British Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021, 153–76.

The Roger Bannister catalogue is now online

The official race card for the 6 May 1954 athletics meeting at Iffley Road Athletic Ground featuring the world record mile race, signed by Bannister, Chataway and Brasher

The official race card for the 6 May 1954 athletics meeting that featured the world record mile race, signed by Bannister, Chataway and Brasher, who are all listed as members of Achilles, the club for current and former members of the Oxford University Athletic Club

You can now find the catalogue of the archive of athlete, neurologist, and Master of Pembroke College, Sir Roger Bannister (1929-2018) online at Bodleian Archives and Mansucripts.

A talented middle-distance runner from childhood, Bannister came to the University of Oxford in 1946 to study medicine. He served as president of the Oxford University Athletic Club where one of his achievements was to redevelop and resurface Oxford’s Iffley Road athletics track, where he later won a world record. In 1949 in the European Championships, which was his first international event, Bannister won bronze for Great Britain in the 800m final. By 1951 he was ranked first in the world over the mile. In 1952, Bannister concentrated all his efforts on the Olympics in Helsinki, but even though he was considered a favourite, he finished a crushing fourth.

This blow left him on the verge of retiring from athletics, but instead he decided on a new goal: being the first man to run a mile in under four minutes. The world record was 4:01.3 but two other men were drawing close to it: Australia’s John Landy, and America’s Wes Santee, who both ran 4:02 minute miles in 1952 and 1953.

On 6 May 1954, at a meeting between Oxford University and the Amateur Athletic Association at Oxford University’s Iffley Road track, Bannister and his pacemakers Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway (then a student at  Magdalen) were in the AAA team, and lined up at the starting line. There was a false start: by Chris Brasher. The wind had been swirling all day and the decision to run had been touch or go until the wind suddenly dropped, just before the race. In his memoir Twin Tracks, Bannister remembers how angry he was at this delay, afraid that they might be about to lose the lull in the wind.  The starter’s gun went off again.

At first Brasher held the lead, pacing Bannister for just over two laps, and then Chataway took over. With over 200 yards to go, Bannister turned on his famous finishing kick and accelerated into the lead with the Oxford crowd screaming in the stands.

He crossed the line at 3:59.4, not only breaking the world record but running the first ever sub-four minute mile.

Instantly internationally famous, Bannister was sent by the Foreign Office on a tour of America, while also finding time that spring to qualify as a doctor, but 46 days later his world record was broken by rival John Landy. In August 1954, the Landy and Bannister met in one of the most anticipated races of the twentieth century at the British Empire [Commonwealth] Games in Vancouver. The ‘Miracle Mile’ put Bannister’s finishing kick on full display. Landy, who was in the lead, made a famous mistake when he turned nervously to look for Bannister over his left shoulder, only for Bannister to overtake him immediately on the right. Bannister beat his own record with a time of 3:58.8 but Landy retained the world record.

Roger Bannister retired from athletics that year to concentrate on his medical career. He practiced clinical medicine as a neurologist at both St Mary’s Hospital and the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London and did his national service with the Royal Army Medical Corps from 1957-1959, which included writing a life-saving report on preventing heat illness. His research interests were in the autonomic nervous system, with a particular interest in the neurological control of breathing, on orthostatic hypotension (a failure to regulate blood pressure) and on multisystem atrophy. From 1982 he was the first chairman of a body he largely inspired, the Clinical Autonomic Research Society. Also in 1982, he published the first textbook on the autonomic nervous system, Autonomic Failure.

From 1971-1974 Bannister served as the first chairman of the Sports Council (now called Sport England) and was knighted for this in 1975. He oversaw an increase in central and local government funding of sports facilities and he also introduced the first testing for anabolic steroids. He was subsequently appointed the president of the International Council for Sport and Physical Recreation (ICSPR). Between 1985 and 1993, he returned to Oxford to serve as Master of Pembroke College.

Roger Bannister published two autobiographies, The First Four Minutes (1955) about the four-minute mile, and Twin Tracks (2014) about his dual careers in athletics and medicine.

The archive includes correspondence and papers about the four minute mile, including training schedules and many congratulations letters and requests for appearances and advice. It also includes correspondence relating to his working career as a doctor, head of the Sports Council, and Master of Pembroke, as well as an extensive range of photographs covering his athletic career and public appearances.

The Earls of Clarendon catalogue is now online

You can find the new catalogue of the family and working papers of seven Earls of Clarendon (2nd creation) online at Bodleian Archives and Manuscripts.

The archive adds considerably to the Bodleian’s existing collections of Clarendon family papers, which include the seventeenth-century state papers of the very first Earl of Clarendon (1st creation) who was chief advisor to Charles I and Lord Chancellor to Charles II. His heirs in the Hyde and Villiers families took up the mantle and continued to serve the British government and the royal family well into the twentieth century. Notable postings included the 4th Earl of Clarendon serving as Viceroy of Ireland during the Great Famine and later as Foreign Secretary, and the 6th Earl of Clarendon serving as Governor-General of South Africa in the 1930s.

The archive includes approximately 800 letters from Queen Victoria and correspondence with monarchs and statesmen including Frederick the Great of Prussia and Viscount Palmerston. It also includes intimate family and estate papers, including letters between mothers and sons and husbands and wives.

I have been blogging about interesting items I’ve found along the way, ranging from 19th-century condoms to letters from the front during the American War of Independence (plus one extremely cute dog) and you can find those posts all here at the Archives and Manuscripts blog.

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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