Category Archives: Cataloguing

New catalogue: the postcard collection of the artist Tom Phillips, part 2

by Bethany Goodman

NOTE: This post discusses themes of death and racism.

 

The artist Tom Phillips (1937-2022) pursued numerous interests throughout his lifetime, one of which was his extensive collection of photographic postcards. The Bodleian has acquired this collection, which ranges from the late 1890s into the 1960s, and it is now catalogued and available to readers at the Weston Library. Further background to this collection was covered in a previous post [part 1], which also highlighted the postcards’ often humorous nature.

However, the collection is intended to present a holistic view of our collective human nature, and human nature isn’t always so light-hearted. The postcards are as broad in scope as they are in number, encapsulating the events and trends of the wider world in which their subjects lived. This postcard, for example, seems innocuous enough until you turn it around and read the message, and the scene is retrospectively contextualised in a darker light.

Figure 1 MS. 19966/88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

War is a pervasive theme within the collection, with numerous boxes dedicated to depictions of the service of both men and women. Its impact is also clearly seen, both through the box labelled ‘War Wounded’ and the individual stories which some postcards tell.

This postcard depicts Harold, and his wife Allie, shortly before the outbreak of World War I. Turning the card over, a bleak picture of the impact of war is immediately visible, as we learn of Harold’s death. The author dates this tragedy to 1914. However, it is likely that Harold Oxford actually died on the 10th August 1915, as the Dardanelles Campaign did not begin until February 1915. This image was likely originally taken for cheerful posterity, but, over the course of a few years, the impact of world events turned the postcard into a memorial instead.

Figure 2 MS. 19966/11

This postcard depicts a different Harold, serving as a leading aircraftsman in the RAF during World War II. Unfortunately, his postcard represents the majority within this collection, with little or no further information available to link the subjects to their personal stories. In the case of this Harold, we have little insight as to who he was, where he served, or if he survived the war.

Around 28 million military personnel died in World War I and World War II. Several hundred service men and women are depicted within this collection, therefore it is likely that many of them were killed during the same conflicts which their postcards were intended to commemorate.

Figure 3 MS. 19966/16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even without the presence of corresponding messages, the images of the postcards themselves often convey a damning reality, as is the case for the numerous examples of racism and othering portrayed within this collection.

Just over 15% of the boxes contain at least one instance of racist imagery. In most cases this is in the form of blackface. In one box, a racial slur is used, followed by postcards which depict people ‘dressed up’ as both a Ku Klux Klan member and Hitler. Amongst the images of new puppies, manicured gardens and proud shopkeepers, a parallel side of society emerges.

The starkness with which these attitudes and portrayals are represented is confronting.

Tom Phillips perhaps aimed to acknowledge this, as he compiled a collection which showcases the multi-faceted nature of the world we live in – both the good and the bad.

New catalogue: the postcard collection of the artist Tom Phillips, part 1

by Bethany Goodman

A collection of photographic postcards, supplemental to Tom Phillips’ primary archive, is now catalogued and available to readers at the Weston Library.

Tom Phillips (1937-2022) studied at St. Catherine’s College before undertaking a varied career, teaching art, including a stint as the Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University; creating art, including portraits, tapestries, sculptures and art books; writing operas, such as Irma (1970); and serving on several committees for cultural bodies, including the British Museum.

Another personal passion, however, was his collection of photographic postcards. Phillips collected around 50,000 of them throughout a lifetime of scouring flea markets and collectors’ fairs, which the Bodleian has now acquired.

Tom Phillips authored a book on the subject, The Postcard Century (2000), and curated a National Portrait Gallery exhibition, We are the People (2004), but perhaps his view on the legacy of the format is best seen through the postcards themselves.

The collection has been maintained in the original order and categories which Tom Phillips himself arranged them in. The scope of content ranges across the whole spectrum of human life, from ‘Babies’ to ‘Workers’ to ‘Weddings’ to ‘Family Groups’ to ‘Funeral’. It stops off at expected places in-between, such as ‘Sport’, ‘Gardens’, ‘Toys’ and ‘Animals’, as well as the unexpected, with ‘Fantasy transport’ perhaps a highlight on that front.

Ranging from the late 1890s into the 1960s, the collection presents a rich visual resource for historians and researchers, while also showcasing one of our most ubiquitous human characteristics: a desire to be remembered.

What follows are a selection of some of the department’s favourite postcards, to offer an idea of the breadth (and humour) of the collection.

Figure 1 (Toys, MS. 19966/41)

 

Abigail Spokes –

‘When she’s out of oat milk’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2 (Knitting, MS. 19966/88)

 

Amanda Sykes –

‘Waiting for someone to say “I like your outfit” so you can say “thanks I made it myself!”’

Figure 3 (Cats, Birds, Pets etc., MS. 19966/68)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bethany Goodman –

‘Typical weekend plans’

 

 

 

Figure 4 (Readers & Writers, MS. 19966/18)

 

 

Charlotte McKillop-Mash –

‘Oscar Wilde cosplay?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 5 (Rural / Agriculture, MS. 19966/28)

Evie Morris – ‘Growing up, we didn’t have a farm but my dad wished we did and kept loads of crazy animals. I desperately wanted geese and one year we tried to hatch a dozen, and got one. I named her Sandy and loved her dearly until my parents gave her away. The look in this lady’s eye says she is suspicious that her fowl might also be taken away. She looks wise to the game, and mischievous’

Figure 6 (Cats, Birds, Pets etc., MS. 19966/68)

 

Francesca Miller –

‘The life of a cat owner – once again forced to stand because your cat has stolen your chair!’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 7 (Horse & Donkey, MS. 19966/14)

 

 

Hannah Jordan –

‘She is too small for that horse’

 

 

 

Figure 8 (Figures in a landscape, MS. 19966/46)

 

 

Marion Lowman –

‘Best foot forward’

 

 

 

Figure 9 (Dogs, MS. 19966/42)

 

 

Miranda Scarlata –

‘Nobody sent me the memo that we were wearing monochrome today! – said from the perspective of the dog’

May Day celebrations

by Bethany Goodman

Happy May Day to those who celebrate, and well done if you’re still awake from May-eve yesterday.

May Day has a rich history in Oxford, with Magdalen College Choir playing a particularly large part in the day’s proceedings if you’re dedicated enough to make it into town for the 6am start.

Celebrations have happened across the country for centuries, with standard festivities including the anointing of a May Queen, maypole dancing and Morris dancing.

The artist Tom Phillips had an abiding interest in photographic postcards, collecting around 50,000 of them from junk shops and flea markets and painstakingly categorising and sorting them by theme. This rich collection is now in the Bodleian (catalogue online soon) and one box, ‘Patriotic & Fete: May Queen’, presents a view of the enduring nostalgia of May Day. It especially captures the role of children in the celebrations, from a particularly young Queen (where is her Regent!), to a proud note highlighting the dedication of a group of children to their contribution in the festivities.

Figure 1 The May Queen (MS. 19966/73)

Figure 2 Maypole dancing (MS. 19966/73)

 

The archives of poet Anne Ridler and printer Vivian Ridler are now available

The archive of two Oxford literary lights, poet and librettist Anne Ridler and her husband the printer Vivian Ridler, is now available to readers in the Weston Library.

Anne Barbara Ridler OBE (30 Jul 1912–15 Oct 2001), the daughter of Rugby School housemaster Henry Bradby and childrens’ author Violet Bradby, was an English poet whose first job was as a secretary for the poet T.S. Eliot at the publisher Faber and Faber. Early in life she met the poet, novelist and theological writer Charles Williams, a member of Oxford’s Inklings group (along with J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Owen Barfield, who also have extensive archival holdings in the Bodleian, see for example the Barfield catalogue). Anne maintained a close friendship with Charles Williams until his death in 1945 and her archive includes their extensive correspondence. She married the printer Vivian Ridler in 1938 and raised a family while also publishing ten volumes of her poetry and several verse plays (Anne Ridler in the Poetry Archive). Later in life she translated, mainly Italian, libretti for opera companies including the English National Opera. A practicing Anglican all her life, she had a particular interest in Christian poetry and wrote and lectured on poetry and poets including William Shakespeare, Thomas Traherne and T.S. Eliot. Her Collected Poems were published in 1994. She was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1998 and was awarded the Cholmondeley Award for poetry. In 2001 she was appointed OBE for services to literature.

Vivian Hughes Ridler CBE (2 Oct 1913-13 Jan 2009) was a printer and typographer who founded a private press while still in school. In 1931 he apprenticed to a printing firm in Bristol and in 1936 he took a job with Oxford University Press (OUP) as assistant to the Printer of the University of Oxford, John Johnson, whose personal collection now forms the core of the Bodleian’s John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, one of the largest and most important ephemera collections in the world. In 1938 Vivian married the poet Anne Bradby, who in addition to being the daughter of Henry and Violet Bradby was the niece of Sir Humphrey Milford, the publisher at the London office of OUP, and as a result Vivian was summarily fired by John Johnson, who considered Sir Humphrey Milford a rival. During World War II, Vivian Ridler served with the Royal Air Force as an intelligence officer. After he was demobilised in 1947 he became a lecturer in typography and a freelance designer. In 1948 he returned to the OUP and from 1958 until he retired in 1978 he held the post of Printer to the University of Oxford at OUP and from 1968-1969 was president of the British Federation of Master Printers. With his own Perpetua Press and other private imprints like Amate Press he published around thirty books from his garden shed during his retirement, including College Graces of Oxford and Cambridge (a different edition can now be found in the Bodleian shop) and some of Anne Ridler’s own work, including Profitable wonders: aspects of Thomas Traherne (SOLO).

Also newly catalogued and available is a separate album of early jobbing printing work by Vivian Ridler’s Perpetua Press.

The Elspeth Huxley catalogues are now online

Black and white portrait of Elspeth Huxley as a young woman, 1935, held by the National Portrait Gallery, UK

Elspeth Josceline Huxley (née Grant), 3 May 1935
by Bassano Ltd, half-plate glass negative
NPG x26719, © National Portrait Gallery, London

The three catalogues covering the Elspeth Huxley archive are now online [1] [2] [3].

Elspeth Josceline Huxley (née Grant) (1907-1997), an author and journalist who wrote extensively about Kenya and East Africa, was raised on her parents’ struggling coffee farm 30 miles from Nairobi. Educated mainly at home (except for a short stint at an English boarding school before she managed to get herself expelled) she spent her youth in Kenya but returned to England to study for an agriculture diploma at Reading University and then at Cornell in the United States. She never lived in Kenya again but the country continued to occupy her and she visited often and travelled widely across Africa and the rest of the world with her husband, Gervas Huxley, who established the International Tea Marketing Expansion board. They married in 1931 while she was working as a press officer, and Huxley continued to write to earn money.

Her first major commission was the biography of Hugh Cholmondeley, a leader of the European settlers in Kenya. White Man’s Country: Lord Delamere and the Making of Kenya (1935) became a definitive history from the settlers’ point of view.  Following this, Huxley stayed briefly on the Kikuyu reserve and out of this experience came her first novel, Red Strangers (1937), about the Kikuyu experience of white settlement of Kenya. She went on to write numerous detective novels including 1938’s Murder on Safari, as well as a stream of journalism on topics including Africa, farming and environmental issues. From the 1950s to the 1980s Huxley published further works about Kenya including a history of the Kenya Farmer’s Association, Out in the Midday Sun: my Kenya (1985) which was an edited collection of tales from European settlers, travel accounts and analyses of East Africa, and her semi-autobiographical, and most popular, works The Flame Trees of Thika (1959) and The Mottled Lizard (1962). Flame Trees of Thika was adapted for television in 1981. Huxley also wrote biographies of explorers and pioneers including David Livingstone and Florence Nightingale and spent time on commissions relating to Africa including a tour of central Africa from 1959-1960 as an independent member of the Monckton commission to advise on that region.

Her archive includes correspondence and diaries as well as working notes and research for numerous books including White Man’s Country and her well-reviewed economic and social analysis of British East Africa The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: A Journey Through East Africa (1948).

For further information see the Elspeth Huxley article in the Dictionary of National Biography.

New catalogue: the archive of Richard Shirley Smith

by Bethany Goodman

The archive of the artist Richard Shirley Smith is now catalogued and available to readers at the Weston Library.

Figure 1 Photograph of Richard Shirley Smith (MS. 21920 photogr. 44)

Richard Shirley Smith began his artistic career studying at the Slade School of Fine Art, before moving to Rome for a few years, a period reflected in a large portion of his following work. In 1963 he became a lecturer at the St. Albans School of Art, before taking up a position as Head of the Art Department at Marlborough College in 1966. Although he continued creating artwork throughout this time, it was during the 1970s when his work began to gather momentum.

From the late 1970s into the 2000s, Shirley Smith’s murals were a fixture in London’s interior design scene and featured in a number of magazines, including Vogue. Today, we are fortunate to have three such murals on display in the Weston Library, which we welcome readers to view next time they visit.

Not to be confined to bricks-and-mortar, Shirley Smith also established his work in the publishing world. His intricate wood engravings graced the cover and filled the pages of numerous special edition publications, including those produced by The Folio Society. Additionally, he was commissioned to create bookplate designs for several society figures, each showcasing the individual personality of the client, including several appearances of family pets. His contributions to a florilegium for Highgrove House, designed in conjunction with Charles III, then Prince Charles, can be considered a highlight.

Figure 2 Pulcinella Engine Driver (Second Version) ©Richard Shirley Smith, sourced from richardshirleysmith.co.uk

It is with his paintings and collages, however, that we see Shirley Smith’s own artistic preferences come to the fore. Included amongst these works are several paintings depicting groups of mischievous Pulcinella, my personal favourites, alongside thoughtfully constructed still life scenes and fabulous surrealist designs, many of which were displayed during a comprehensive exhibition at the Ashmolean in 1985.

The archive contains a small number of personal papers and materials relating to various publications and exhibitions. However, the strength of the collection lies in its representation of the diverse breadth of Shirley Smith’s work, with an extensive series containing original artwork in the form of: sketchbooks, prints, photographs, planning works and over 150 printing blocks, including both linocuts and woodblocks. This material presents a comprehensive overview of Richard Shirley Smith’s oeuvre, providing a wonderful snapshot into the work and life of an influential modern British artist.

Figure 3 Woodblock for A Point of Departure (1967) (JL 1072/9)

The archive of John Masefield is now available

On the tote bag that you can purchase from Blackwell’s bookshop on Oxford’s centrally located Broad Street, there is a poem by John Masefield:

I seek few treasures, except books, the tools
Of those celestial souls the world calls fools.
Happy the morning giving time to stop
An hour at once in Basil Blackwell’s shop
There, in the Broad, within whose booky house
Half of England’s scholars nibble books or browse.

Black and white portrait of John Masefield by Elliott & Fry, 1910s, National Portrait Gallery [NPG x82495], CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Deed

John Masefield by Elliott & Fry, 1910s, NPG x82495, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Deed

Masefield, whose archive catalogue is now online, was Poet Laureate for thirty-seven years, and wrote many collections of poems, adventure novels, children’s novels, and plays. And yet when I asked in Blackwell’s out of curiosity whether I could purchase a copy of his poems, I was met with quizzical looks. Few had heard his name, and his works are not stocked. During my time as an intern for the Bodleian Library’s Archives and Modern Manuscripts department, I have learned a great deal not just about archiving, the diligence required, and the many departments involved – conservation, rare books, digital archiving, web archiving – but I have also discovered much about the man behind the tote bag.

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‘Handicapism is a mental disease of the able-bodied …and it affects us all…’

So reads a pin badge found in the collection of Keith Armstrong at the Bodleian Libraries Special Collections. The Bodleian holds just one box of Armstrong’s collection (the rest are held by the Bishopsgate Institute in London), but within it we can find evidence of Armstrong’s multifaceted life. Born in South Africa in 1950, Armstrong was an activist and public campaigner for disability rights. At six months old, he contracted polio, confining him to a wheelchair for most of his life. He spent much of his childhood in Oxford, attending Ormerod School, a school for children with physical disabilities. In his adulthood, he helped found the Liberation Network of People with Disabilities, and at different intervals, he was a member of the London Transport Passenger Committee and the committee of Camden Dial-a-Ride.

His collection at the Bodleian Libraries gives us an insight into the different aspects of Armstrong’s life: as a campaigner and voice for disabled rights; a creator of typewriter art; and a poet. It also shows us a darker side to his beliefs. At age 16, he began editing and publishing his own poetry and literature magazine, The Informer. The first issue of his magazine contained an article written by a contributor, Brian Crittindon, containing a repeated number of racial slurs and seeming to argue for Jim Crow laws in the US and against immigration into the UK. As the editor-in-chief of The Informer, it is impossible to ignore Armstrong’s role in producing and distributing material containing hateful language. With the records available, it is difficult to know whether Armstrong held onto these views into adulthood, or if he would have looked back with regret later in life. Whilst his achievements as a disability rights activist are undeniable—his work led to improvements in train and tube access, and to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995—it does remind us of the fact that when examined from all sides, those we admire in history often held views that are incompatible with our own values. It’s therefore important to be able to understand and appreciate the work of those who came before us, whilst acknowledging the impact of their faults and facets which were harmful to others.

Written by Kasturi Pindar, Bodleian Libraries intern, Summer 2023.

UK Disability History Month – 16 November – 16 December (ukdhm.org)

Collection: Papers of Keith Armstrong, typewriter poet | Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts (ox.ac.uk)

The catalogue of the archive of C.F.C. Hawkes – available soon!

Christopher Hawkes (1905-1992) was an eminent archaeologist of European prehistory who made Oxford a centre for archaeological research and post-graduate teaching. This led to the foundation of the Institute of Archaeology in Oxford, of which Hawkes was the first director. His interest in learning about the past started when he was a child, when he visited monuments such as Hadrian’s Wall and Stonehenge, and continued through his time at New College, Oxford, where he took part in excavations at Brecon, Wroxeter and Winchester. After achieving a first-class degree, he worked at the British Museum in the department of British and Medieval Antiquities until he was appointed the new chair of European archaeology at Oxford in 1946. He stayed in Oxford with his second wife, archaeologist Sonia Hawkes, and continued to publish for many years after his retirement in 1972.

This collection comprises his personal and professional papers, including correspondence with colleagues and former students. His working notes show the wide scope of his work and include illustrations and drawings completed in his distinctive style.

 

Lt. Col. Charles Pascoe Hawkes (1877-1956) served in the Northumberland Fusiliers, 1900-1920, and was a barrister at the Inner Temple from 1902 until 1950. He was a political caricaturist, drawing for Granta, Cambridge University, and for the Daily Graphic. A keen traveller and an avid documenter of his adventures, his collection includes photograph albums titled ‘Kodakings in divers places’ and sketchbooks from his trips to Scotland, Europe and North Africa.

This collection will be available soon.

Catalogue of the archive of C.F.C. Hawkes

The catalogue of the archive of Averil Cameron –available soon!

Averil Cameron is a historian of late antiquity, classics and Byzantine studies. She was professor of Late Antique and Byzantine History at King’s College London and Warden of Keble College, Oxford, from 1994 to 2010.

She has been associated with various academic societies including as founding director of the Centre for Hellenic Studies at King’s College London. Since 2018 she has been President of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies.

She has published several works, including; Agathias (1970), History as Text (1989) and The Byzantines (2006). The archive comprises papers and correspondence mainly relating to Cameron’s academic work. This includes books, published and unpublished lectures, and articles.

This collection will be available soon.

Catalogue of the archive of Averil Cameron

Three books of Averil Cameron