Category Archives: New acquisition

Donation of Georgian Books for the Wardrop Collection

Dr. Nikoloz Aleksidze, who organised the recent Oxford University colloquium Medieval Georgian Heritage in Turkey, has been instrumental in securing a significant donation of Georgian books to help extend the collection of reference materials available to scholars working with the Wardrop collection.


The colloquium featured an impressive display of publications on the manuscripts, heritage and culture of Georgia, which had been donated by the Korneli Kekelidze National Centre of Manuscripts, the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia, Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia and Buba Kudava of Artanuji Publishing. These donations have now come to the Bodleian, which has one of the finest collections of Kartvelain material outside of Georgia built on the nucleus of books, manuscripts and archives donated by the Wardrops.


The Wardrop Collection was formed by Sir Oliver Wardrop, who was the United Kingdom’s first Chief Commissioner of Transcaucasus in Georgia, 1919-21 and his sister Marjory, who, after teaching herself Georgian, was the first person to make an English prose translation of the Georgian National epic, The Knight in the Panther’s Skin.  After Marjory’s early death in 1909, the Marjory Wardrop Fund was founded for the encouragement of Georgian studies and from 1910, through this fund, the Bodleian became the beneficiary of all Marjory Wardrop’s papers, books and manuscripts. They were supplemented by further donations from Sir Oliver until his death in 1948. The library has continued to build on this foundation ever since.

Over the coming months, Dr. Aleksidze will be writing a series of guest blogs which will highlight items from the collection and in the autumn he will commence a series of lectures at the Weston Library focusing on the extraordinary legacy of the Wardrops.






New catalogue: Letters of Henry Herbert, Lord Porchester

Nineteen letters of Henry Herbert, Lord Porchester, are now available to researchers. Lord Porchester, born in 1800, was the eldest son of Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Carnarvon. He succeeded his father as 3rd Earl of Carnarvon in 1833. The letters, mainly written to his father, describe a journey Porchester took through France and Spain, 1821-1822, with Philip Pusey. The letters record his observations of the places he visited and his impressions of Spanish society. They also provide an interesting commentary on the political situation in Spain following the revolution of 1820.

A catalogue of the letters is available online.

Search and Searchability, or Desperately Seeking Susan’s Husband: an anonymous Regency diarist revealed

The diaries in question comprise three small volumes, written on three separate excursions to the South coast in the summers of 1813, 1821 and 1822. They were purchased in late 2012 as anonymous holiday diaries.

John Cox diary 1813-cover

The path to discovery is so convoluted that I thought it would be worth recording the steps by which authorship was established. The story illustrates the power of the Internet, not necessarily in the data it contains (though there is much of great use), but more in its ability to establish links between isolated snippets of information which themselves may lead nowhere, but together provide enough pieces to complete the jigsaw.

Before I outline the steps to discovery, I will make a short digression on the subject of Fawcett Road, Southsea. When my grandmother died in 1989 we found her birth certificate among her papers, and discovered that her mother’s maiden name was Lesar. She was born in South Africa, and I was keen to discover who the Lesars were. I knew absolutely nothing about the family, and that is the way it remained for many years. However, as the internet grew and there was more and more family history activity, I found quite a lot of information about the name Lesar. It is a Sephardic Jewish name; or it is a French Huguenot name. Or a German name. Or Croatian perhaps. You can find all these facts out there, but I was getting no nearer to establishing who my Lesars were. I did however find a passenger list recording the voyage of my South African family to England in 1923. The address they gave as their destination was Fawcett Road, Southsea.


Dutch East India Company ship

I searched the Internet for the actual address, and to my astonishment found the exact address on a family history website that linked up many families including my great grandfather’s family from Nottinghamshire.The owner of the website had lost track of my great grandfather and his brother because she was unaware that the reason they disappear from British records is that they had emigrated to South Africa. The Fawcett Road address, however, established that their sister lived in Southsea. From this one piece of information I have reconstructed the family history, established links with a double cousin (the two emigrant brothers married two Lesar sisters in South Africa), and found that the Lesars in the Cape originated with a ship’s boy, Isaac Lesar or Leser, a German in service with the Dutch East India Company, who arrived in Cape Town in 1787.

So what has this got to do with our seaside journals? I mention it because the whole process of discovery illustrates the point about what can be done with the tiniest scrap of information when there are means to link it to data elsewhere. So the first thing needed to identify our author was belief that it would be possible and not a complete waste of time. Fortunately the diaries are quite short, and so I set myself to read through them as quickly as possible to pick up any references to names or places that might give the slightest lead. Let me list the scraps of information in the order I found them.


Mail coaches at the Peacock, Islington, 1821 [Wikimedia Commons]

 i) The author was certainly from London, where he began his coach journey, and appeared to be from Islington. In the 1822 diary he begins by telling us that he wished himself 1000 times back in Pleasant Row – apparently he always began his holidays in a gloomy mood. Pleasant Row was certainly the name of a street in early 19th-century Islington (now Pleasant Place) as I was able to establish from the digitised version of the Victoria County History for Middlesex.

ii) The author was on holiday with his wife, whom he refers to as Mrs C. This suggested that his own surname began with C.

Cox sketches

Sketch of the Govers near Hastings, 1813

iii) The author knew someone by the name of Mr Basire. In the 1813 volume he tells us that having gone out sketching with his camera lucida, and dined on duck, he wrote to Basire and Mr Barnett. The combination of the unusual name of Basire and the camera lucida gave me grounds for optimism that he might have something to do with the well- known dynasty of engravers, James Basire, and his son James Basire II.

iv) The author received a letter from William Tite to tell him that William’s mother was going to join the author on holiday. William Tite was also sufficiently uncommon a name to try searching, and I immediately found a William Tite born in 1798 who was in the Dictionary of National Biography as a noted architect. This seemed too good to be true. However, I had seen a pencilled note at the end of the 1822 volume which I took to read ‘S Elgar artillery cottage Brighton’. I noticed in the DNB entry for WilliamTite that his mother was one Sarah Elgie, and on returning to the inscription later, realised that it did indeed read ‘Elgie’. But that is jumping a little ahead.

Cox sketch

Sketch of ‘Sumpting’ (Sompting) church, 1822

v) Mrs Tite joined our author and his wife on holiday. The author, Mrs C and Mrs Tite went for a walk, and the ‘two sisters’ fell twice on the slippery grass. So now I had established a relationship with the Tite family, but I still had no surnames as I hadn’t picked up the significance of the name Elgie at this point. The author also refers to ‘Susan’, and from the context it was apparent that Susan was one and the same as Mrs C.

vi) On 17 August our author records that he received a letter from Mr Basire and another from Benj. Cox. The name Cox interested me given that our author was Mr C. So I searched James Basire together with Cox, and found that James Basire II had married a Mary Cox. Now I returned to the previous entry mentioning Basire and Mr Barnett, and searched Cox, Basire and Barnett. This landed me on Exeter Working Papers in Book History: London 1775-1800 which showed me that Basire, Barnett and Cox were all engravers or printers, and that there was a company Cox, son, and Barnett, copper plate printers, 6, Bream’s Buildings, Chancery Lane. I then contacted Julian Pooley, an expert on John Nichols, editor of the Gentleman’s Magazine,  and his family of printers and antiquaries, whose archives are a major source for the study of the book trade. He confirmed that Nichols corresponded with Cox and Barnett, and that the company was employed in producing plates for the Gentleman’s Magazine.

vii) The final piece of the jigsaw was established with the author’s entry for 25 August 1813. Having visited a dripping well and eaten a fine custard pudding, he recorded that ‘I wrote on Tuesday last to Mr Basire to ask the favour of Mary to come with Mr and Mrs Moore should they come here – or if Mr and Mrs B thought proper to let James and Mary come – should like much to shew my dear Mary the delightful scenes rural, Romantic & grand …’.

John Cox diary 1813-Basire

“I wrote on Tuesday last to Mr Basire”

 This ‘dear Mary’ was clearly intimate with the author; furthermore she was dependent on James Basire, and linked with another James. Surely this must be Mary Cox, wife of James Basire II? And this evidence suggested that the author was most probably her brother.

But I still did not know his name. So I tried searching for Susan Cox Islington, and when this proved fruitless, I tried Susannah as I believed I had seen the name so written though I had not noted it. ‘Susannah Cox Islington’ revealed the existence of a will in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury records in the National Archives, dated 1831. To view this required a subscription, but fortunately a colleague’s mother had the necessary memberships, and soon I had the information I needed. To my delight I found that Susannah Cox, widow, lived at 4 Pleasant Row. She left her worldly goods to various Basires and Elgies. She even left a copy of Hannah More’s Practical Piety which Mr Cox mentioned in his diary as his companion on a lonely walk one day. But I still did not know her husband’s name though he was now established as Mr Cox, brother-in-law of James Basire II.

The camera lucida in action [Wikimedia Commons]

The camera lucida in action [Wikimedia Commons]

Surely, since I knew now that Mr Cox must have died between 1822 and 1831, it must be possible to find his will too. A search for Cox Islington turned up one or two post-1831 wills. But then I remembered that on one occasion Mr Cox mentions his wife’s birthday, her age and the length of time they had been married, which in 1822 was thirty-one years. So now I tried a new tack, looking for the marriage of Mr Cox and Susannah Elgie in London in 1791. And quite quickly I found it in a digitised copy of The Register Book of Marriages belonging to the Parish of St George Hanover Square. John Cox married Susannah Elgie on 15 February 1791.

With all this information it was now easy to find John Cox’s will in the PCC records. He did not have an Islington address, but instead used his business address – Bream’s Buildings, Chancery Lane, the location of Cox, son and Barnett. His obituary was in the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1825, a rather poignant recollection of the man which fitted well with what I had come to know of him in his short diaries kept in just three summers of his life – his religion, his interest in music, and above all his fascination with medieval churches which he sketched with his camera lucida.

Gent Mag Cox obit


New acquisition: John Buchan letters

“Publishing is my business, writing my amusement and politics my duty.”

It was the 75th anniversary of John Buchan’s death on 11 February and the Bodleian has recently purchased 21 letters (MS. Eng. c. 8330) from Buchan to his Brasenose College friend Benjamin Consitt Boulter, known affectionately as Taff or Taffy. Buchan is probably best-remembered today for his spy adventure novel The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915), which has been filmed on multiple occasions with diminishing success after Alfred Hitchcock’s definitive 1935 version. But Buchan’s prolific novel writing formed only a part of a varied career as a politician and colonial diplomat, which culminated in his appointment as Governor General of Canada in 1935, a post which he held until his death in 1940.

Twenty of the holograph letters date from Buchan’s formative Oxford undergraduate days, while the last is a typescript sent from Government House, Ottawa, a few weeks after the outbreak of war in 1939 and three months before Buchan’s death  in 1940. By this time Buchan was first Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield in the County of Oxford and his friend Boulter had retired to Burford, where he continued to write and illustrate Christian-themed books. There is a forty-year gap between the last handwritten ‘Oxford’ letter and the final typed one – an archival absence which is perhaps more poignant and voluble in its way than full documentation, passing as it does straight from the youthful hopes of the correspondents to their old age, although Boulter outlived Buchan by 20 years and died in 1960.

Also included among Buchan’s own letters is one to his younger sister, Anna Masterton Buchan (1877-1948), who was herself a novelist writing under the pseudonym O. Douglas. The sender is unidentified, but the subject is the tragic death of the Buchans’ brother, William, in 1912. William worked in the Indian Civil Service and the letter (sent from India) laments the loss of his ‘sweetness & unselfish devotion’.


-Judith Priestman, Curator of Modern Literary Manuscripts

Dorothy Hodgkin’s Nobel Prize – 50 years on

This year it’s 50 years since Dorothy Hodgkin won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964, ‘for her determinations by x-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances’. She is still the only British female scientist to have won a Nobel Prize.

The Bodleian recently acquired a small but significant addition to the Dorothy Hodgkin papers from her daughter, Liz. They give a unique insight into the excitement surrounding the award of the prize. At the time Liz was teaching at a school in Zambia and as letters could take a week or longer to arrive, her parents sent a telegram with the good news. To keep costs down, they sent the shortest possible message, ‘Dorothy nobel chemistry’!

MS. Eng. c. 8262, fol. 134

MS. Eng. c. 8262, fol. 134

In fact, Dorothy was also abroad at the time, visiting her husband in Ghana, where he was working. Following the telegram she sent a longer letter to Liz, describing how she had heard the news and how the small local post office was so overwhelmed with congratulatory telegrams, that she was asked to come and collect them herself.

The first cable came in from John Kendrew, Francis Crick & Fred Sanger - and then the girl at the other end said "There are too many here for us to telephone them all - they will block our lines. Come & fetch them, please". So we picked them up the next morning - & found a lovely one from the lab saying "Thrilled to have telephone call from Stockholm".

MS. Eng. c. 8262, fol. 133
The first cable came in from John Kendrew, Francis Crick & Fred Sanger – and then the girl at the other end said “There are too many here for us to telephone them all – they will block our lines. Come & fetch them, please”. So we picked them up the next morning – & found a lovely one from the lab saying “Thrilled to have telephone call from Stockholm”.

The most eminent men in science were lining up to congratulate her, and of course the telephone call from Stockholm was from the Nobel Prize committee, where Dorothy would go later that year to collect her prize.

This collection of letters has now been catalogued and is available to researchers in the Special Collections Reading Room at the Bodleian Library.

Day Of Digital Archives 2012

Yesterday was Day of Digital Archives 2012! (And yes, I’m a little late posting…)

This ‘Day’ was initiated last year to encourage those working with digital archives to use social media to raise awareness of digital archives: “By collectively documenting what we do, we will be answering questions like: What are digital archives? Who uses them? How are they created and managed? Why are they important?” . So in that spirit, here is a whizz through my week.

Coincidentally not only does this week include the Day of Digital Archives but it’s also the week that the Digital Preservation Coalition (or DPC) celebrated its 10th birthday. On Monday afternoon I went to the reception at the House of Lords to celebrate that landmark anniversary. A lovely event, during which the shortlist for the three digital preservation awards was announced. It’s great to see three award categories this time around, including one that takes a longer view: ‘the most outstanding contribution to digital preservation in the last decade’. That’s quite an accolade.

On the train journey home from the awards I found some quiet time to review a guidance document on the subject of acquiring born-digital materials. There is something about being on a train that puts my brain in the right mode for this kind of work. Nearing its final form, this guidance is the result of a collaboration between colleagues from a handful of archive repositories. The document will be out for further review before too long, and if we’ve been successful in our work it should prove helpful to creators, donors, dealers and repositories.

Part of Tuesday I spent reviewing oral history guidance drafted by a colleague to support the efforts of Oxford Medical Alumni in recording interviews with significant figures in the world of Oxford medicine. Oral histories come to us in both analogue and digital formats these days, and we try to digitise the former as and when we can. The development of the guidance is in the context of our Saving Oxford Medicine initiative to capture important sources for the recent history of medicine in Oxford. One of the core activities of this initiative is survey work, and it is notable that many archives surveyed include plenty of digital material. Web archiving is another element of the ‘capturing’ work that the Saving Oxford Medicine team has been doing, and you can see what has been archived to-date via Archive-It, our web archiving service provider.

Much of Wednesday morning was given over to a meeting of our building committee, which had very little to do with digital archives! In the afternoon, however, we were pleased to welcome visitors from MIT – Nancy McGovern and Kari Smith. I find visits like these are one of the most important ways of sharing information, experiences and know-how, and as always I got a lot out of it. I hope Nancy and Kari did too! That same afternoon, colleagues returned from a trip to London to collect another tranche of a personal archive. I’m not sure if this instalment contains much in the way of digital material, but previous ones have included hundreds of floppies and optical media, some zip discs and two hard disks. Also arriving on Wednesday, some digital Library records courtesy of our newly retired Executive Secretary; these supplement materials uploaded to BEAM (our digital archives repository) last week.

On Thursday, I found some time to work with developer Carl Wilson on our SPRUCE-funded project. Becky Nielsen (our recent trainee, now studying at Glasgow) kicked off this short project with Carl, following on from her collaboration with Peter May at a SPRUCE mashup in Glasgow. I’m picking up some of the latter stages of testing and feedback work now Becky’s started her studies. The development process has been an agile one with lots of chat and testing. I’ve found this very productive – it’s motivating to see things evolving, and to be able to provide feedback early and often. For now you can see what’s going on at github here, but this link will likely change once we settle on a name that’s more useful than ‘spruce-beam’ (doesn’t tell you much, does it?! Something to do with trees…) One of the primary aims of this tool is to facilitate collection analysis, so we know better what our holdings are in terms of format and content. We expect that it will be useful to others, and there will be more info. on it available soon.

Friday was more SPRUCE work with Carl, among other things. Also a few meetings today – one around funding and service models for digital archiving, and a meeting of the Bodleian’s eLegal Deposit Group (where my special interest is web archiving). The curious can read more about e-legal deposit at the DCMS website.  One fun thing that came out of the day was that the Saving Oxford Medicine team decided to participate in a Women in Science wikipedia editathon. This will be hosted by the Radcliffe Science Library on 26 October as part of a series of ‘Engage‘ events on social media organised by the Bodleian and the University’s Computing Services. It’s fascinating to contemplate how the range and content of Wikipedia articles change over time, something a web archive would facilitate perhaps.

For more on working with digital archives, go take a look at the great posts at the Day of Digital Archives blog!

-Susan Thomas

Sir Walter Bodmer’s Archive

Sir Walter Bodmer

Sir Walter Bodmer

In 1992, in an answer for a Daily Telegraph questionnaire, the eminent geneticist, and then Director-General of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Sir Walter Bodmer identified his chosen last words as, ‘To my wife: please do not shred all my papers!’.

His concern to retain his papers is commendable and the resultant archive, which has just been boxlisted by archivists Tim Powell and Adrian Nardone, is huge: over 2,000 archive boxes.

As the size of the archive indicates, Sir Walter kept good records of his activities and the collection documents nearly all aspects of his career, from schooldays at Manchester in the early 1950s to his recent research at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine.  It includes voluminous documentation of areas of research and activities with which Sir Walter is particularly associated: research and publications into HLA and immunogenetics, cancer research, his Professorship of Genetics at Oxford 1970-1979, and terms as Director of Research and Director-General of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund 1979-1996. Other major responsibilites included his presidency of HUGO – the international human genome organization, chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of the Natural History Museum and chairmanship of the National Radiological Protection Board.

Continue reading

Hugh Sinclair as collector

We recently received from Reading University a collection of materials relating to Oxford medicine from the archive of Hugh MacDonald Sinclair (1910-90), nutritionist.

In 1941 Sinclair created and led the Oxford Nutrition Survey, which reported to the Government on the effects of the wartime diet. Five years later this became the University Laboratory of Human Nutrition, of which Sinclair was director until 1955. He was Reader in Human Nutrition at Oxford from 1951 to 1958. From 1970 he was a visiting professor at Reading University. His archive is currently being catalogued at Reading, where the Hugh Sinclair Human Nutrition Group was set up in 1995 with the proceeds of Sinclair’s estate.

The material now at the Bodleian includes papers of Professor Kenneth Franklin, Dean of the Medical School 1934-46, and Assistant Director of the Nuffield Institute for Medical Research 1935-47. There is also correspondence of Sir John Scott Burdon Sanderson, Regius Professor of Medicine 1895-1904 (see our post of 1 June) and various other figures in Oxford Medicine, documents relating to the Oxford Medical School, photographs and ephemera. There are a number of photographs of Sanderson and he is easily recognised in caricature on the menu card for the Oxford University Annual Medical Dinner 1898:

Hugh and Menu card

A final word on Hugh Sinclair. In 1979 he undertook an experiment to demonstrate the effects of essential fatty acids, restricting his diet to seal meat and fish only for 100 days. His bleeding time rose from three to fifty-seven minutes, supporting his long-held theory that certain essential fatty acids have an important role in inhibiting blood clotting, thus preventing thrombosis. A former colleague remembers joining Sinclair for dinner at Magdalen College high table, where he refused the meal and ate his piece of grilled seal. He commented that he enjoyed his diet, but when he pruned his roses his boots filled up with blood!

Bodleian Libraries acquire Sir Edward Heath archive

1970 election poster from the Conservative Party Archive Poster Collection

Last month, the Bodleian Libraries, with support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) acquired the archive of former Conservative Prime Minister, Sir Edward Heath (1916-2005). The collection comprises almost 1,000 cartons and includes rich and diverse papers from his time in office and the shadow cabinet, as well as personal papers from his early life including his time as an undergraduate at Balliol College and his active role in student politics during the 1930s.

 A Young Conservatives flyer from the Conservative Party Archive

An Oxford alumnus, Sir Edward Richard George ‘Ted’ Heath, KG, MBE (9 July 1916 – 17 July 2005) served as Conservative Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974 and was Leader of the Conservative Party from 1965 to 1975.  He continued to have a major influence on British politics throughout his life and was Father of the House from 1992-2001.

The Heath Archive complements other holdings of modern British political papers within the Bodleian’s Department of Special Collections, including our material in the Conservative Party Archive.

The archive will be made available to scholars and researchers following cataloguing.

Our first local ‘dead’ hard disk acquisition

We’ve imaged lots of removable media over the past year (~ 400, according to Victoria’s stats), and I’ve also done a  fair amount of forensic imaging of material on-site with donors (live acquisition) . One aspect of our ‘forensic’ armoury that has not been subject to so much testing is the imaging of whole hard disks at BEAM. So-called ‘dead’ acquisitions.

In the past few months two new accessions have presented us with an additional four hard disks. This is excellent news, as I have finally had the chance to use our forensic computer’s Ultrabay (write-blocking device) to image a real ‘collection hard disk’. Everything went smoothly. So far so good.

-Susan Thomas