Category Archives: Archives and Modern Manuscripts

Kafka24: Oxford celebrates Franz Kafka

Kafka24 logo featuring a photograph of Franz Kafka's faceTo commemorate the centenary of Franz Kafka’s death on 3 June 1924, the University of Oxford’s summer-long cultural festival Kafka24,  inspired by Kafka’s life and work, features theatre, music, cabaret, exhibitions, lectures, talks, and free family activities including the spectacular Jitterbug Tent which will land in University Parks on South Parks Road from Friday 31st May to Sunday 2nd June, and insect activities at the Museum of Natural History on the evening of 5th June.

On the evening of 3rd June, the Bodleian Libraries will host Oxford Reads Kafka in the historic Sheldonian Theatre, a public reading of Kafka’s story ‘Metamorphosis’ in which the hapless Gregor Samsa wakes up to find he’s transformed into a bug, with readers including authors Lemn Sissay, Ben Okri, and Lisa Appignanesi (tickets available online).

And on 30 May the major exhibition Kafka: Making of an Icon, featuring manuscripts from the Bodleian Library’s Kafka archive, opens in the ST Lee Gallery of the Weston Library (free admission).

The full programme of lectures and events is at www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/kafka24.

Admissions Office closure, 15-16 May

Exclamation mark graphicFor readers who need to apply for a reader’s card, please note that the Admissions Office will be closed on Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 May 2024 due to a system upgrade.

  • For any applicant who has pre-ordered material two staff members of the Admissions team will be stationed in Blackwell Hall (in front of the big screen). They will check your application form and ID documents and provide you with an official letter advising library staff to allow you access on both dates.
  • We will not be able to issue any permits for University card holders to take guests to the Duke Humfrey’s either on the 15th or 16th of May.

Roger Bannister’s world record – 70th anniversary celebrations

This weekend, the city of Oxford is celebrating the anniversary of Roger Bannister’s historic sub-four-minute mile, a world record that the former Oxford (Exeter College) student broke at Oxford’s Iffley Road athletic track, 70 years ago on 6 May 1954.

In the Weston Library’s Blackwell Hall, from now until 5pm on 6 May, you will find a small display from his archive, which is now housed at the Bodleian, featuring the event programme for his world record race, original photographs, objects from his athletic career, and letters and papers that reveal his meticulous training.

Meanwhile runners across the city are invited to join the Bannister Community Mile on Monday 6 May, running from St Aldate’s to the Iffley Road Track where they will be able to enjoy the Mile Fair with more historic displays, and throughout the day, Bannister Track Mile races from invited athletes of all ages, which from 6pm will feature elite racers attempting to break the current mile records.

Spectator tickets will be free at Iffley Road, with hundreds of walk up spaces – arrive early to get your seat.

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)

Updated Catalogue: Conservative Central Office – Publicity/Communications Department

The Archive of the Conservative Party is pleased to announce the arrival of its expanded catalogue of the Conservative Central Office Publicity Department. Known variously as the Publicity Department, Communications Department, Press and Communications Department, and the Department of Political Operations, this department has been responsible for the production and dissemination of the Party’s publicity material and propaganda, as well as facilitating relations with the media, since the 1920s. This important collection has more than doubled in size following the addition of over 90 boxes of material, providing a unique insight into the Party’s approach to publicity and communications over time. The expanded collection includes the papers and correspondence of several Directors of Publicity, planning files relating to television and radio broadcasting, and the logistics behind decades of election campaigns and Party Conferences.

A significant portion of this new material relates to, or was kindly donated by, Harvey Thomas (1939-2022), Director of Press and Communications from 1985-1986 and Director of Presentation and Promotion from 1986-1991. Thomas also played a valuable role as a political advisor to the Party, particularly contributing towards Margaret Thatcher’s publicity and campaigning strategy. Many of his papers can be found in files covering Party Conferences and events, the organisation of which he was heavily involved in throughout the 1980s.

Campaigning and publicity

Much of the newly available material in this collection relates to the Party’s campaigning and publicity, whether material created for specific general elections, by-elections, and European elections, or for general publicity and marketing, often involving the input of external advertising and branding agencies. These files include details of poster campaigns, campaign tour programmes and schedules, and draft publication designs.

Whilst the majority of the new files date from the late 20th century, a couple of interesting publicity guides from the 1950s (CPA CCO 600/25/1) and 1970s (CPA CCO 600/25/2) are included in the expanded collection. The former, a scrapbook containing examples of election literature primarily created during the 1955 General Election, sought to provide a reference guide to propaganda techniques to help those creating such publicity material in the future. It contains dozens of examples of election addresses, broadsheets, leaflets, and posters, each with annotations explaining what they had done well and suggesting areas for improvement. Below is an example of an election address from Ronald Watson, candidate for Newark in both the 1951 and 1955 General Elections, with accompanying praise for its ‘enterprising’ photograph montage and ‘lively and interesting’ centre pages (CPA CCO 600/25/1).

Election Material and Techniques, 1955 – CPA CCO 600/25/1.

In addition to the distribution of impactful physical literature, successful campaign tours and television and radio appearances have long been deemed essential contributors to election victory. Several newly available files detail the tours and visits undertaken by Margaret Thatcher during election campaigns, demonstrating the detailed planning these involved. The pages below, included in a preparation file for the 1983 General Election, are a good example of this. The left page contains a list of the publicity material created in the lead-up to the election, including ‘Maggie In’ car stickers and ‘10 Reasons for Not Voting Labour’ leaflets, whilst that on the right shows a draft outline programme for a ‘sample day’ for Thatcher touring away from London, detailing an extremely long day of meetings, interviews, rallies, and travel. Such files provide a great insight into the behind-the-scenes effort behind these campaigns.

1983 General Election preparations – CPA CCO 600/14/51.

Party Political Broadcasts

Also included in the newly available material are the annotated scripts, planning papers, and correspondence behind many Conservative Party Political Broadcasts (PPBs). These files illustrate the thought-processes behind the creation of these key forms of publicity, particularly the development of various iterations and drafts over time. The image below shows a ‘final final’ draft of a PPB from November 1985. This was set in a courtroom, the Government on trial for ‘making serious cuts in everything this country holds dear’ (CPA CCO 600/3/10/17). The broadcast contains admissions to numerous ‘cuts’ carried out by the Tories, including cutting income tax, inflation, and hospital waiting lists. In order to have maximum impact this was accompanied by a widespread distribution of leaflets and poster displays pushing the same message: only positive cuts had been made by this Government. Creative ideas like these were clearly deemed necessary to continue to catch the audience’s attention.

Party Political Broadcast 20/11/1985 script – CPA CCO 600/3/10/17.

All the material featured in this blog post, alongside the full updated collection of the Conservative Central Office Publicity/Communications Department, is now available to consult at the Weston Library. To browse the online catalogue, visit Collection: Conservative Party Archive: Conservative Central Office – Publicity/Communications Department | Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts (ox.ac.uk)

The life and poetry of Ivor C. Treby

Written by Kasturi Pindar, Bodleian Libraries intern, Summer 2023

Ivor C. Treby (1933-2012) was a biochemistry teacher by profession, though outside of his professional life, he considered himself a gay literary activist, as well as being an avid traveller and a collector of sand. He is perhaps best known for his research and work on Michael Field, the pseudonym of the Victorian lesbian poets, Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper. As a gay literary activist, he wrote his own poetry, which was published in magazines and journals internationally, and in collections released under his own imprint, De Blackland Press. He was also a member of the Gay Authors Workshop from its early years. By the time of his death, he had published five books on Michael Field and over 400 of his own poems. The motifs, imagery and sentiments found in his poems often reflects the various aspects of his life. Though his poetry is less well-remembered, his talent as a poet is clear when exploring his archive. Therefore, this post will highlight some of his poetry through the lens of his life experiences.

Born in Devonport, Plymouth, the son of a shipwright, Treby grew up by the coast. He lived here until he eventually moved to study, attending Exeter College, University of Oxford, where he studied biochemistry. The sea and the shore are themes that run throughout his poetry, testifying to the influence of life by the sea on his formative years. Many of his poems link the sea to his coming-of-age, or to romantic and sexual encounters that impacted his life. Others, such as ‘Respite’, simply express a feeling of calm and restful detachment that he felt when near the sea. His poem, ‘Sea Light’, describes the sea as part of his heritage, as the son of a shipwright, but importantly too as a young, gay man. He references areas of Plymouth that he frequented as a teenager, during his coming-of-age. The first and fourth verses are reproduced below.

‘Sea Light’

The sea was part of my heritage
I know all the old nautical traditions
Have heard of the phantom toffee-gobbler
Could give lessons on how to blow the man down
In a variety of interesting positions

Whenever I see a sailor now, I am back on Citadel Hill
Of an autumn twilight. Across the Hoe’s windy arena
The matelots come. My lads do you still
Walk the Barbican, and wait in Devonport Park
Still relish the hand of a youth on your trouser-leg’s dark concertina?

MS. Treby 16 © Darren Perry

***
After graduating from Oxford, Treby moved to London to teach biochemistry, working at Concord College in Tunbridge Wells, then Chiswick Polytechnic, before moving to Paddington College (now City of Westminster College). In 1978, he was charged and convicted of gross indecency under Section 13 of the Sexual Offenses Act 1956. By this time, he was out to his family and his colleagues. Nonetheless, he was subjected to disciplinary proceedings by Paddington College, as well as intervention by the Department of Education and Science who considered determining him to be a person ‘unsuitable for employment as a teacher’ as a result of his conviction. Historically, his case is important as it shows the limitations of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which is commonly thought to have legalised homosexuality in the United Kingdom. Though the 1967 act legalised homosexuality under certain circumstances, research has shown that following the passing of the act, policing of homosexual activity increased, and convictions of homosexual men for ‘gross indecency’ went up by more than 300%. Men continued to be arrested for actions as small as winking and smiling at other men in the street, or public displays of affection such as kissing and cuddling.

As his career was jeopardised by the Department of Education and Science, Treby defended himself vocally. In a written response to the Department of Education and Science, he wrote:

I feel myself under no obligation to give a ‘full explanation’ of a matter which,
(a) is totally irrelevant to my abilities as a teacher
(b) could only have arisen in a society with a grotesque attitude toward a minority of its people who obtain sexual fulfilment and love with adult members of their own gender. Kindly note the word love.

His conviction, and his vocal defence of himself, testify to how difficult it was to be openly gay, even 10 years after homosexuality had been supposedly legalised in the UK. His poem, ‘We Who Burn’ was written the year after the Sexual Offences Act 1967 and was one of his earliest open avowals of his sexuality. It was first published in The Gay Journal in the year of his conviction. The poem explores what it meant to Treby to be gay in the mid-twentieth century. Themes of silence, death and darkness are interspersed with the loss of youth and a reference to ‘cottages’. Writing about the poem later in life, Treby suggested that it may ‘have a permanent place in the history of gay poetry.’

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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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