Category Archives: Modern

New catalogue: literary papers of Sarah Caudwell

The full catalogue for the Literary Manuscripts of Sarah Caudwell held at the Bodleian Library is now available online via Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts.

Sarah Caudwell was the pseudonym of Sarah Caudwell Cockburn (1939-2000), a barrister who used her in-depth knowledge of property law and tax in her finely-tuned crime fiction novels.

Sarah was born in London in 1939, the daughter of Jean Iris Ross (1911–1973), a journalist and actress thought to be the inspiration behind Christopher Isherwood’s fictional heroine Sally Bowles. Her father, who left Ross three months after Sarah’s birth, was the journalist (Francis) Claud Cockburn (1904–1981).

Sarah studied classics at Aberdeen University before going on to study law at St Anne’s College, Oxford where she successfully campaigned to allow women to become members of the Oxford Union and take part in debates. She had a successful career at the bar before going on to work for Lloyd’s Bank in their trust division which she left only to concentrate more fully on her writing.

Her novels largely centre around the character of Professor Hilary Tamar (an Oxford don whose gender is never revealed to the reader) and a group of young barristers, to whom Tamar acts as a kind of mentor. The four books in the series are written in various locations including Corfu, Venice, Sark, and a fictional English village. The first book in the series was Thus was Adonis Murdered, published in America in 1981. This was followed by The Shortest Way to Hades in 1985. Her next novel, The Sirens Sang of Murder, was published in 1989 and won the 1990 Anthony award for Best Novel. The final book in the series, The Sibyl in Her Grave, was published posthumously in America in 2000.

Sarah Caudwell's four novels

Sarah Caudwell’s four novels

The collection contains around 200 wirebound reporter’s notebooks full of Caudwell’s jottings for her novels (alongside notes for cryptic crossword puzzles), as well as draft printouts of sections from her novels and publisher’s proofs.

-Rachael Marsay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorary Fellow of the IP Federation

 

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

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

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

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

Congratulations, have a fish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conference Report: Archives and Records Association Annual Conference 2021

The Archives and Records Association (ARA) Annual Conference 2021 was held 1st–3rd September 2021. In this blog post, Rachael Marsay reports on some of the highlights of the conference, held entirely online this year for the first time.


Logo for the Archive and Records Association 2021 Virtual Conference

There were three themes to this year’s conference: sustainability, diversity, and advocacy. Though each day of the conference covered one theme, one of the stand-outs of the conference was just how interlinked all three strands were.

Day one’s keynote speaker was Jeff James, Chief Executive and Keeper at The National Archives. Jeff talked about environmental sustainability, as well as the sustainability of the record and of the archives sector. He mentioned how The National Archives at Kew are committed to lowering their carbon footprint, which has been reduced by 80% since 2009. This has been achieved by building on scientific research with regards to buildings, bringing both a financial and environmental benefit. He also spoke of records at risk, referring to the work of the Cultural Recovery Fund, the Covid-19 Archives Fund for records at risk and the Crisis Management Team alongside already established fund streams such as the Archives Revealed grant scheme. Digital records were flagged as records at risk and he stressed the need for the sector to work in partnership and collaboration, both together and with digital giants (such as Microsoft and Google) with regards to developing digital products. Sector skills include the need for records professionals to gain digital skills through schemes and strategies such as Plugged In Powered Up, the Novice to Know-How online training resource created by the Digital Preservation Coalition, the Digital Archives Learning Exchange, and the Bridging the Gap traineeship programme.

The fragility of born-digital records, identified as critically endangered by the Digital Preservation Coalition, was a common theme throughout the conference. Even the most modern of records are at risk (CD-Rs for example, have a lifespan of under 10 years). Particular digital records discussed related to oral history interviews, often seen as ‘history from below’, recording the lives of those with ‘hidden histories’ off mainstream records, such as women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Challenges to preserve digital material include cost, knowledge, skills and training, technology, and resources, as well as issues surrounding ‘gatekeeping’ and access to material. Rachel MacGregor (Digital Preservation Officer at The Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick) emphasised the need to record, describe, and catalogue born digital collections well in order to ensure that that they can be utilised by researchers, and explored some of the standards and guidance currently available.

Day two’s keynote speaker was Arike Oke (Managing Director, Black Cultural Archives) who spoke about experiences with diversity, aptly described as the equitable and mindful bringing together of difference; diversity should not be seen as static, but as a perpetual movement, both including and evolving difference. In her talk, Arike raised the point of classifying and being classified, and several sessions across the three days referred to how language and terminology impacted the use of records or archives created by or for particular communities. The use of historic terminology can be a barrier to access, particularly when words hold negative connotations that can cause distress to users. This was explored in several sessions in relation to LGBTQ+ related records and archives (including those kept at the Parliamentary Archives of the UK Parliament), as well as colonial collections such as the Miscellaneous Reports Collection held by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew. Thoughts on how to address the issues included guides or notes explaining the context and why such words were used, including modern terms or names in brackets, inviting feedback, and for events, giving participants time and space to process information.

The importance of being open to keeping more ephemeral material and objects (e.g. pin badges, leaflets and posters) was also highlighted, particularly in shedding light on lives not necessarily recorded in more traditional forms. Christopher Hilton of Britten Pears Arts gave an interesting presentation on the multitude of receipts kept by Benjamin Britten and his partner Peter Pears for tax purposes. The receipts were important in shedding light on their relationship by providing evidence that they maintained clearly separate financial lives, demonstrating how important it was for their professional lives at that period that their records could be used to demonstrate a ‘plausible deniability’ should their personal relationship be questioned. The receipts were also records of businesses in Aldeburgh which are now long gone, provoking memories for older residents and providing a tangible link between the archive and the town.

Day three’s keynote speaker was Deirdre McParland, Senior Archivist at the Electricity Supply Board (Ireland) whose inspirational talk focussed on the importance of advocacy and that ‘archives are for life, not just anniversaries’. Deirdre spoke of how archives should be pro-active and innovative when it comes to advocacy, and that projects should be strategically planned to include promotion as standard. Deirdre’s talk was followed by a talk by Jenny Moran and Robin Jenkins from the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, and Richard Wiltshire of the Crisis Management Team. Jenny, Robin and Richard talked about saving the archive of the travel firm Thomas Cook after the company’s sudden collapse: an excellent example of how swift action, negotiation and successful advocacy led to the ensured survival of the archive. The conference was nicely brought to a close by a talk by Alan and Bethan Ward on their project Photographs from Another Place. Their talk, given from the perspective of the archive user, showed how a bit of archival research revealed the names and stories behind a group of forgotten and unlabelled glass plate negatives. It was, for me at least, a timely reminder of the enduring value of archives.


A selection of further reading recommendations made by speakers and participants:

 

The World’s Best Food At Your Doorstep

Another wonderful list of foodstuffs from the Clarendon collection!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal velvet

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

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

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

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

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

Who were they?

Continue reading

Updated Catalogue: Conservative Central Office – Organisation Department

We are pleased to announce the launch of our revised and expanded catalogue of Conservative Central Office Organisation Department material, with an array of new material now available to readers for the first time. The catalogue contains papers of the Conservative Party’s Organisation Department and its successors from 1911-2000, including papers of the Director of Organisation, campaigning and elections materials spanning from the 1940s to late 1980s, reviews of the Party organisation, training files for agents, and files from the component sections of the Department. Amongst the newly added material is correspondence of politicians as far back as the 1930s, including Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, and Rab Butler, as well as publicity and campaigning materials, and monitoring of other political parties. Since this catalogue is so expansive, covering material from all aspects of the work of the Organisation Department and spanning almost a century, this blog will highlight just a handful of interesting areas, demonstrating the catalogue’s significant value for historians of British politics and anyone with an interest in the Conservative Party.

Publicity and Campaigning, 1946-1989

A first highlight of the revised catalogue is the substantial amount of publicity and campaigning material, created by the Party during General Elections, By-Elections, and European Elections through the mid to late twentieth century. These files, within the ‘Campaigning and Elections’ series of the catalogue, give a great insight into both the behind the scenes creation of these campaigning materials, including early drafts and correspondence, and the final printed and published leaflets, posters, and pamphlets. Included within these files are artwork designs and leaflets created by Ronald Bell, who worked throughout the 1980s to organise and create national artwork used both between and during election campaigns. This image gives an example of such material, comprising correspondence sent to Bell in the late 1980s outlining the need for publicity promoting the benefits of the Community Charge to Asian families, and a translated leaflet created by Bell to achieve this. This file includes many examples of his artwork, as well as numerous drafts and early ideas for leaflets.

Correspondence and a draft leaflet relating to the Community Charge and the Asian Community, 1988 – CPA CCO 500/61/10

European Campaigning and Elections, 1957-1989

One of the largest areas of new material within the Organisation Department catalogue is European Campaigning and Elections. In addition to publicity files similar to those outlined above, such as posters, leaflets, and correspondence, this sub-series includes files on conferences, visits to the European Parliament, and press conferences. A particularly interesting event covered within this material is the 1975 referendum which asked whether or not the UK should remain a member of the European Communities. Over 67% of voters voted to remain, potentially swayed by posters such as these, campaigning for voters to choose to ‘Keep Britain in Europe’.

Keep Britain in Europe Posters, 1975 – CPA CCO 500/31/33

General Election Reviews, 1950-1970

General Election reviews were carried out by the Organisation Department following each General Election and reviewed every aspect of the Party’s campaign and organisation. This catalogue contains these reviews from 1950 to 1970, providing thorough analyses of campaigns and the organisational efficiency of the Party – potentially a very useful resource for historians interested in these Elections. This example from 1966 highlights the types of factors assessed in these reviews, from morale of workers to the following of election law.

Summary of General Election Reports, 1966 – CPA CCO 500/24/213

Correspondence, 1937-1967

A particular highlight of the new additions to this catalogue is the correspondence of various politicians between 1937 and 1967. These include letters on an assortment of topics, from Conservative Party policy and prospective Conservative candidates for Parliament, to Sir Alec Douglas-Home’s public image and The Convention on the Political Rights of Women. Also included are a handful of letters written by Sir Winston Churchill, mostly during his years as Leader of the Opposition from 1945-1951 and written to Lord Woolton, Chairman of the Conservative Party. The example below illustrates Churchill’s irritation at the lack of canvassing in the lead-up to the 1951 West Houghton by-election, which the Labour candidate won by over 60%, giving an insight into Churchill’s involvement and interest in these elections and his opposition to the ‘essence of defeatism’ described in his letter. Another letter written by Churchill, also within this file, shows his consideration of a proposal in 1946 to create ‘The Union Party’, comprising Unionists from across the political parties, as a ‘united Party against Socialism’, providing another insight into his thoughts and plans during this time.

Letter from Sir Winston Churchill to Lord Woolton concerning the West Houghton by-election and Gallup Poll results, June 1961 – CPA CCO 500/65/1/4

Political Parties (Monitoring), 1947-1983

A final area of the catalogue which has been widely expanded is the monitoring of other political parties, including the Labour Party, Liberal Party, SDP, and Communist and Far-Left Parties. These files largely consist of reports on the activities of these parties, copies of their leaflets and other campaigning materials, and newspaper articles concerning their actions and policies. This example of a report on SDP activities from the 1980s demonstrates the type of work carried out by the Organisation Department to monitor their opponents, including information on key figures within the SDP, rallies and major public meetings organised by the Party, and a list of defectors from the Conservative Party to the SDP.

Report on SDP activities since approximately 1st July 1981 – CPA CCO 500/25/12/1

All the material featured in this blog post is now available, see Collection: Conservative Party Archive: Conservative Central Office – Organisation Department | Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts (ox.ac.uk) for the fully-searchable list of items within this catalogue.

Jenny Joseph poetry notebooks digitised

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

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

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

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

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

 

A pottle of strawberries (on this day in 1842)

Two evocative lists from the Clarendon archive show the impressive range of foods that a Victorian country estate was capable of producing.

The Grove, an estate in Hertfordshire on the outskirts of Watford, was the country seat of the Earls of Clarendon (2nd creation) for about 170 years after it was purchased by the 1st earl Thomas Villiers in 1753.

A list of fruit and vegetables sent from the Grove estate, 22 July 1842

Fruit and vegetables sent from the Grove estate, 22 July 1842 [click to enlarge]

Two lists addressed to the Countess of Clarendon itemise the vegetables, fruit, game, poultry, fish, wood, eggs, butter and bakery items ‘Sent from the Grove the 22nd day of July 1842′, presumably to the Clarendons’ London house. It includes heads of artichokes, pecks of french beans, dozens of carrots, bushels of peas, sticks of rhubarb, baskets of salad and bunches of sorrell, and, since the printed list was not sufficient, there are handwritten additions itemising pecks of black cherries, pottles of mushrooms and strawberries, and a box of cut flowers, amongst other wonderful things.

A list of provisions sent from the Grove estate, 22 July 1842

Provisions sent from the Grove estate, 22 July 1842 [click to enlarge]

The list of non-vegetable items sent that day looks sparse by comparison but it’s still a staggering amount of food: 1 fawn, 1 leaveret (hare), 12 eggs, 5lb of butter, 5 loaves of bread and 36 fagotts of wood. It’s notable that this is only the list for one day. There is another printed list of fruit and vegetables sent on the 19th of July 1842 with very similar amounts of food. The household was catering on a grand scale.

I was reasonably familiar with pecks and bushels and heads, but curious what a ‘pottle’ amounted to. The Oxford English Dictionary came to my rescue, as it often does. A pottle was, when used to measure liquids and dry goods like corn, equal to half a gallon (approximately 2.3 litres). But when used for strawberries it is, enigmatically, just a small basket of conical shape, designed to protect soft foods in transit.

And what might they have done with their strawberries? This recipe for strawberry salad, by the celebrity French chef Alexis Soyer, published in his useful work of affordable, plain cookery A Shilling Cookery for the People (1845), might not have been fancy enough for the countess, but it does at least make good use of a pottle of ripe strawberries, should you also have a gill of brandy handy.

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

Conference Report: IIPC Web Archiving Conference 2021

This year’s International Internet Preservation Consortium Web Archiving Conference was held online from 15-16th June 2021, bringing together professionals from around the world to share their experiences of preserving the Web as a research tool for future generations. In this blog post, Simon Mackley reports back on some of the highlights from the conference.  

How can we best preserve the World Wide Web for future researchers, and how can we best provide access to our collections? These were the questions that were at the forefront of this year’s International Internet Preservation Consortium Web Archiving Conference, which was hosted virtually by the National Library of Luxembourg. Web archiving is a subject of particular interest to me: as one of the Bodleian Library’s Graduate Trainee Digital Archivists, I spend a lot of my time working on our own Web collections as part of the Bodleian Libraries Web Archive. It was great therefore to have the chance to attend part of this virtual conference and hear for myself about new developments in the sector.

One thing that really struck me from the conference was the huge diversity in approaches to preserving the Web. On the one hand, many of the papers concerned large-scale efforts by national legal deposit institutions. For instance, Ivo Branco, Ricardo Basílio, and Daniel Gomes gave a very interesting presentation on the creation of the 2019 European Parliamentary Elections collection at the Portuguese Web Archive. This was a highly ambitious project, with the aim of crawling not just the Portuguese Web domain but also capturing a snapshot of elections coverage across 24 different European languages through the use of an automated search engine and a range of web crawler technologies (see their blog for more details). The World Wide Web is perhaps the ultimate example of an international information resource, so it is brilliant to see web archiving initiatives take a similarly international approach.

At the other end of the scale, Hélène Brousseau gave a fascinating paper on community-based web archiving at Artexte library and research centre, Canada. Within the arts community, websites often function as digital publications analogous to traditional exhibition catalogues. Brousseau emphasised the need for manual web archiving rather than automated crawling as a means of capturing the full content and functionality of these digital publications, and at Artexete this has been achieved by training website creators to self-archive their own websites using Conifer. Given that in many cases web archivists often have minimal or even no contact with website creators, it was fascinating to hear of an approach that places creators at the very heart of the process.

It was also really interesting to hear about the innovative new ways that web archives were engaging with researchers using their collections, particularly in the use of new ‘Labs’-style approaches. Marie Carlin and Dorothée Benhamou-Suesser for instance reported on the new services being planned for researchers at the Bibliothèque nationale de France Data Lab, including a crawl-on-demand service and the provision of web archive datasets. New methodologies are always being developed within the Digital Humanities, and so it is vitally important that web archives are able to meet the evolving needs of researchers.

Like all good conferences, the papers and discussions did not solely focus on the successes of the past year, but also explored the continued challenges of web archiving and how they can be addressed. Web archiving is often a resource-intensive activity, which can prove a significant challenge for collecting institutions. This was a major point of discussion in the panel session on web archiving the coronavirus pandemic, as institutions had to balance the urgency of quickly capturing web content during a fast-evolving crisis against the need to manage resources for the longer-term, as it became apparent that the pandemic would last months rather than weeks. It was clear from the speakers that no two institutions had approached documenting the pandemic in quite the same way, but nonetheless some very useful general lessons were drawn from the experiences, particularly about the need to clearly define collection scope and goals at the start of any collecting project dealing with rapidly changing events.

The question of access presents an even greater challenge. We ultimately work to preserve the Web so that researchers can make use of it, but as a sector we face significant barriers in delivering this goal. The larger legal deposit collections, for instance, can often only be consulted in the physical reading rooms of their collecting libraries. In his opening address to the conference, Claude D. Conter of the National Library of Luxembourg addressed this problem head-on, calling for copyright reform in order to meet reader expectations of access.

Yet although these challenges may be significant, I have no doubt from the range of new and innovative approaches showcased at this conference that the web archiving sector will be able to overcome them. I am delighted to have had the chance to attend the conference, and I cannot wait to see how some of the projects presented continue to develop in the years to come.

Simon Mackley