Tag Archives: Archives and Modern Manuscripts

A lot of pun? An early nineteenth-century book of conundrums

There are many different traditions associated with this time of year, not least the pulling of crackers on Christmas Day. And what cracker would be complete without a terrible joke?

A recent donation to the Bodleian Library included this manuscript volume, described in pencil on the inner flyleaf as containing ‘162 conundrums’ and dated as c.1814-1820. According to The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, a conundrum is: A question asked for amusement, typically one with a pun in its answer; a riddle; a confusing and difficult problem or question.

Marbled front cover of a nineteenth century notebook

Early nineteenth-century book of conundrums, Bodleian Libraries, MS. 21625

This volume contains 162 questions or riddles, undoubtedly collected for amusement’s sake. The questions or riddles are written in several different hands which suggest the volume was passed round family and friends to add their own. The questions are numbered and listed at the front of the volume, and the answers are provided in a numbered list at the back of the volume. Unfortunately, there is no clue as to the identity of any of the contributors apart from a label on the front pasteboard which suggests that the notebook was bought from Martin Keene’s book and stationery shop in College Green, Dublin.

Inside of volume showing page of conundrums

Manuscript book of conundrums, showing questions 92-98, Bodleian Libraries, MS. 21625

List of answers inside manuscript book of conundrums

Manuscript book of conundrums, showing answers 40-104, Bodleian Libraries, MS. 21625

Here is a selection:

Why is a drawn tooth like a thing forgotten? Because it is out of the Head.

Why is a spectator like a beehive? Because he is a beholder.

What is the Elegy of a Turkey? Its Leg.

Why are the bucks and does in Windsor forest like the Queen? The King’s own deer.

Reading through the conundrums, it is somewhat reassuring to find that the tradition of sharing terrible puns is many centuries old! I wonder if this particular volume was ever passed around the family at Christmastime?


Mystery items in the Clarendon archive

Did we just find Victorian condoms in the Clarendon archive?

Emptying out a leather wallet found with a box of mainly 1850s letters sent to the 4th Earl of Clarendon, I came across a few stray items: a bad sketch of a woman called Josephine, a scrap of newspaper [*see an important update at the end!], and some folded tissue. It’s not unusual to find scrumpled bits of tissue paper in archives, and sometimes that tissue is wrapping something precious, so it’s always worth investigating.

This tissue struck me as unusual, however – what caught my eye was the shaped and curved edge, and the tiny hint of ribbon. Was this a folded glove, perhaps?

Tubes of yellowed paper or parchment or tissue with ties of narrow blue ribbon

Folded tissue with ribbon

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Dear Papa

'My Dear Papa, I want so to see you again. I love you so much. Your affec[ate] son'. Letter from young Francis Hyde Villiers to his father, the 4th Earl of Clarendon

Letter from young Francis Hyde Villiers to his father, the 4th Earl of Clarendon [click to enlarge]

Too cute not to share, this heavily folded letter was written by Francis Hyde Villiers to his father George, 4th Earl of Clarendon, in the mid 1850s.

Sir Francis Hyde Villiers (1852-1925) went on to be Minister to Portugal, Ambassador to Belgium, and possessor of a formidable moustache, but here he’s just a very young boy who misses and loves his dad.

The letter is preserved in the archive of the Earls of Clarendon (2nd creation), currently being catalogued.

 

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.

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.

450th anniversary of the incorporation of Oxford University

This year marks the 450th anniversary of the 1571 Act of Parliament, of Elizabeth I, which formally incorporated the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Both had already existed for over three centuries but this confirmed their legal statuses as corporations.

In contrast to the colleges, the central University of Oxford has no charter of foundation. It is said to have emerged during the eleventh century when a  small group of teaching masters and their pupils set up home in hired lodgings in Oxford. Not yet the large corporate body we know now, the University was merely a group of individuals living and working in an already-established town. In 1214,  these individuals were placed under the jurisdiction of a Chancellor appointed by the Bishop of Lincoln and they quickly gained recognition as a corporate body.

Award of the Papal Legate, 1214

Award of the Papal Legate, 1214 (OUA/WPbeta/P/12/1)

First gaining in 1216 the title of ‘universitas’ (which meant, simply, any body of people have a distinct purpose and status), the University’s corporate status was further enhanced over the years by having its own statutes, officers and premises.

Until the reign of Elizabeth, the University had accrued its rights and privileges through the issue of royal charters. Each monarch keen to support the University would grant it a charter conferring yet greater powers and freedoms on it, as well as confirming those issued by their predecessors. Covering a range of areas, from law and order to street cleaning, these additional privileges were often obtained at the expense of the city authorities who saw their rights and privileges reduced as a direct result.

Relations in Oxford between the University and the city were not particularly good at the time the 1571 Act was passed. The city was still smarting over the charter of Henry VIII issued in April 1523 which had given the University many new privileges and powers over it, including effectively putting much of the city’s business under the control of the Chancellor of the University. His powers had extended over control of certain trades (eg the regulation of essential goods such as bread and ale) as well as the right to claim legal cases for the University’s own court, the Chancellor’s Court, bypassing the city’s legal processes.

Exemplification of the Act of 1571

Exemplification of the Act of 1571 for incorporating the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, 7 June 1571 (OUA/WPbeta/A/10)

The Act of 1571 paid little attention to the bad feeling between the two and was instead intent on strengthening the two universities and confirming the rights and privileges they had already acquired over the preceding centuries. In it Elizabeth confirmed the validity of all the charters, deeds and documents previously issued by her predecessors, namechecking, somewhat pointedly, the contentious charter of 1523. The two universities’ possessions and freedoms were ratified and protected, now placed on a more secure statutory footing. The Act also established the University’s official title as ‘the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford’ and gave it a common seal.

In what seems to be a small placatory move towards the city, the last paragraph declared that the Act would not ‘extend to the prejudice or hurt of the Liberties and Privileges of Right’ of the city of Oxford and town of Cambridge.

The exemplification, or copy, of the Act in the University Archives bears the seal of Elizabeth I, showing her seated and holding her regalia. Annotated over the years by University officials and administrators, it has key clauses underlined, notes in the margins and a couple of doodles.

Detail of seal of Elizabeth I, 1571

Detail of seal of Elizabeth I, 1571 (from OUA/WPbeta/A/10)

Although this Act of Parliament did not create the University, it is the highest confirmation of its corporate status. More information about the legal status and constitution of the University can be found on the main University website at  https://governance.admin.ox.ac.uk/legislation/preface-constitution-and-statute-making-powers-of-the-university

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?

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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.