Look, write, say

This year has been filled with looking, writing and talking, three things I enjoy very much indeed. I have had several very interesting assessment projects, ranging from a gorgeous collection of medieval and early modern European manuscript fragments to an incredibly complete representation of arts and crafts printing heritage in a collection based on the output of the Essex House Press.  Looking inevitably precedes writing, and the resulting reports on all these great projects must run to many thousands of words of advice.

Talking this year has involved several presentations, most recently to the members of the Royal Philatelic Society of London on their Perkins Bacon collection of letter books. This vital and complete record of early stamp history and printing on an international level was very difficult to access  due to the damaged condition of the material, and is currently undergoing conservation with the generous support of the National Conservation of Manuscripts Trust.

A project that is just drawing to a close – and one that will deserve a post all of its own – is the extensive work I have undertaken on the Oliver Messel Archive for the University of Bristol’s Theatre Collection. This has been such a wonderful project to conserve, and centres on a series of evocative photograph albums detailing Messel’s early life and work as a theatre designer and an incredible collection of architectural plans of his later interests as an interior designer.  As there are to be no spoilers for the longer post at the end of the project I will leave it at that for now, with one small tantalising example of Messel’s output – who would not want to live in a house like this?

 

My thanks to the Royal Philatelic Society of London and the Theatre Collection for kindly allowing me to use these images. 

 

Alpine winter greetings this Christmas

You will rightly surmise by the shameful infrequency of my 2018 posts, and especially in the second half of the year, just what an exciting and busy time it has been in the last 12 months. Thankfully, the business continues to flourish since my leap into full time private practice almost two years ago, for which I am incredibly grateful. Thank you to all who have helped me on my way.

I have been very fortunate to work on some wonderful collections and material, both for institutional clients as well as some very personal objects for private individuals. The ongoing conservation of a series of late C19th and C20th diaries has a foot in both of these camps.

These nine stationery volumes, all in plain Oxford blue half leather bindings, contain a detailed record of visitors to the Chalet des Anglais, a traditional property high in the Mont Blanc range. It was originally built in the 1860s by the Urquart family and bequeathed for the joint use of Balliol, New and University College Oxford students as a place for summer reading and study parties by Francis Urquart, Fellow and Dean of Balliol, or Sligger as he was affectionately known.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each party was, and still is, required to keep a diary of their time in the Chalet providing a history of its occupancy and use but also a record of changing times, attitudes and fashions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The heavy use of the books over the years has taken its toll on their condition, as well as some temporary ‘in the field’ fixes involving diverse mending solutions such as sellotape and Elastoplast which, although they have maintained the completeness of the record have done little for the material stability. A campaign is underway to fund the current and ongoing conservation of the books for digitisation and future use as research materials.

Many renowned alumni visited the Chalet as students including subsequent Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. This entry for 1900 provides two very famous names, with Roger Casement and Gertrude Bell visiting the Chalet that year.

 

It is Gertrude Bell’s photography skills that provide us with this rather beautiful image of Mont Blanc showing untouched snow and shadow.

I hope all my clients, both past and present, had a very happy Christmas, and send my very best wishes for the New Year. I look forward to working with you all in 2019.

 

My sincere thanks to Stephen Golding of The Chalet Trust for allowing me to use these images.