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Untold lives blog

158 posts categorized "Work"

21 March 2017

Mary Dorothea Shore – a life brought out of the shadows

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Mary Dorothea Shore was the first wife of East India Company supercargo Thomas Shore whom we met in a recent post. She has been overlooked in narratives of the Shore family and so I should like to bring her out of the shadows.

Mary Dorothea was the daughter of Robert Hawthorn and his wife Dorothy, baptised in London at St Sepulchre Holborn in August 1709. Robert was an apothecary who had served as a surgeon’s mate on HMS Ranelagh.  He died when Mary Dorothea was a baby – his widow was granted probate of his estate in October 1710.

  St Sepulchre
St Sepulchre 1737 - from George Walter Thornbury, Old and New London, London  (1887)   Noc

Dorothy Hawthorn then married an officer in the East India Company’s maritime service named John Shepheard (d.1734). I have found baptisms for two children born to John and Dorothy Shepheard.  Son John was baptised in 1716 at St Alphage London Wall and appears to have died in childhood. Daughter Dorothy was baptised on 13 June 1725 and the register of  St Mary Whitechapel  records that her mother was dead – the burial took place on 17 June.  I wonder who cared for half-sisters Mary Dorothea and Dorothy whilst John Shepheard sailed on long voyages to Asia?

The next event for the family which I have traced is the marriage in 1732 of Mary Dorothea to John Edgell, an officer at Custom House.  John Shepheard gave his step-daughter a marriage portion of £1,000. The Edgells had six children baptised at St Mary Whitechapel: Mary, Priscilla, William, Amelia, and two sons called John who died in infancy. But in 1740 Mary Dorothea and John agreed to separate because of ‘some unhappy differences’. 

On 11 July 1741 John Edgell was admitted to Bethlem Hospital which cared for mental ill health.  He died there on 7 August 1741. His will provided for his children William, Mary, Priscilla and Amelia, but left only one shilling to his wife together with the income from her marriage jointure.  John died owing considerable debts and Mary Dorothea entered into Chancery proceedings to settle her husband’s estate.

The_Hospital_of_Bethlem_(Bedlam)_at_Moorfields _London;_seen_Wellcome_V0013185

The Hospital of Bethlem [Bedlam] at Moorfields, London Wellcome Images

However provision was made for Mary Dorothea by John Shore, East India Company warehouse-keeper and father to supercargo Thomas Shore. It seems that the Shore and Shepheard families had become friends through their Company connection.  John Shore died in October 1741 and his will gave Mary Dorothea £40 a year and possession of his house in Alie Street, Goodman’s Fields, with all the contents, until his ‘beloved’ son Thomas returned to England.

Thomas Shore returned from China in the late summer of 1743.  He was granted probate of his father’s will on 15 August and married Mary Dorothea on 29 August.

In 1745 Mary Dorothea and her half-sister Dorothy Shepheard were living together in Wanstead, Essex, whilst Thomas set off on another voyage to China.  They gave evidence at the Chelmsford trial of Jonathan Byerly who was convicted of breaking into the Shore house at night and stealing a quantity of silver items.  Byerly was sentenced to be hanged.

Mary Dorothea must have died within the next five years, because on 6 September 1750 Thomas Shore married Dorothy Shepheard. Was Mary Dorothea excluded from the Shore family story to avoid drawing attention to the blood relationship between Thomas’s first and second wives?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Library IOR/L/MAR/B Ship journals for the voyages of John Shepheard and Thomas Shore, and IOR/B East India Company Court of Directors Minutes for the careers of John Shepheard and John and Thomas Shore.
Will of John Shore 1741 - The National Archives  PROB  11/713
Legal papers for the Edgell family - The National Archives C 11/2085/7
Case of Jonathan Byerley - The National Archives  ASSI 94/726

02 March 2017

The personal possessions of Thomas and Dorothy Shore

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India Office Private Papers recently acquired two fascinating documents concerning the personal possessions of Thomas and Dorothy Shore. Both Thomas and Dorothy came from families closely connected to the East India Company.  Their son John Shore (1751-1834) became Governor-General of Bengal.

The first document is an inventory of the household goods, plate, jewels, china, linen, furniture, clothing, and books belonging to Thomas Shore which were in his London house at the time of his death in 1759.

Thomas Shore inventory

India Office Private Papers MSS Eur F702 Noc

The second is an auction catalogue for furniture, fine china, and ‘other East Indian Curiosities’ which were sold in June 1775 when Dorothy Shore, ‘A Widow Lady,’ moved from Golden Square in London to the country.

  Doorothy Shore auction

India Office Private Papers MSS Eur F702 Noc

 Thomas Shore (1712-1759) was the son of John Shore, the East India Company’s warehouse-keeper at Botolph Wharf on the River Thames.  Thomas followed his father into Company service, becoming  a supercargo in charge of the commercial business of several voyages to China.

In 1743 Thomas Shore married widow Mary Dorothea Edgell (née Hawthorn).  Her stepfather was East India Company sea captain John Shepheard (d.1734).   Mary Dorothea died, and in 1750 Thomas married  her younger half-sister Dorothy Shepheard (c.1725-1783).  Thomas and Mary had two sons, John and Thomas William.  John continued the family tradition of East India Company service, whilst Thomas William became a Church of England priest.

The inventory lists the contents of Thomas Shore’s house room by room: servants’ garrets;  bedrooms; closets;  dining room; parlours; china room; kitchen; yard; wash house; pantry; and cellar. Every item is recorded from valuables to a cheese toaster and mops. Thomas owned many objects from Asia including Chinese snuff boxes, musical instruments, and ornaments; Indian textiles and tea kettles; dressing boxes and a bathing bowl from Japan.  Thomas’s book collection ranged from works of religion and history to geometric problems and Gulliver’s Travels.  Dorothy’s personal belongings in the house were itemised to distinguish them from her husband’s property, mostly jewellery but also her clothes, childbed linen, and textile pieces.

P7280016

India Office Private Papers MSS Eur F702 Noc

The auction of Dorothy Shore’s household goods offered a ‘Variety of Furniture, useful and ornamental  China, curious carvings in Ivory, &c brought from India by her Husband’.  Amongst the items sold were an ‘India japan case with Mariner’s charts’ - 2s 6d; 27 small Indian pictures of birds and flowers - 6s; a parcel of India paper hangings on cloth - £1 6s 0d; ten blue dragon plates, two basins, a Nankeen sugar dish with handles, cover and plate – 7s; two Chinese summer houses with figures – 7s.  Some lots can be matched to objects listed in her late husband’s inventory, for example the ‘Luxemburg gallery’ of prints. The sale raised a total of £103 5s 0d.

P7280002 cropped

India Office Private Papers MSS Eur F702 Noc

We should like to thank the Friends of the British Library for their generous donation enabling the purchase of such interesting documents which allow us to peek into the homes of an East India Company family in the 18th century.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers MSS Eur F702
The East India Company at Home 1757-1857

19 January 2017

From Stats Man to Ad Man: Jesse Scott

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The history of advertising is told via great men: in the early 1960s David Ogilvy wrote his Confessions of an Advertising Man and Winston Fletcher recently published his memoir-cum-history Powers of Persuasion. This blog tells of an untold life in advertising: that of a journalist turned statistician, Jesse Scott, whose periodical, The Statistical Review of Press Advertising, is often neglected by social and economic historians of modern Britain.

Contentspage

The Statistical Review of Press Advertising October 1949 - a problematic year of continuing austerity for the advertising trade when the Labour government sort to restrain proto-Mad Men! 

Jesse Scott migrated to the UK from the US and in 1928 set up a company to publish the American Legion magazine in Europe. This venture failed but his friends put a proposition to him. They noted that advertising in the UK was expanding fast and so manufacturers and the media required new sources of information: why did he not exploit this gap in the market by getting his company to counter all the ‘soft pedal and hush hush about expenditure’? (The Review, I, 1, October 1932.)

From 1932 to 1962 Scott’s company produced hard facts about the hard sell. The Review published figures on advertising expenditure by surveying quarterly all the space given over to display advertisements in national daily, evening and Sunday papers; provincial daily and evening papers; provincial and suburban weekly papers; and weekly and monthly trade and technical periodicals. From 1956 The Review also included expenditure on commercial television.

Example of data

The Review categorised data by product type, brand and firm: note that expenditure on Mars was the highest, and that this would have been a luxury product during the war and post-war austerity as sweets were rationed and expensive.
  

To compute an estimate of total expenditure, Scott multiplied his estimates of space given to adverts by standard market rates for advertising copy. From the 1940s and beyond, social scientists and the Advertising Association used these figures to calculate total expenditure on advertising, adding in non-mass media forms such as posters and direct mail (see Clayton for a critical evaluation of these methods).

Advertisement

The Review generated revenue via subscriptions and from adverts placed by media organisations, such as newspaper groups and advertising agencies as illustrated by this page promoting G. S. Royds Ltd.

By the mid twentieth century expenditure on advertising had become a controversial subject: scholars, politicians and cultural commentators alleged that vast sums were being wasted on puffery. In 1953, for example, Aneurin Bevan, a Labour MP, ex-cabinet minister and de facto leader of left-wing faction within the Party, provoked delegates at the Advertising Association conference by labelling advertising as “evil’—a trade that created a consumer who was “passive, besieged, assaulted, battered and robbed” (Sean Nixon, Hard Sell, p. 164).

Make_Do_and_Mend_Art.IWMPST14924

Make do and Mend - The government also advertised and The Review counted this expenditure which, as in this case of a wartime propaganda poster, presented the anti-thesis to the message of private sector adverts: consume more branded goods.

Scott disagreed with this socialist critique and he used his editorials to argue that advertising had social value: it was, he argued, a means by which consumers gained information about products, and thus a vital component of a dynamic capitalist economy. As an American he was ideally placed to promote advertising, which in the US had become, he claimed, ‘an indispensible element in sustaining economic activity’. Scott believed that if British firms were to compete at home and overseas they had to adopt American methods of selling, and embrace advertising wholeheartedly. Jesse Scott, Stats Man, had become Ad Man, an advocate for advertising.

David Clayton
University of York, UK

Further reading:
The Statistical Review of Press Advertising October 1932-December 1962 British Library General Reference Collection P.P.1423.clr.
Clayton, D. (2010) ‘Advertising expenditure in 1950s Britain’, Business History, 52, 651-665.
Nixon, S. (2013) Hard sell: Advertising, affluence and transatlantic relations, c. 1951-69 (Manchester University Press, Manchester).

 

03 January 2017

Annie De Montford – her mind governed the world

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I’d like to introduce you to Annie De Montford.  She was a Mesmerist.  Not a Lady Mesmerist.  A Mesmerist.  She was also called a ‘psychological star’ and an ‘electro-biologist’, and occasionally a Hypnotist.  Her bill matter claimed that her 'mind governs the world' and she is the 'wonder of the age'.  How she slipped into oblivion seems strange.

  Annie de Montford 1 compressed
British Library Evanion 351

I discovered Annie when researching at the British Library and I was intrigued by the ups and downs of her career.  She was born Annie Riley in Leicestershire - her father was a mill-worker - but by 1861 aged 20 she was staying with William Henry Chadwick who was one of the Chartists, the famous political agitators in the census of that year.  He is described as a Lecturer on Magnetism and Annie as a Lecturer on Phrenology.  She’d fallen in with an interesting crowd and she soon took the name of the local swanky family, De Montford, and started practicing as a Mesmerist. 

  Annie de Montford 2 compressed
British Library Evanion 517

There are lots of mentions of her in The Era, the trade publication for performers, and between 1871 and 1882 she seems to have been working constantly.  There is a detailed description of her performance in a local newspaper which is remarkably similar to what happens in stage hypnotism acts today. 

 
Annie de Montford 3
British Newspaper Archive The Star, Guernsey 16 September 1880

They seem very impressed by the fact that she is a lady – though De Montford doesn’t make a feature of this on her posters.  Less impressed was The Dundee Courier and Argus  in 1875 who carried a story about Annie being exposed in America as an imposter.  

  Annie de Montford 4
 British Newspaper Archive  The Dundee Courier and Argus 4 January 1875

An investigation by an American reporter revealed that she had been caught using stooges whom she employed, and that certain audience members become obsessed with her and volunteered to be her subjects night after night.  Obviously there was a high degree of showpersonship in Annie’s act.  One of the reasons I love hypnosis is that fine line between science and showbiz, and clearly here she crossed that line.  But whether she crossed the line between showbiz and out and out fraud is not clear.  Crucially the exposé in the Dundee newspaper seems to have failed to ruin her career and she carried on touring the UK until 1882. 

The final mention of Annie in The Era in September 1882 reports that she had been unable to appear through ill-health.

Annie de Montford 5
British Newspaper Archive The Era 23 September 1882

Annie died shortly afterwards on 12 October 1882.  She was 46.  I’m looking at her death certificate and wondering what was the ‘supposed injury' that gave her jaundice and liver failure.  I know I’m sentimental about her but she was 'the most powerful mesmerist in the world' and then she wasn’t. She was a trail-blazer, teetering on the edge of legality and respectability, but she must have believed in it.  I imagine all the touring was hard work.  And maybe some nights she didn’t feel like claiming that her 'mind ruled the world', but she probably went ahead and performed anyway.  I’m happy to have restored her legacy a little.  'No end of laughter' reads her bill matter.  Well – that was always going to be an exaggeration but it’s good to reflect whilst looking at theatrical ephemera on the ephemeral nature of life itself.


Christopher Green
Performer and writer, co-curator of the British Library free exhibition Victorian Entertainments: There Will Be Fun

@kit_green

Further reading:
Christopher Green's book Overpowered! The Science and Showbiz of Hypnosis is published by The British Library

Evanion Collection of ephemera

 

27 December 2016

Library closures at Christmas

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If you’re feeling at a loss because the wonderful British Library is closed for five days over Christmas, spare a thought for the residents of Sheffield in 1888.  The reading rooms of the city’s free libraries were shut for a fortnight in December.

  Mechanics' Institute Sheffield

Sheffield Mechanics' Institute which housed a Free Library - image from Pawson and Brailsford's Illustrated Guide to Sheffield and neighbourhood (1862) BL flickr


Protest letters were sent to the editor of the Sheffield Daily Telegraph.  Mr J Thornton of Whitham Road asked why the reading rooms were closed for more than two or three days and complained that the free libraries were being mismanaged.  Money could be saved by reducing the number of assistants at the Central Library from seven to three – they had little or nothing to do half the time. If Mr Thornton was known to the assistants, I do wonder how he fared on his next visit to the library.

‘Pro Bono Publico’ supported Mr Thornton, suggesting that the libraries be kept open all year round except for a few days’ closure for cleaning and painting.  Extra hands could be employed to cover for attendants taking holidays.  It would greatly help those seeking work if the reading rooms opened at 08.30 instead of 10.00. Half the day had gone before job seekers could get to a place any distance away, and they also missed the morning post. 

‘A Burgess’ added his voice to the protest.  Perhaps the library committee thought it did not much matter to close when people were preparing for Christmas, but ‘in this large town there are always a number of people unemployed, and others who are incapacitated from work, &c, to whom the reading rooms are a benefit and pleasure’.

The environment of the reading rooms also came in for criticism.  ‘Pro Bono Publico’ complained of the lack of ventilation: ‘When the gas is lit, and the windows closed, the atmosphere is something awful.  I should think the gas-burners and check valves want seeing to.  After I have been in a few minutes my eyes smart, and my nose certainly tells me the air is vitiated to a great extent’.

We look forward to welcoming our readers back to the well-ventilated rooms of British Library on 29 December, and hope that our services also provide pleasure as well as benefit. 

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive -  Sheffield Daily Telegraph 17 & 19 December 1888

01 December 2016

Victorian Vaudeville – Tripping the Light Fantastic

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Come with me into the world of Victorian Vaudeville.  Let me tell you the story of a poor London girl who achieved her dream of becoming a successful dancer, and then died.

   Makepeace Eugenie 2

Eugenie Makepeace – publicity shot taken in New York July 1899 and sent to her brother George in London (Family collection)

Our dancer Eugenie Makepeace was born in Pimlico in June 1882, the daughter of waiter Joseph and his French wife Marie.  Joseph died suddenly on 1 January 1887, leaving Marie to support their six children aged between seven years and six weeks.  She secured places for four of them in institutions for destitute children.  George and Harry went as boarders at Fortescue House in Twickenham, one of the National Refuges for Homeless and Destitute Children, later known as the Shaftesbury Homes.  In May 1888 Eugenie and her elder sister Berthe entered the Westminster workhouse school situated in Ashford Middlesex.  Juliette, the eldest child, appears to have stayed with Marie, but baby William went to live with a family in Islington.  However Marie found work as a dressmaker and gradually succeeded in gathering her family back together in Marylebone. 

Eugenie seems to have gained a place at a John Tiller dancing school.  Tiller trained working class girls in Manchester and London to appear in musical stage productions.  Eugenie became a member of Tiller’s La Blanche Troupe and at the start of 1899 was touring the UK with Milton Bodes’ pantomime Robinson CrusoeThe Era newspaper published reviews of performances before enthusiastic audiences in different venues  - Oxford, Oldham, Wigan, Newcastle-upon-Tyne: ‘Mr John Tiller’s La Blanche Troupe of lady dancers trip on the light fantastic to the delight of everybody’.

   Robinson Crusoe 1899The Era 21 January 1899 British Newspaper Archive


In March 1899 Eugenie sailed to the United States to perform as a member of the ensemble in Man in the Moon which ran at the New York Theatre from April until November.  She made a second trip to the USA in 1901 with the Pony Ballet, a group of eight young girls who performed synchronized dance routines full of high kicks.  Eugenie’s fellow dancers were Lizzie Hawman, Carrie Poltz, Maggie Taylor, Ada Robertson, Seppie McNeil, Eva Marlow, and Beatrice Liddell.  Their punishing training routine made them strong and flexible, as much gymnasts as dancers: ‘they are all marvels of strength, endurance, grace and agility’ (San Francisco Call, 20 April 1902).

 

Makepeace Eugenie 1
 Photograph of Eugenie Makepeace taken in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in February 1899 when she was performing with La Blanche Troupe in Robinson Crusoe (Family collection)


The girls decided to part company with impresario George Lederer and began to arrange their own engagements.  While they were performing at Forest Park Highlands in St Louis, Eugenie and Carrie contracted typhoid fever.  The troupe had to move on to Milwaukee and Eugenie died there on 28 July 1902 aged only 20.  Happily, Carrie survived and continued her dancing career.


  EUGENIE POEM 1 001 (2)

Eugenie’s funeral card (Family collection)

 The Pony Ballet's next engagement was in Chicago. The local Actors’ Relief Association there helped the girls to raise enough money to ship Eugenie’s body home for burial in St Marylebone Cemetery. The funeral card describing her as ‘A much beloved Daughter and our darling Sister’ carried a poem in her memory by ‘M.M’, presumably her mother Marie. 

‘The seas are crossed, the journey is done.’

EUGENIE POEM 1 001

Poem on Eugenie’s funeral card  (Family collection)


Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive e.g. The Era 14 January 1899, 21 January 1899 and 18 February 1899
San Francisco Call 20 April 1902
Milwaukee Journal 5 August 1902
New York Clipper 16 August 1902

Visit our free exhibition on Victorian entertainments There Will Be Fun  - at the British Library until 12 March 2017

29 November 2016

A music examiner’s tour of India

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Amongst the India Office Private Papers at the British Library is the personal diary of Dr Charles MacPherson.  A fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, and organist at St Paul’s Cathedral from 1916 until his death in 1927, MacPherson published a number of musical works.  The Library holds the manuscript of his Solemn Thanksgiving Te Deum for orchestra and chorus composed for the service held at St Paul’s to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Peace in July 1919.

 

  CM photo medium

Charles MacPherson  -India Office Private Papers MSS Eur A93 Noc

 

In the autumn of 1925 MacPherson undertook a tour of India and Ceylon as an examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music.  His diary details the trials of travelling from town to town and his forthright opinions on just how foreign this nation and her people are to him, as well as moments of wonder at the beauty of the architecture or scenery.

Accompanied by his wife Sophie, MacPherson left Tilbury on 28 August 1925 bound for Bombay. The couple weren’t taken with the idea of a long voyage and ‘both thought the joys of seafaring overrated’.

MacPherson was keen to document any musical moments he encountered.  He described a ship’s officer playing the harmonium ‘whose left hand was greedy for more notes, that were always forthcoming though seldom possessing any connection with the “time-hand”’.  The crew and passengers formed a chorus, with MacPherson himself having to sing an octave lower than usual owing to laryngitis.

Arriving at Bombay on 18 September, MacPherson was immediately taken with the difference in appearance of the native people: ‘No two people looked or dressed alike …quaint old men wore white shirts, but outside of their lower garments. This custom would look odd in England with dress clothes!’

 

Darjeeling

John H Doyle, View from St Paul’s School Darjeeling (1870) Photo 27/(91) BL Online Gallery Noc


The musician then undertook a programme of examinations that kept him so busy that he even had to turn down an invitation of lunch from the Viceroy.  His schedule took him to St Paul's School in Darjeeling, the highest school in the world at 7,600ft above sea level. In Bombay he visited ‘a girl’s school, good piano, birds flying about in the room’.  He found the town of Hardwar unsettling because it was 'infested with monkies’, wondering that 'these dreadful beasties are counted as sacred'.

In Delhi MacPherson commented; 'The old buildings are things to be wondered at, and seem to belong to picture books rather than reality. Ancient India must have been truly a wondrous country'. In Mysore he notated wedding music: ‘a marriage procession headed by a band consisting of a hand-drum, a tambourine, a native trumpet, a kind of cornet and a bagpipe. The really fine thing was the rhythm maintained between the hand-drum and the tambourine - something like...’

  CM notation medium

India Office Private Papers MSS Eur A93 p.160 Noc

 

The MacPhersons continued onto Ceylon which they found, almost ‘Europe-like’ after India with the port ‘rather like Clacton-on- Sea, or a trifle less distinguished’.  Despite the tiring travels, the trip was deemed a success as he closed with ‘here ends the diary of a wonderful experience’.

Karen Waddell
Reference Specialist Cc-by

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers: Charles MacPherson Papers, MSS Eur A93
Solemn Thanksgiving Te Deum,  Charles MacPherson, Add MS 50776
The English Psalter ed. MacPherson, Bairstow & Buck (London, 1925) – 3089.a.5

 

22 November 2016

The business archive of Alan Gradon Thomas

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We’ve met Alan Gradon Thomas before, back in 2013 when my colleague Chantry Westwell came across a festschrift in his honour whilst researching the provenance of a medieval calendar. The recent completion of the cataloguing of Thomas’s extensive business archive seems like a good time to reacquaint ourselves with the esteemed book and manuscript seller of Bournemouth and, latterly, London.

 

Alan Graydon Thomas archive 1

Alan Gradon Thomas archive Noc

 

Thomas was an international dealer in a pre-digital age. He had customers all over the world and all of his business was conducted by letter and telephone, using printed catalogues. It was not uncommon for Thomas to send a catalogue to a customer overseas, receive a letter back some weeks later setting out what the customer wished to buy, only for Thomas to have to write back to say that in the interim he had sold the book or manuscript to another customer.

 

Alan Graydon Thomas archive 2

Three manuscripts purchased from Thomas by the British Library Noc

 

He was a meticulous record keeper and the archive, containing sales ledgers, stock lists, financial records, inventories, papers relating to his superbly researched catalogues, and valuations, spans nearly 50 years. There are hundreds of files of correspondence with his customers, including the major auction houses, important private collectors such as John Wolfson, Sir Karl Popper, Lord Kenyon, Lord Wardington, and Major Abbey, and many of the great collections of the world: the British Library, the British Museum, the Bodleian, the Beinecke, the Folger, the Huntington, and the Royal Library in Brussels, to name just a few. Thomas’s correspondence also contains letters from fellow dealers, and from rare book and manuscript curators, librarians, and experts such as Mirjam Foot, Anthony Hobson, Nicolas Barker, Richard Linenthal, and Christopher de Hamel.

The festschrift alone is evidence of how well Thomas was thought of in the trade. But that high regard is also evident in his being elected President of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association for 1958-1959, during which time he was instrumental in establishing the first London Antiquarian Book Fair. His papers include a large amount of ABA material: committee minutes, annual reports and accounts, newsletters, correspondence, and papers relating to the book fairs.

In turn, Thomas himself had great respect for, and was always very appreciative of, the help of the ‘footsoldiers’ of the trade, the shop assistants and bookroom staff. The archive contains papers relating to collections Thomas ran to mark the retirement of three long serving assistants from Sotheby’s and the British Museum. He assiduously wrote to scores of contacts in the trade to drum up as many financial contributions as possible.

Alan Thomas died in August 1992 “as much an enthusiast - for the arts, literature, the history of ideas and beliefs - at 80 as he was at 20”, as his obituary in The Independent put it.

His archive, given his clientele and the material he dealt with, is an extremely rich resource for those interested in the history and provenance of manuscripts and rare books.

Michael St John-McAlister
Western Manuscripts Cataloguing Manager  Cc-by

Further reading:
Add MS 89159 Archive of Alan Gradon Thomas
Christopher de Hamel and Richard A. Linenthal (eds), Fine books and book collecting: books and manuscripts acquired from Alan G. Thomas and described by his customers on the occasion of his seventieth birthday (Leamington Spa: James Hall, 1981)