English and Drama blog

21 October 2022

In Memory of Carmen Callil

Carmen Callil, publisher, author and founder of Virago Press died on Monday.

Callil founded the publishing house Virago Press, in 1972, and was also Managing Director of Chatto and Windus and the Hogarth Press between 1982-1994. Callil remained Chairman of Virago Press until 1995 and was also a member of the Board of Channel 4 Television, between 1985 and 1991, and a member of the committee for The Booker Prize between 1979-1984.

Callil wrote and published in her own right, including Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family and Fatherland, a biography of Louis Darquier de Pellepoix and Vichy France, published in 2006.

The British Library Contemporary Archives and Manuscripts Department holds the archive of Virago Press, as well as the recently acquired personal papers of Callil herself. A truly contemporary collection, with material spanning into the 2010s, the Carmen Callil archive is still being catalogued and is expected to be available to researchers in 2023.  

As the cataloguer of this material, it was an honour to be able to work alongside Callil while processing it. She was always supportive and interested in the work we were doing, as well as enthusiastic about participating in events and research, and with helping our team to navigate the collections.

‘Keep whatever you think a student of women’s literature in 2000 would like to know about us’ [1] Callil wrote on an internal memo to the staff of the Virago Press in the early 1980s.

The message appears to have been taken on board. Both the Virago Press Papers and the Carmen Callil Archive come together to create a wonderful resource for researchers in a wide range of areas, as well as being a fitting part of remembering Carmen herself.

Image shows a promotional pin badge for Virago Press which has a white background and an image of an apple with a bite taken out of it below the Virago Press fontThe Virago Press Archive, Add MS 88904, is accessible in the Manuscripts Reading room.

The Carmen Callil Archive, Add MS 89178, is currently being catalogued and will be released to researchers in 2023. Please contact eleanor.dickens@bl.uk for any enquiries.

 

References: 

[1] The Carmen Callil Archive, Add MS 89178/1/71 

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