The Blackie & Son Archive: Children’s School Textbooks, 1882-1976 – research areas, content and coverage

The previous article explored the history and evolution of the Blackie & Son Publishers. This final article looks at what the newly acquired Blackie & Son archive of children’s textbooks can offer researchers, together with some notable examples from the archive.

Content and Coverage

The Blackie & Son archive is comprised of approximately 1700 individual titles published between 1882 – 1976 and generally categorized into the following 29 subject areas:

1. Art 11. Greek 21. Religion
2. Arithmetic 12. Handwriting 22. Russian
3. Biography 13. Health & Physical Education 23. Science
4. Business Studies 14. History 24. Series: Stories Old & New
5. Celtic, Welsh & Gaelic 15. Italian 25. Spanish
6. Domestic Science 16. Latin 26. Speech
7. English 17. Latin Texts 27. Spelling
8. French 18. Maths 28. Teaching
9. Geography 19. Poetry 29. Vere Foster
10. German 20. Readers

 

‘Wonders of Life’ series (1959) and ‘The Crusader’ series (1955)

Where possible, the year of publication has been indicated on the list next to the title, including details of reprints where applicable. In many cases, however, the publication year was not added to early books, in which case an estimate has been provided as to whether the item was published in the 19th or 20th century. Browsing through each subject heading is recommended as some topics will have more than one area of interest e.g. the ‘Vere Foster’s Watercolour Series’ is listed under Art, whereas the more recognisable ‘Vere Foster Copy Books’ are listed under their own category of ‘Vere Foster’. Similarly, ‘Mathematics’ and ‘Arithmetic’ are distinct categories, each including a range of books unique to those specific disciplines.

‘The Groundwork of British History’ by G. Townsend Warner and C. H. K. Marten (1911)

Notable examples from the Blackie & Son archive

As noted in the previous article, Blackie & Son’s educational output began in earnest with their ‘Comprehensive Readers’, a concept which was then expanded to cover a range of topics and academic levels. The Blackie & Son archive has over 400 titles from the various ‘readers’ series in the collection, such as ‘The Newton Readers: Infant Reader’, ‘Blackie’s Story Book Readers’ (1909), ‘The Pagoda Readers’ (1920s), and ‘The Wayfarer Books’ (1950s). The distinct style of books produced by Blackie & Son at the turn of the century was largely thanks to Art Director Talwin Morris, and some excellent examples of his design work can be seen in the ‘Stories Old and New’ series, as well as for the ‘Vere Foster Copy Books’ such as the ‘Bold Writing or Civil Service’ series1. Educational methods began to change with the new century and this was reflected in the text books that supported them, a good example being ‘The Groundwork of British History’ by G. Townsend Warner and C. H. K. Marten (1911), ‘an important book in that it embodied a new approach to the teaching of history, and was, in the best of senses, modern.’2 Both this and the revised and updated edition, ‘The New Groundwork of British History’ by Mrs D. E. Muir (1945), extra-mural tutor of the University of Oxford, are available in the archive.

The Horse (cover design: Talwin Morris, 1898-1911)

Other Blackie & Son and related collections at the University of Glasgow

Although not part of the Blackie & Son archive, it’s worth noting that two sets of the Talwin Morris designed series ‘The Horse: its treatment in health and disease’ are available in Special Collections and at the James Herriot Library. As this was designed for Gresham Publishing, a subsidiary of Blackie & Son, the large format common to the subscription titles they produced gives his artwork an added prominence. More information on this title and its design is available here. In addition to the examples of Talwin Morris’ work in the Blackie & Son archive, the Special Collections department also holds over 100 books designed by Talwin Morris and other related works in the Morris Collection. Finally, the ‘Records of Blackie & Son Ltd, 1890-c1981’, which was acquired by Archive Services in 2012, directly complements the new Blackie & Son archive as it covers business records and legal papers relating to the different incarnations of the company, including its subsidiaries, between 1890 – 1981.

Blackie & Son Comprehensive Reader (c1880)

Research Areas

In addition to its key place within the Children’s Historical Collections, the Blackie & Son archive has significant research potential for those interested in education, children’s literature, social and cultural history, art history and indeed any aspect of the Victorian era and the early 20th century. Developments in teaching, in printing techniques, and in the publishing industry are represented within the collection, while strong links between Blackie & Son, the history of Glasgow and notable figures such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Vere Foster and Talwin Morris give value to the collection beyond the field of education.

How to request material from the Blackie & Son Archive

The Blackie & Son archive is currently located in the Library Research Annexe. To request material from the collection, make a note of the titles you are interested in from the Blackie & Son archive list, together with their assigned ‘book number’, and submit a request form for each one. Alternatively, you can visit the Library Research Annexe by appointment, 10:00-16:00, Monday-Friday.

 

 

References

  1. Mullen, Dr. Chris.“Vere Foster Copy Book, Bold Writing.” The Visual Telling of Stories. N.p., 2004-15. Web. 11 Apr. 2017. <https://www.fulltable.com/VTS/m/tm/aa/w/a.htm>
  2. Blackie, Agnes A. C. (1959) Blackie & Son, 1809-1959: a short history of the firm. Glasgow: Blackie & Son Ltd. p.48.


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