14th - 22nd November is national Explore Your Archive week, an initiative conceived by The National Archives and The Archives and Records Association aiming to showcase archives and tell amazing stories. To tie in with this, we've decided to delve into our own archival collections and do some exploring of our own...
Gladstone’s Library is home to more than you would think. There are a number of archival collections here, including the papers of noted 20th Century theologians Don Cupitt, John T. Robinson, and most recently, the papers of Esther de Waal. One of the most extensive archives in our collection is that of Canon A.M. Allchin, a Christian polymath whose interests spanned from the poetry of Ann Griffiths to the Eastern Orthodox Church to Danish hymnology.
In light of Boundless Grandeur, a recent course held at the Library that reflected on the influence of Donald Allchin, we decided that it was the perfect time to head to the Annex and dig out some interesting items from his archive to share with you!
The archive contains Donald Allchin’s correspondence with Thomas Merton, one of the most influential American theological writers of all time.
There are a number of hand-typed letters from Thomas Merton to Donald Allchin, written from the mid-1960s to April 1968, shortly before his death. The last letter in the collection (pictured below), though short, is nonetheless revealing of the breadth of Merton’s fascinations. It also shows examples of his reading (Allchin had suggested the poets David Jones, Stevie Smith, and Ann Griffiths), and a glimpse at future work that Merton would, tragically, be unable to complete.
Of equal interest is an original photograph of Merton and the poet Denise Levertov taken in the late 1960s. The presence of a spectral, unknown figure to the left of the photograph adds a mystical quality to the image, making it an item of further intrigue.
There is an endless number of interesting items within our archives, but naturally we cannot forget about the ‘Grand Old Man’ who began it all, without whom our wonderful library and archives would not be here for us all to enjoy! In our explorations we found a guide to the Materials for the study of Rt Hon W E Gladstone complied by our previous warden Peter Jagger, listing everything from Gladstone’s own printed papers to books published in the Victorian era. It even contains a shot of Gladstone’s treasured collection of axes!
Of course these examples are just a drop in the ocean when it comes to what we have to offer in our archival collections. There is plenty more for you to discover, so whether it’s for research or pleasure we rally you to come and explore our archives for yourself!
Rhian Whitehead-Wright (Intern) & Gary Butler (Library Assistant)
Found something interesting within our archives or want to share something of your own? Join the conversation on Twitter using #explorearchives