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Art & Special Collections

The Special Collections within the Library Services broken down into different themes.

Margery Allingham/Philip Youngman Carter Collection *

This archive, relating to the life and work of the eminent crime writer Margery Allingham and her husband Philip Youngman Carter, has been placed on permanent deposit in the Library by the Margery Allingham Society. Born in Ealing in 1904, Margery Allingham grew up in Layer Breton, was educated in Colchester and Cambridge, and lived most of her adult life in Tolleshunt D’Arcy. She wrote her first novel at 19, and in 1929 (in the novel The Crime at Black Dudley) introduced one of the most famous characters in detective fiction, Albert Campion. From the 1930s to the 1960s Margery Allingham became, along with Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh, one of the most distinguished writers of detective fiction’s “Golden Age”, publishing a steady stream of Campion novels, many with an East Anglian setting. She died in Colchester in 1966.

The collection consists of some 23 metres of archival material and artwork, and around 200 copies of various editions of Margery Allingham’s works. In addition to original manuscripts copies of most of Allingham’s books and stories, correspondence and administrative papers, the collection also includes a large number of paintings and drawings by Youngman Carter, one time editor of The Tatler, who designed the dust-jackets for many of his wife’s books.


J.A. Baker

This archive relates to  the life and work of the Essex nature writer, J.A. Baker, 1926-87, author of the critically acclaimed The Peregrine (1967). The collection was gifted to the Library in 2013 through the good offices of Dr John Fanshawe, who, with the author, Mark Cocker, edited the complete works of Baker for publication by HarperCollins in 2011. The bulk of the archive, which comprises notebooks, diaries, draft manuscripts, maps, photographs, letters and optical artefacts, was brought together by Bernard Coe, Baker’s brother-in-law. Additional materials have been generously donated by David Cobham, John Thurmer, and Don Samuel. A detailed catalogue completed in 2016 by Hetty Saunders is available below. Anyone with further information, including personal memories, relevant to Baker, are encouraged to contact the library.



Bean Memorial Collection *

This collection, which was presented by the late Mrs. M. Bean of Sudbury in 1975, is devoted to William Blake. The greater part consists of the series of illuminated books and other works by Blake that were published by the Trianon Press, Clairvaux. The collection is supplemented by over 300 works about William Blake, many of which were donated by Mrs. Bean, and is maintained by the addition of current acquisitions.

Bensusan Collection

Samuel Levi Bensusan (1872-1958) was a well known local author who produced a series of stories of Essex life that make him one of the leading county writers. The collection, acquired in 1966, includes an almost complete set of Bensusan's published works, his diaries for the years 1891 to 1957, typescript files of published and unpublished works, and four files of miscellaneous documents and correspondence.

Bibliographical Society Library

This large collection of printed works, comprising approximately 2,500 volumes, was placed on permanent deposit in 2017 by the Bibliographical Society (founded 1892), the primary learned society concerned with the study and history of the book in the United Kingdom. The volumes, which include works on printing, publishing, bookselling and collecting, are currently in the process of being added to the main University Library catalogue.

Donald Davie Archive

A collection of note-books, work-sheets and letters deposited in 1968 by the poet Donald Davie (Professor of Literature, University of Essex, 1964-68). The collection was augmented in 1976 by the purchase of a collection of Davie papers, for which the Library received a grant from the Arts Council.


Gaudier-Brzeska Collection

Henri Gaudier (1891-1915) was an eminent sculptor and draughtsman, influenced by Cubism and primitive art. In 1910 he met Polish writer Sophie Brzeska (1873-1925) in Paris, and came with her to London in 1911 using the joint name of Gaudier-Brzeska. The nucleus of this archive is 34 letters which, with one exception, are from Henri to Sophie. The letters cover the period 12 July 1910 to 10 October 1913 and have been published, in part, in H.S. Ede's Savage Messiah, 1931. The bulk of the material consists of Sophie's diaries and her unpublished creative writings; many dating from after Henri's tragic death on the Western Front in June 1915. The collection was donated in 1964 by Mr. H.S. [Jim] Ede, founder of the Kettle's Yard art gallery in Cambridge.

Full listing of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska letters

Outline listing of Sophie Brzeska writings

Nicholas Hagger Archive #

This large collection is devoted to the life and work of the Essex author and educationalist, Nicholas Hagger, 1939-. The Archive, which was placed on permanent deposit in March 2016, is composed of several distinct sections. The first tranche of boxes (which comprises the initial 2016 deposit) covers Mr Hagger’s literary and poetic writings, as well as his works on history and philosophy. Future boxes will contain papers of a personal/biographical nature.  For further information on Nicholas Hagger, please go to

For more information see the catalogue and overview below and selection of digitised manuscripts

John Hassall Collection *

John Hassall (1868-1949) was popularly described in his day as the 'king of poster artists'. The collection consists of a series of diaries from 1894-1948, family and official correspondence and photographs, and a substantial collection of Hassall's printed works. Of particular interest is the ledger in which he recorded all of his commissions. There is very little original artwork. The collection contains many references to this part of Essex, with which the family had close connections. The original gift was made in 1966 through Mrs. D.M. Dobereiner, one of Hassall's daughters.


Roger Howard Collection

This collection, which is comprised of four archive boxes, was donated to the Library by the playwright and academic, Roger Howard, who was a lecturer in the Department of Literature, University of Essex, 1979-2003. The collection is primarily concerned with his involvement in the Theatre Underground and the Essex University Theatre Writer’s Residency. In addition to working scripts, the collection contains programmes, brochures, as well as a complete list of productions and writers, 1979-2002, and two copies of Contradictory theatres: the Theatre Underground and the Essex University new plays scheme…, edited by Leslie Bell (Theatre Action Press, 1984

In 2019 the collection was augmented by six further boxes. These boxes contain the manuscripts of approximate 80, mainly early, short plays by Roger Howard, as well as individual files on the theatrical productions (often including manuscripts, photographs and other ephemera) associated with around 30, largely more recent, plays.

T.E. Lawrence Letters

Forty four letters of T.E. Lawrence to H.S. Ede, written between 16 June 1927 and 5 April 1935. The letters were published in 1942 as Shaw-Ede; T.E. Lawrence's letters to H.S. Ede, 1927-1935. The letters were donated by H.S. Ede in 1964.


George Mayer-Marton Collection

This small collection of books represents those titles from the library of the late George Mayer Marton (Senior Lecturer in the History of Art, University of Liverpool, 1950-1960) not otherwise represented on the shelves of the Albert Sloman Library. Hungarian born Mayer-Marton, 1897-1960, was a major figure in the artistic world of pre-war Vienna. In 1938 he arrived in England as a penniless refugee, and two years later had most of his paintings – which represented his life’s work – destroyed in the London Blitz. He did not paint again until 1948, but managed to build a considerable reputation as a mosaicist in the immediate post-war years. One of his finest mosaics is now housed in Liverpool’s Roman Catholic cathedral.

Douglas Oliver Archive #

This collection comprises the notebooks, typescripts, research material, corrrespondence and printed works of the poet, novelist, academic, journalist and translator, Douglas Oliver (1937-2000), who was associated with the University in the 1970s, first as a mature student, and later as a lecturer in the Literature Department. The archive, which has been placed on permanent deposit with the Library by his widow, Alice Notley, has been augmented by additional material acquired by means of purchase.


Pattle Family Collection #

Donated by Mrs. Jean Pattle in July 2004, the Collection comprises 24 books all written by or about members of the Pattle family from Suffolk, which includes among its ranks the writer Virginia Woolf and the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. Also included in the Collection are a photocopied typescript by Elizabeth Boyd entitled The Chevalier de L’Etang and three family trees detailing the genealogical history of various branches of the family.

Rickword Collection *

This collection of some 130 books and pamphlets is named after its donor, (John) Edgell Rickword, the poet and literary critic who was born in Colchester in 1898. The main themes of the collection are Irish literature and history, parliamentary and social reform, chartism, and the labour movement. Of particular interest is the collection of volumes and pamphlets by or relating to William Hone, the 19th century bookseller and political satirist.

Russell Collection *

A private library from Stubbers, North Ockendon, a country house now demolished. The books are almost all of the 18th or early 19th centuries, and reflect the interests of three or four generations of Essex country gentlefolk. There are practical works of interest to a county squire such as farming, sport, and law, but the best represented fields are history, topography and travel, and literature. The collection also includes family papers and account books which record the household's day-to-day financial transactions.

Eleanor Wake Collection

This small collection was donated to the Library in November 2018 by Professor Valerie Fraser. It consists of two ring binders containing notes, drawings, pictures and general observations of historic churches and monasteries in Mexico made by Dr Eleanor Wake (died 30 July 2013) during research for the Ph.D. thesis which formed the basis of her seminal book Framing the sacred: the Indian churches of early colonial Mexico, 2010. In addition to the site observations, the collection is rounded out by a box file containing the texts of lectures, conference presentations and talks given by Eleanor Wake between 1994 and 2012.

Western Madrigal Society Archives #

In 1965 the Western Madrigal Society, which was founded in 1840, presented its collection of sheet music to the Library. The collection comprises about one hundred different works, mostly by 16th and 17th century composers.