Thornton's Bookshop 
( W A & J S Meeuws )
( Ass. member of the ABA)
Established in Oxford in  1835
The Old Barn - Walnut Court
Faringdon, SN7 7JH
Tel. (OO 44 ) (0) 1367 240056 -
 Joseph Thornton
1808 - 1891

Holdan Books Ltd., 15 North Parade Avenue, Oxford OX2 6LX England. Wrote on 10 July 1980 : 

A little over two years ago, we took up the idea of collecting a number of articles devoted to 'the book' and its many manifestations. This idea rapidly began to grow and encompass other fields. To take advantage of the rich resources available in Oxford, we decided to include stories by Oxford authors on a variety of subjects, articles on the  theme of Oxford, and even some poetry. All of these illustrated by Oxford artists.

We are, therefore, very proud to announce publication of the 

 a unique and fascinating volume with 
something for every booklover.

As you can see from the list of its contents, our contributors come from many walks of life.  It will be  richly illustrated by some of the artists in Oxford who continue to keep alive the  traditions of printmaking and the printed illustration.
We very much hope that you will be subscribing to the Almanac. 
You can send your orders to any of the Oxford bookshops, who, we hope, will stock the Almanac in abundance.

The book never appeared since all but one of the artists,
Lady Felicity Fisher,  produced any art work. 
They had all  promised to help,


We now offer all the original contributions and correspondence

Richard Adams ( 1920 - 2016 )  Sonnet,  14 lines. On one A-4 sheet, typed. 

With his letter dated 22nd January, 1981 giving permission to include this poem. 
Signed in full Richard Adams

Also Letters to Richard Adams with the Oxford Haemophilia Research Appeal (OHRA) letter heading dated 19 December 1980 and 4 February 1981. 

Brian Aldiss  ( 1925 - 2017 ) Back from Java -- a short story. Photocopy of the typescript, 28 A-4 pages, in brown envelope with his address label. Sent from Orchard House, Begbroke, Oxford.

He was the first to agree to participate, he initially offered ""Flying saucers over Oxford ?"

With: copy of OHRA 's letter to Brian Aldiss c. mid-1980 covered  with scribbles of the names of other possible participants. 

Letter from Brian Aldiss, typed,  19 lines, dated 10 September 1980, suggesting his prizewinning story about Oxford in 2500 A.D in "The Observer". He also mentions his first book "the Brightfount Diaries" signed in full Brian Aldiss 

Copy of OHRA's reply dated 4 December 1980

Letter from Brian Aldiss, typed, 20 lines, dated 16 January 1981, now calling THE BRIGHFOUNT DIARIES " social history"and  including the above 28-page typescript.

Copy of OHRA's letter, typed, dated 18 February 1981, acknowledging receipt of the short story for inclusion and confirming it should be listed as being dated c. 1980, originally published in "Something else" under the title "THE MAN WHO SAW CLIFF RICHARD"

Copy of OHRA's letter date 19 July 1982, now suddenly asking for an extract from "the Brightfount Diaries" [ This must have baffled the poor man] 

Letter from Brian Aldiss, typed, dated 28 July 1982 in which he writes that Brightfount Diaries is very much of the past. Signed in full

Copy of OHRA's letter of 26 August 1982, with apologies and thanking him for the short story

Long letter from Brian Aldiss, typed, dated 22 September 1982, 28 lines, again discussing pro and contra of "the Brighfount diaries" and writing he is happy the Java story will be included. Signed in full.

Also included here [ unconnected] , a typed and signed letter from Brian Aldiss, dated 26 October 1997, in connection with The Boars Hill Anthology, published by Thornton's in which he urges speed for publication of this. Sadly Margaret Aldiss passed away before publication [ unrelated letter] 

Gillian Avery  ( 1926 / 2016 ) The Researcher's Craft: Designs and Implements. (from Research Concerning Nineteenth Century Children and Books (Monographs No. 17 ) pp. 7 – 22. This collection of papers delivered at a symposium held in April 1979 explores the relationship between children and literature in the nineteenth century.: Gillan also contributed  "Children’s Books and Social History," to this symposium
Gillian Elise Avery (30 September 1926 – 31 January 2016) , British children's novelist, and a historian of childhood education and children's literature. She won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize in 1972, for A Likely Lad.
Copy of OHRA’s letter of 8 January 1981 asking Gillian Avery for a contribution
Avery sent us the paper in xerox with a scribbled note detailing the title

With a copy of  OHRA ‘s letter of 4 Feebruary 1981 acknowledging receipt, but also asking if there would not be any infringement of copyright.

A short letter from Gillian Avery from 32 Charlbury road, Oxford, dated 8 February, 1981 suggesting OHRA write to the publisher at he University of Illinois at Urbana

Copy of OHRA’s letter to Urbana

Long typed reply from the editor of Research about Nineteenth-Ceentury Children and books giving permission provided a copyright and credit line is included dated 3 March 1981.

Giles Barber  ( 1930 – 2012 )  Oxford, Ossonio, Oxfort — Modern Languages printing at Oxford to 1800 ( promised but never submitted, We have not been able to find out if he ever wrote this at all. Instead he sent "An introduction to the Housemaid"  (1839)  ) 
Giles Barber, Librarian of the Taylor Institution from 1970 – 1996,
Here only the letter from OHRA dated 14 July 1981 to Giles and the 4-page typewritten text of the introduction  to Harriet Martineau’s  the Housemaid , included in her “Guide to service “ 1839. One of his former colleagues told us later “Giles was so full of ideas that they didn’t all come to fruition – "his roulette wheel mind" we used to say.”
Sir Basil Henry Blackwell ( 1889 to 1984) May Morris — a lecture

Sir Basil sent an 8-page A-4 typescript of this lecture  and scribbled in pencil at the top that it  was based upon a talk given in Exeter College Hall in 1977. With it a small handwritten note “ If this would be of interest, do please use it, if it wouldn’t please do not hesitate to say no !

He also sent us  the text of his earlier lecture at Exeter University on 8th March 1968, “ The First Jackson Knight memorial lecture. Letters in the New Age. Published by the Abbey Press in Abingdon. 

Also a copy of  OHRA’s letter thanking Sir Basil, dated 17 December 1980

Roald Dahl  (1916 – 1990 )  The Cow — a poem

OHRA’s letter (copy) of 28 November 1980 asking Roald Dahl if he would contribute

His immediate typed reply of 5 December 1980 which he corrected in red ink by hand in which he gave permission to use his poem ‘the Cow’ provided proper copyright notice is printed. Dahl added by hand that this poem was to be included in his “Dirty beasts” to be published by Jonathan Cape in 1981/82. In fact the book came out in  1983 as a collection of Roald Dahl poems about unsuspecting animals. Intended as a follow-up to Revolting Rhymes, the original Jonathan Cape edition was illustrated by Rosemary Faucet
Interesting is that he changed  the line “Who travelled from Afghanistan” by hand into “who came from somewhere in Japan” and towards the end he changed “filthy” into “silly” and the last line but two he changed “she got” into “got up”. 

We wrote about this to the Dahl estate in September 2017 asking if this was known, but received no reply. The poem was sent to us as a photocopy, probably of his own typescript.

Copy of OHRA’s letter of 17 December 1980 thanking Dahl for his help. 

Eileen Davies  Oxford’s Voluble Inglorious Milton: - George Smith Green, Watchmaker & Author
Eileen Cavanagh Davies ( 1927 - 2011 )  Librarian at Oxford University for many years and keen student of local history.
Copy of OHRA's letter to  Miss Davies asking if she can contribute dated  28 November 1980.

Her handwritten reply , 2 A-6 pages dated 9 May 1981, from 54 Lonsdale road, Oxford, apologizing for her late reply. 
She adds the 12-page typewritten  essay

Copy of OHRA’s reply of 12 May 1981 thanking her

Letter by Michael Gabriel pointing out that there was a mistake in the article, namely “A clock made by George Smith Green is in the Leicester Museum” should read “ a clock dial made by him is in Newarke House museum, Leicester”. 
Added here also are print-outs of the relevant pages of J.A. Daniell’s article “The making of clocks and watches in Leicestershire and Rutland “ confirming this.


J.P. Feather ( 1947 - )  Books Without Walls: Development of the Oxfordshire Book Trade
Professor J P Feather , Library and information management, Loughborough university
Copy of OHRA’s request for a contribution dated 23 November 1980.

John Feather’s reply dated 7 December 1980 from the Department of Library and Information Studies at Loughborough University confirming that he would be happy to contribute with some sort of history of the Oxford booktrade, perhaps rather popular than scholarly.

Coy of OHRA’s reply thanking Mr. Feather., dated 19 December 1980

John Feather’s reply of 6 January 1981 suggesting an essay of 10 – 15 pages.

John Feather’s  reply of 6 March apologizing for delay

Copy of postcard from Holdan Books (= OHRA’s correspondence addres ) reassuring Mr. Feather that there is no hurry

John Feather’s letter of 29 June 1981 accompanying the essay, just over  10 typed A-4 pages 

Copy of OHRA’s letter of 10 July 1981 acknowledging receipt

Dame Helen Gardner ( 1908 – 1986 )  Memories of Oxford Bookshops 
Dame Helen Louise Gardner, DBE, FBA (13 February 1908 – 4 June 1986)  English literary critic and academic. She was best known for her work on the poets John Donne and T. S. Eliot. 
Copy of OHRA’s letter to Dame Helen to ask for a contribution dated 26 February 1981

Dame Helen’s handwritten letter of  8 March 1981 offering  a contribution

Copy of OHRA’s letter of 12 March 1981 

Copy of OHRA’s letter asking for details of the title

Dame Helen’s handwritten letter of 17 June 1981 with apologies for delay in sending the essay.

The 6-page essay  along with Dame Helen’s handwritten letter of 30 July 1982 again apologizing for delay in sending the contribution 

Copy of OHRA-s letter acknowledging receipt

*** She once told me that she sat at the feet of the Inklings 
Elizabeth Jennings  ( 1926 – 2001 ) A Weather Spell — a poem

In February 1981 I asked Elizabeth for a contribution on one of her visits to the bookshop and she returned handing me a handwritten copy of her poem  A Weather Spell. This had appeared in her collection Moments of Grace,  Carcanet Press, 1979. 

Included here are:
The handwritten poem on lined paper to which she had added “by Elizabeth Jennings , the poem comes from Moments of Grace, Carcanet Press, 1979”

Copy of the letter by Holdan Books Ltd.  to the Carcanet Press dated 24 February 1981 asking for permission to use this poem

Carcanet’s reply of 9th March 1981

A copy of the first edition 1979 of Moments of Grace

Copy of An Oxford Cycle, no. 483 of 500 copies (of related interest here ) 

Bibliography of her works downloaded from the internet

B.E. Juel-Jensen  An Oxonian’s view of Ethiopia, Travellers and Books
Bent Einer Juel-Jensen, physician and book collector: born Odense, Denmark 11 November 1922; Medical Officer to the Medical School, Oxford University 1960-77, Clinical Lecturer on Communicable Diseases 1972-90, University Medical Officer 1976-90; consultant, United Oxford Hospitals 1966-90; Fellow, St Cross College, Oxford 1973-90 (Emeritus); married 1949 Mary Maples (one daughter, one adopted son); died Oxford 20 December 2006.
His third love was Ethiopia, where he went for the first time in 1973 with the botanist Oleg Polunin. He fell in love with the country and its people, and returned next year as medical officer to an Exploration Society archaeological expedition to the rock-hewn churches of Tigray. He met the governor of the province, Ras Mangashia, and was with him when Haile Selassie was overthrown. At great risk himself, Ras Mangashia made sure the Oxford expedition was safe, but Juel-Jensen, already a devoted friend, went with him to the Sudan, and later adopted his son Seyoum. Then and in succeeding years he travelled far and wide succouring the refugees, even recalling sabotage techniques learned in the war against the hateful Mengistu regime. Books were included in his Ethiopian rescue endeavours. Never one to do things by halves, he learned the Amharic language and to read the ancient Ge'ez script in which scripture and liturgy were written. He bought his first manuscripts in 1973, and by 1990 he had acquired over 40, some dating back to the 15th century. ( The Independent 4 January 2007 )
Included here are:

Copy of letter from OHRA to Dr. Juel-Jensen dated 28 November 1980 asking him to contribute

Copy of OHRA’s letter of 10 February 1981

Dr. Juel-Jensen’s handwritten letter of 12.2.1981

His postcard dated 9.5.1981 asking if we had received the contribution and the photographs

Copy of OHRA’s apologetic letter dated 12 May 1981

Copy of OHRA’s letter of 16.12.1983 asking for an updated version of the planned contribution

3rd January 1984, Dr. Juel-Jensen’s letter accompanying the final version of the contribution, namely 10 A-4 typed pages containing the recast version of his address given to the friends of the Bodleian in the Sheldonian theatre on the day before Encaenia 1980 entitled An Oxonian’s view of Ethiopia, Travellers and Books. With handwritten corrections by the author and 3 A-4 pages with the 29 notes
And 2 A-4 pages with details of the 6 plates ( originally he had planned to include 11 plates ) corrected/crossed out partly in ink.

The 6 plates (5 photographs ) 
Plate 1  Interior of the Abyssinian Library in the Monastery of Souriani on the Natron Lakes visited by    Robert Curzon in 1833•

Plate 2  Miniature of St. Luke the Evangelist Fifteenth century Gospels.   Bodleian Library, Ms. Aeth.    C.2.

Plate 3: Pater Noster and Ave Maria in Ge'ez characters in Alphabetum Aethiopicum. Rome 1631.


Plate 4  Specimen of the Psalter of David in Ge'ez, I699 with inscription by Iob Ludolf, the editor. 
Bodleian Library, 4° F.  66 Th.

Plate 5  Ownership inscriptions of "Medhane Alem Church" in MSS from Maqdala; 

  1. Ta'amre Maryam (Miracles of the Virgin Mary)  late 17th century
  2. Wengel (The Four Gospels)First half of the 18th century
  3. Gedle Giyorgis  (Life and Miracles of St.  George)First half 18th century
  4. Gedle Tekle Haymanot  (Life and Miracles of Tekle Haymanot).Second   Half of the 18th century
  5. Tsebibe Tsebiban (The Wisdom of Knowledgefrirst half of 18th century

  (' 4 is in the Bodleian Library,Ms.Aeth. C.3.,  1,2,3, and 5 were in the Juel-Jensen collection)

Plate 6  Crucifixion by the "Ground Hornbill Artist".   Lalibela, 17th century. ______________________________________________________________________________________

David Low  Sir Isaac Newton’s Library and Chinnor Rectory

David Low was a Scottish Polish Jewish bouquiniste . Author of the autobiography “With All Faults” [ 1 ]. In which a.o. he  recounts the story of Cecil court . Rent for the bookshop he worked in was £60 per year, but they were so successful that they were raided by Police (who suspected clandestine betting activities)

He sent an enlarged account of his “Sir Isaac Newton’s Library and Chinnor rectory” which as he wrote in his accompanying letter, “was for many years quietly resting in the rectory in Chinnor.” By the end of the Napoleonic war the population had outgrown this village and there was considerable building activity. The Congregational church, a good example, dates from this period. It is stonefaced, has wide eaves, round-headed windows, and a grave-yard separated from the street by low iron railings. A new Rectory was also built. The old one had been a distinguished building and was memorable for having housed for many years Isaac Newton's library, which had been bought by John Huggins, and sent to his son, then Rector of Chinnor.

[1] No one knew more about the second hand book world in the interwar years and after the Second World War than David Low who started his apprenticeship in the arcane world of second hand book dealing as a cataloguer for one of the leading London Book Auctioneers. Since then he came to know most of the major players and became an influential dealer from his shop in Cecil Court and later from his home in Emmington, Oxfordshire. His autobiography was both revealing and amusing, as Graham Greene says in his introduction 'secondhand booksellers are among the most friendly and the most eccentric of all the people I have known. If I had not been a writer, theirs would be the profession I would most happily have chosen'.

Included in the collection is his letter is dated 19th November 1980

The article is printed on 3 lge8vo. pages , with 2 images of the rectory


 Jan Morris  ( 1926 -- ) In a Name

Jan Morris, CBE, FRSL (born 2 October 1926), Welsh historian, author and travel writer. She is known particularly for the Pax Britannica trilogy (1968–1978), a history of the British Empire, and for portraits of cities, notably Oxford, Venice, Trieste, Hong Kong, and New York City.


Handwritten signed postcard by Jan Morris dated  22 January 1981,  offering to contribute

Copy of the OHRA’s letter of 4 February 1981, confirming Jan Morris’ proposal for a contribution

Copy of the OHRA’s letter dated 5 November 1981 accompanying details of the other proposed contributions

Handwritten signed letter by Jan Morris dated 3 December 1981  which accompanied her contribution

The text of the contribution entitles IN A Name, 7 typed A-4 pages with corrections  and deletions in ink. 

Copy of the OHRC’s letter acknowledging receipt dated 10 December 1981.

 Hugh Williamson  An Oxford Family and its Firm:-Henry Alden, Publisher &   Bookseller
Hugh Williamson (1918 – 30 October 1992, Oxford), British book designer and author on printing. Williamson dropped out of University College London to serve in the Royal Artillery on the Italian front during the Second World War, and later wrote an unofficial history of his Fourth Division. After studying at the London College of Printing he became a staff designer for Oxford University Press where he wrote the textbook Methods of Book Design. He was editor of the Bulletin of the British Printing Historical Society from 1980 to 1988.

Copy of the OHRC’s letter dated 30 April 1981, to ask for a contribution

Hugh Williamson’s reply on the Alden Press’ letter heading dated 5 May 1981, confirming he would like to contribute

Copy of the OHRC’s letter of 11 May 1981 thanking H.W.

H.W’s letter of 14 May 1981, suggesting a contribution of 2 pages + a few illustrations. He also offers help with the design of the final almanac.

Copy of the OHRC’s letter of 13 July 1981 thanking H.W.

Postcard from Holdan Books, Oxford dated  14 august 1981,  mentioning an article in the Publishers Weekly of 26 June 1981 in which H.W. is being quoted  when he refers to the difference in spine lettering  a UK and a US book . ( up or down ) 

Letter from H.W. dated 23 September 1981, in which he suggest the title of his planned contribution “ An Oxford family and its firm “ (about Henry Alden who was printer, publisher and bookseller in Oxford, 1832 – 1872. ) 

Letter from H.W. dated 9 December 1981 accompanying a first draft of his proposed contribution, which the OHRC returned. 

Copy of the letter from the OHRC dated 16 December 1981 thanking H.W.

Letter from H.W. dated 26 January 1982 accompanying the amended typescript  now 23  typed A-4 pages long and entitled “Annals of an Almanack publisher” . about 10,000 words, with some marginal handwritten annotations (includes a page 17 and a page 17A ) He promised 6 pages of  illustrations , but these never materialised. 

3 December 2008, the Bookseller reports: 
Printer Alden Press has become another casualty of the credit crunch and has gone into voluntary administration, leaving more than 160 employees fearing for their jobs. The printing firm was founded over 175 years ago to publish anti-slavery literature and has offices in Witney, near Oxford and London.KPMG has been appointed administrator. HenDi Group took over the company in June after being owned by the Alden family for 176 years. Operations director, Arthur  Gachowski confirmed that the workers had not yet received their pay for November. Gachowski also blamed the credit crunch for the situation and said that the company could not extend borrowings . 


The only artist who sent some sketches for proposed illustrations was Lady Felicity Fisher , (1922-2007 ) wife of Sir Henry Fisher, (1918 – 2005 ) who had been elected to succeed Sir Isaiah Berlin as President of Wolfson College.

2 handwritten letters from her at Wolfson college, Oxford

Copy of the OHRC’s letter of 28May 1982 asking for some sample work

She then sent sketch proposals  for the Richard Adams sonnet (in ink)  and one for the Alden Press article
2 larger pen drawings for Sir Basil Blackwell’s contribution  showing Kelmscott Manor

She also sent a copy of her Excerpts collected and illustrated with wood engravings” with her 4 wood engravings. One of 42 copies printed by the Printmakers Co-operative in Oxford, 1980. Signed and inscribed. 

Apologies and other reactions

Copy of OHRC’s letter to Iris Murdoch dated 2nd June 1981

2 of Iris Murdoch’s signed handwritten letters  (1981) saying she  avoids extra jobs…..

Miles Blackwell ( 1946 – 2002) writes on 6 July 1983 that he has passed on the request to stock the almanac to Michael Berry in charge of the Broad street shop. Signed Miles

His brother Nigel Blackwell writes on 14th June 1983  that Blackwell’s will take a full-page advert in the Almanac Signed Nigel

Peter Fenemore of Blackwell’s rare book department at Fyfield Manor, Fyfield, writes on 25 August 1983 that he will consider the contents of an advert once the project has “gone firm”.

Typed letter from Desmond Morris’ secretary explaining that Mr. Morris is just off to a field trip to Africa , but has asked to say that he will help if he possibly can.

Copy of the OHRC’s letter of 20 January 1981 acknowledging this letter

Copy of the OHRC’s letter dated 5 November 1981 reminding Desmond Morris that he wanted to write something on Murray’s house ( Sir James Augustus Henry Murray ) where he lived in 1981.

Desmond Morris’ handwritten letter dated 21 December 1981 . He is sorry that he  finds it extremely hard to settle to any kind of writing. [ in fact  his “ the giant Panda” was published that very year. } 

Desmond John Morris ,English zoologist, ethologist and surrealist painter,
 as well as a popular author in human sociobiology.

The OHRC’s letter to Professor Sir Richard Paton, a customer of the bookshop, asking if he could help and his handwritten reply that he is no longer one of the delegates of the OUP
A number of copies of letters to various authors, illuminaries etc  who did not reply like Norman Mailer , Clive James ( a regular customer of the bookshop)  , James Baldwin and others.

 Correspondence from the Haemophilia society

List of suggested artists and their addresses

£950 for the entire collection