The Walter Strachan Collection

Scope and Content

The basis of the collection is Walter Strachan's own archive - material generated and accumulated in the course of his work as a writer, translator, editor, lecturer, teacher and propagandist for art in the many fields where he was active. At the core of the archive are several thousand letters, representing an extensive body of correspondence with a wide range of sculptors, painters, writers, calligraphers, printers, makers of fine books, other collectors, representatives of galleries and museums, editors and publishers. In some cases these are in-letters only, but in other cases Strachan's carbon copies of his own outgoing letters are also included. There are significant exchanges of correspondence with sculptors Kenneth Armitage, Ralph Brown, Elisabeth Frink, André Lhote and Lucile Passavant, artists Percy Horton and Geoffrey Rhoades, and writers Vera Cacciatore, Nancy Cunard, Julien Gracq and Cecily Mackworth; there are also six letters and cards from Sylvia Townsend Warner, with further letters from Warner also being included in photocopy form. In addition to these principal correspondents, there are smaller groupings of letters from many other significant individuals. In the field of sculpture (although many of these artists worked in multiple media) significant Europeans represented include Henri-Georges Adam, Ernst Eisenmayer, Emilio Greco, Jacques Lipchitz and Giacomo Manzù; among British, Irish and American sculptors can be found letters from Robert Adams, Alexander, Leonard Baskin, Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, Geoffrey Clarke, Kenneth Draper, Barbara Hepworth, John Hoskin, Roy Kitchin, Liliane Lijn, Seymour Lipton, Bernard Meadows, Henry Moore, David Nash, F.E. McWilliam, Kenneth Martin, and Austin Wright, along with numerous other recent and contemporary sculptors. Many other artists are also represented in Strachan's correspondence - including those active as painters, engravers, printmakers, typographers and illustrators; these include Edward Bawden, Cecil Collins, Stephen Gooden, Joan Hassall and Michael Rothenstein. Reflecting Strachan's work in the field of literature and translation there are letters from other writers, including Harold Acton, Ivy Compton-Burnett, Cecil Day-Lewis, Louis MacNeice and Stevie Smith. French writers are well-represented, with letters from Henri Bosco, Joë Bousquet, Francis Carco, Paul Claudel, Marguerite Duras, François Mauriac, Saint-John Perse, André Spire and Tristan Tzara. There are also letters from a number of Italian writers, including Enrico Emanuelli, Elsa Morante, Giovani Papini and Mario Soldati. Topics covered in the correspondence are naturally wide-ranging, and include: Strachan's many fields of activity and interest (including the livre d'artiste, sculpture, calligraphy, typography, printing, translation, poetry and fiction); the planning, research for and publication of many of Strachan's works, including poetry, translations, books on sculpture and numerous articles; his acquisition of artwork; correspondents' responses to Strachan's work, and his response to the art and writing of others; discussions about specific artworks; and some wide-ranging discussions about art and literature, particularly in the letters of long-term correspondents like Percy Horton, whose letters are also liberally illustrated with pen and ink sketches. Both sides of the Horton correspondence are represented in the archive, because Strachan retrieved the letters he wrote to his friend after Horton's death in 1970. Geoffrey Strachan also augmented his father's own archive by acquiring some of the original letters he sent to Peter Whyte and Timothy Rogers. The correspondence illustrates well the overlapping friendships and connections that Strachan developed over his lifetime among a wide community of artists and writers both in Britain and abroad - as indicated by E.M. Forster's quote 'Only connect...' which Geoffrey Strachan chose as the title for a collection of his father's memoirs and letters published after his death.

The collection includes an extensive body of Strachan's own publications, in every field of his activity - from his major full-length works to the many articles he published during his lifetime, encompassing: books on the livre d'artiste and sculpture; translations of French autobiography and letters, art books and fiction; Italian and German fiction in translation; poetry and short stories in translation; articles on a wide range of topics; and book and exhibition reviews. These take the form of entire publications (often inscribed and annotated), offprints, cuttings, and entire copies of some of the well-known literary magazines and art reviews in which his articles appeared. There are also exhibition catalogues and posters, as well as some posthumously published material added to the collection by Geoffrey Strachan.

The main focus of the collection is on the wealth of material Strachan generated outside of his work on the livre d'artiste. However, the close connections and overlapping friendships between artists, as well as the fact that many artists work in multiple media, mean that there is inevitably a significant representation of material relating to the livre d'artiste in the collection, in the form of: correspondence with artists, writers and publishers; all of Strachan's books and published articles on the subject; material relating to exhibitions from Strachan's personal collection; some complete examples of livres d'artiste; and a selection of examples of proof pages from a range of significant post-war artists of the book, including Albert Flocon, Edouard Goerg, André Minaux and Raoul Ubac.

There is a grouping of material relating to Strachan's former pupil, friend and collaborator Christopher Hewett, and to the exhibitions and publications of Hewett's gallery and private press, Taranman. This includes correspondence with and relating to Hewett, copies of Taranman books with which Strachan was associated (primarily his Poems of 1976 and The living curve), and exhibition catalogues to which Strachan contributed.

There is also a large body of material acquired or generated by Strachan during the course of working on various projects and publications. This includes: books, periodicals, catalogues, cuttings and pamphlets given to or collected by Strachan as reference and source materials for his translations of modern European texts, as well as for his own writings and lectures on the livre d'artiste, modern French tapestry, the work of painters and graphic artists, modern sculpture, fine printing and calligraphy; periodicals containing reviews of original writings and translations by Strachan as well as exhibitions he arranged; handwritten notes (sometimes with sketched drawings) and draft typescripts written either in preparation for books and articles published and lectures delivered, or for books and other projects which were never ultimately realised; and detailed editorial and administrative correspondence with the publishers of books and articles written or translated by Strachan.

As indicated above, Geoffrey Strachan augmented his father's archive, by acquiring further material (notably some of Walter Strachan's original outgoing letters), adding items such as catalogues of exhibitions held after Strachan's death and cuttings relating to individual correspondents, and by generating material of his own. In the latter case, this predominantly relates to material generated during the preparation of Masks, which was published in 2000. This was a homage to Walter Strachan in the form of a selection of his poems illustrated by some of the artists who were his friends, and which forms a livre d'artiste in its own right.

Administrative / Biographical History

Walter John Strachan was born on 25 January 1903 in Hull, the son of Bertram Lionel (a manager at Reckitts, one of Hull’s foremost firms of the time) and Edith. His father encouraged him in his love of literature, which he pursued during his time at Hymers College, where his teachers included the published poets John Redwood Anderson and H.H. Abbott. A close friend at school was Tom Divine, with whom during the final years of the First World War he produced a magazine called Shell Splinters. This provides an early illustration of the value Strachan placed on close friendships, where enthusiasms and passions - like art and literature - could be shared. This inspired much of his later activity in different fields like writing, collecting, translating and editing, and he was to build up close friendships with many artists and writers over the years.

The first member of his family to attend university, he read English and French at St Catharine's College Cambridge from 1921 to 1924, where his supervisor was the classical and literary scholar E.M.W. Tillyard. Strachan also began editing St Catharine's College Magazine, for which he succeeded in eliciting a contribution from Sydney Cockerell, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, on 'A young man's visit to John Ruskin' (see WJS/4/22/1); Cockerell, a connoisseur and collector, also became a friend of Strachan.

In 1924 Strachan took up a post as French and English teacher at Bishop's Stortford College, a boys' public school on the borders of Hertfordshire and Essex. He remained there for three years, then moved to a teaching post at Giggleswick School in Yorkshire. However, in 1928 he was invited to return to Bishop's Stortford College as Head of Modern Languages; he took up this offer, and remained at the school for the next forty years. He was an inspirational teacher, who was skilled at conveying and sharing his enthusiasms for literature and art with the boys he taught; he was also active in encouraging and organising many out-of-school activities for the boys - which encompassed art, architecture (he founded the school's Architectural Society in 1927), poetry, drawing, listening to music, play reading, modelling, calligraphy and typography (he established the Typographical and Calligraphic Society in 1948). In 1926, he became master in charge of the school magazine, the Stortfordian, and he was also involved in encouraging and producing publications of creative work by pupils, such as the pamphlet First offence, a collection of original poems and decorations by the boys of the College, which was compiled in 1929 by Strachan and the professional artist Percy Horton, who joined the staff as art master in 1925.

Many pupils stayed in contact with Strachan after they left the College and remained lifelong friends. A number of them went on to achieve success in creative fields, and some of them are represented in this collection, which includes letters from (among others) the novelist Geoffrey Cotterell, the screenwriter Dick Clement, and - perhaps most notably - Christopher Hewett, who after leaving the College went on to train at the Ruskin School and the Royal College of Art, and later founded the Taranman gallery and private press.

It was through a friendship with one of his ex-pupils, Tom Jason Wood, that Strachan came to meet his wife. On visiting Wood - who was recovering from a serious illness at his home in Bradford - Strachan first encountered Wood's sister Margaret, whom he married in 1929; the couple had two children - Jean (born in 1932) and Geoffrey (born in 1935).

Strachan also made long-term friendships among his teaching colleagues at the College, probably the most significant being with Percy Horton. The two men shared many interests, particularly a passion for art, and Strachan learnt much from Horton about looking at pictures, as well as improving his own drawing and painting technique. Horton left the College in 1930 to join the staff of the Royal College of Art, later becoming Master of Drawing at the Ruskin School of Drawing at Oxford. However, the two men kept in touch and maintained a lifelong correspondence which is preserved in this collection. Horton's replacement as art master was the painter and engraver Geoffrey Rhoades, who also became a good friend of Strachan's and encouraged him in his own painting.

In 1937 Strachan became housemaster at Robert Pearce House (a position he retained until 1947), and he moved with his family into the school boarding house. He was here when war broke out in 1939, and as one of the older members of staff he remained to keep the school going during the war years, although his wife and children went to stay in the Lake District during the worst years of the Blitz. It was at this time that Strachan began writing his own poems, and the 1940s saw his most prolific output of poetry. He began publishing poems in numerous well-known literary and political magazines and periodicals of the day, including The Tribune, The Spectator, The New English Weekly, The Adelphi, and one of his poems appeared in the 1944 'New Poets Issue' of Tambimuttu's Poetry London. His first full-length collection of poetry, Moments of time, was published by the Sylvan Press in 1947, and this was followed in 1950 by The season's pause, published by Secker and Warburg. As a published poet he began to make the acquaintance of other writers, and a number of long-term literary friendships were born during this period - notably with Sylvia Townsend Warner, Cecily Mackworth and Stevie Smith, all of whom are represented in this collection. Although he did not publish any other volumes of new poems, he did continue to write poetry, and in 1976 Christopher Hewett's Taranman Press published a signed limited edition of Strachan's Poems; some of these were reprinted from his earlier collections but the book also included new work as well as poems in translation.

Strachan pursued a successful parallel career as a translator. He always had a great enthusiasm for French culture, and visited France a number of times during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1943 he submitted a poem for possible inclusion in Nancy Cunard's anthology, Poems for France; Cunard subsequently became a correspondent and friend who encouraged Strachan in his translations of modern French poets, and in 1948 his major contribution to this field, Apollinaire to Aragon, was published by Methuen. He also began translating modern French fiction, in 1950 producing translations of two novels - Julien Gracq's A dark stranger and Hervé Bazin's Grasping the viper; he went on to translate four further novels during the next eleven years. As a teacher of modern languages he was also keen to provide pupils with access to French literature in its original language. He therefore edited two selections of French literary texts, Ici Paris and Ici les provinces during the 1950s, as well as a number of French novels for Methuen Educational Ltd, beginning with Camus's La peste in 1959. He also translated three German novels - all works by Herman Hesse - and, encouraged by Nancy Cunard, in 1953 he began to publish Italian fiction in translation, including short stories and novels by contemporary writers like Cesare Pavese, Vera Cacciatore and Enrico Emanuelli, having taught himself the language using a Linguaphone course.

Strachan's interest in art had also been flourishing through the thirties and forties - partly through his friendships with Percy Horton and the engraver Stephen Gooden, who lived in Bishop's Stortford. He started to buy original artworks at this time, his first purchase being a watercolour by Alfred Rich called The Chalk-Pit. In 1940 he bought a painting by Edward Bawden and was inspired to write to the artist, from whom he received a gratified response. This reflects the importance he always placed on having direct contact with artists as the key source of information about their own work; later he would visit the studios of many artists he admired to see their work taking shape, which led to a number of friendships with artists whose work he championed in his published writings.

Strachan's skill as a translator and his interest in art led him to translate numerous French art books, beginning with André Lhote's influential treatises on landscape and figure painting (published in 1948 and 1950). During the war years, when he was prevented from visiting France, he developed an interest in the poets of the Resistance like Louis Aragon and Paul Éluard. On resuming his regular visits to France in 1949, he met a range of writers, publishers, artists and printers which provided him with fertile material for his developing enthusiasms. He had long had an interest in book-illustration, typography and fine printing, and a visit with a school party to an exhibition at the National Gallery on 'French Book Illustration 1895-1945' (which included work by Bonnard and Picasso among others) first inspired his enduring passion for the livre d'artiste, or artist's book, a form which originated in France in the early twentieth century. A characteristic of these books is that each of the illustrations is an 'original', having been executed by the artist directly on the surface of the wood, linoleum, copper or stone from which the illustrations were printed; characteristically the artists were not professional illustrators, but had made their names and reputations in painting, sculpture, print-making or another area. In some cases the artists were the authors of the texts but more often the artists' designs were married with texts by established poets and writers, ancient and modern; a number of the French poets whose work Strachan had translated for Apollinaire to Aragon (such as Henri Michaux, Paul Éluard, and Tristan Tzara) had already published work in livre d'art form. He began making an effort to visit the artists, poets, printers and typographers involved in producing these books in France, both to talk to them and to see their work in progress. Early contacts, who later became friends, included Léon Gischia, Jacques Houplain, Albert Flocon, Mario Prassinos and Henri Jonquières. Thrilled by what he saw and learned, Strachan quickly made it his mission to discover all he could and to spread the word about this genre in the UK art world. He embarked on this initially in two ways: through offering to write articles on the subject for periodicals such as Image, The Studio, Typographica and The Connoisseur; and by making what became regular visits to the Victoria and Albert Museum as an "unofficial voluntary ambassador", urging the librarian to buy some of these exciting books being created in post-war Paris. In order to do this, he needed examples of the work, such as title pages and proof pages showing both illustrations and typography. Sympathetic to Strachan's desire to make their work better known in the UK, artists, printers and publishers supplied him readily with what he needed, in the form of pages he could study for himself, show to the Victoria and Albert Museum, and reproduce to illustrate his articles in art periodicals. Each spring he would visit Paris to learn of new and forthcoming publications, returned armed with fresh batches of bonnes feuilles (sheets of illustrations and texts passed by artist and printer as perfect). His mission increadingly bore fruit: some three dozen articles were published in UK art magazines between 1950-1994, and some sixty livres d'artiste purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum, after being shown them by Strachan. The artists and publishers of these books were grateful to Strachan for championing their work, and from time to time he would be given a complete, personally dedicated copy of a particular new livre d'artiste of theirs, gifts which he treasured. In this somewhat unexpected way a rich, diverse and unique collection of both bonnes feuilles and complete books came into being. Selections from it were first shown in an exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in 1963, the first of a dozen such exhibitions Strachan arranged around the UK over the next two decades. Also at the Ashmolean in 1963 , Strachan gave the first of what would be many illustrated lectures on the livre d'artiste. Thus he opened up two more vital ways of giving students and art lovers in the UK access to the work he so much admired. His admiration for the painter Roger Chastel's illustrations for a Bestiare, accompanied by poems by Paul Éluard, led to the gift of a special print of the owl he had admired; word spread in the art-world of Paris that Strachan was interested in owls, and he slowly built up a collection of owl prints and originals in a whole range of media (now housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum).

Strachan's work on the livre d'artiste through the 1940s and the ensuing two decades had its culmination in his great study of the subject, The artist and the book in France, published by Peter Owen in 1969. This established him as an expert in the field, and in the same year the French government recognized Strachan's contribution to promoting French art and culture by making him a Chevalier des arts et des lettres, a fitting honour for a man described by his son Geoffrey as "a standard-bearer, a white knight of arts and letters" (Only connect, p xvii). Strachan's passion for the livre d'artiste was lifelong, and in 1981 he updated his 1969 magnum opus with an article published in The Private Library.

Strachan's work on the livre d'artiste also led to other interests. His admiration for Jean Lurçat's book-illustrations in the surrealist style led to a meeting with the artist, who was also a master of tapestry design and had played a major part in the 1940s revival of French tapestry; this visit, made in 1952 when Strachan was staying with Nancy Cunard, fired his interest in modern French tapestry, which was to become another major enthusiasm and a topic on which he wrote and lectured.

Strachan also developed a passion for modern sculpture, which was partly kindled by his first meeting with Henry Moore in 1942, when Moore settled in Perry Green, about five miles from Bishop's Stortford. Moore was always welcoming to those with a genuine interest in his work, and over the years Strachan - who became a friend - made numerous visits to his studio, often accompanied by other artists, friends or pupils from Bishop's Stortford College. He wrote a number of articles on Moore's work during the 1950s and 1960s, and played an important role in the production of a livre d'artiste which Moore illustrated in 1951. In 1950, Strachan had befriended the French typographer Henri Jonquières, through whom he gained a useful insight into the production side of the livre d'artiste. In 1951, Jonquières was planning a livre d'artiste version of Prométhée - André Gide's French translation of Goethe's play - and he enlisted Strachan's assistance in persuading Moore to produce colour lithographs to accompany the text. Strachan became a mediator between Moore and Jonquières, and was heavily involved in discussions about the details of the lithographic proofs, produced at Mourlot Frères lithographic studios in France. His major work on Moore was to come in 1983, when Moore nominated Strachan as the most appropriate person to write a book about his animal sculpture, drawings and graphic work; the result was Strachan's study, Henry Moore: animals, published by Aurum Press.

Moore's work stimulated a wider interest in sculpture, and during the 1970s and 1980s Strachan's writing and lecturing focused on modern British and European sculptors, whilst also embracing the work of earlier generations, as reflected in a series of six articles on 'The Sculptor and his Drawings', which appeared in The Connoisseur in 1974, and his 1976 study, Towards sculpture: drawings and maquettes, from Rodin to Oldenburg. As with his work on the livre d'artiste, Strachan placed a high value on obtaining information directly from the sculptors whose work he admired, and he began corresponding with and visiting many contemporary working sculptors, including figures like Barbara Hepworth, Reg Butler, Elisabeth Frink, Kenneth Armitage, Lucile Passavant and Wendy Taylor.

One of Strachan's other planned sculpture projects - a book on Distortion and obsession in modern art: Monet to the present day - did not ultimately come to fruition due to his failure to find an American co-publisher. However, another major project was realised: his extensive and meticulously researched guide to Open air sculpture in Britain was published in 1984 with a foreword by Lady Gibberd, whose guide to sculpture in Harlow, Essex, had inspired Strachan's larger-scale study. His volume contained descriptions and photographs of 552 sculptures on public sites across the UK.

Strachan retired from full-time teaching at Bishop's Stortford College in 1968. As well as inspiring generations of schoolboys, he also left a further legacy to the school: over the years he had encouraged the purchase of numerous artworks for the school - acquiring works through picture dealers and galleries, as well as bringing some original prints back from his visits to France. It was ultimately decided to bring these works of art together as a coherent collection, with a gallery dedicated to their display, and in November 1990 the Walter Strachan Gallery was formally opened at the College. More recently, in 2009 a new Art Centre at the College was named after Strachan, in memory of one of the College's great teachers and advocates of the arts.

Despite retiring from teaching, Strachan remained as active as ever in his artistic and literary pursuits during the next two decades, continuing to publish until he was well into his eighties. Looking back over a lifetime's correspondence with a wide range of English, French, Italian and German poets, painters, sculptors, pupils and others inspired him to put together a selection of these letters for joint publication by Taranman and Carcanet Presses as The living curve: letters to W.J. Strachan 1929-1979, edited by Christopher Hewett. Originally planned for 1983 to coincide with Strachan's eightieth birthday, the premature death of Hewett, Strachan's former pupil and Taranman founder, meant that publication was delayed for a year, and the book formed a memorial to one of his most successful pupils. In 1986 Carcanet Press published his translation of Alain-Fournier's letters from London, Towards the lost domain, and the following year Strachan provided a further update to his work on the livre d'artiste in the catalogue of his gift of artists' books to the Taylor Institution Library in Oxford. He continued to produce numerous magazine and journal articles during the 1970s and 1980s, and he also lectured widely, delivering his final talk - on Jean Lurçat's tapestry - at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1990.

During his final years, Strachan was engaged in looking back over his life's work and the friendships he had made. He was writing draft chapters for a projected memoir, some of which were incorporated into published articles while others remained incomplete. He envisaged combining these chapters with quotes from some of the writers' and artists' letters under the provisional title Encounters and relationships, but this work was left incomplete when he died on 14 March 1994. The material was ultimately published posthumously, edited by Strachan's son Geoffrey, as Only connect...poets, painters, sculptors: friendships and shared passions 1924-1994 (2005). The volume also includes a number of Strachan's own poems, and a selection of the letters he sent to friends - thus forming a complement to The living curve and a standing as fitting testament to Strachan's lengthy career as a champion of art and literature.


Geoffrey Strachan arranged and classified the material in the collection before it came to the JRUL. With some minor exceptions, the present arrangement follows that of Geoffrey Strachan as far as possible. The collection is divided into 19 series, as follows:

  • /1 Substantial groups of correspondence with Walter Strachan
  • /2 Other correspondence with Walter Strachan
  • /3 Principal groups of letters from Walter Strachan
  • /4 Publications by Walter Strachan
  • /5 Posthumous editions of texts by Walter Strachan and related papers
  • /6 Examples of work by artists of the book
  • /7 Material relating to Christopher Hewett and the Taranman Press
  • /8 Material relating to Apollinaire to Aragon
  • /9 Material relating to modern French literature
  • /10 Material relating to the livre d'artiste
  • /11 Material relating to modern French tapestry
  • /12 Material relating to the work of modern graphic artists and painters
  • /13 Material relating to modern sculpture
  • /14 Material relating to fine printing and calligraphy
  • /15 Reviews and advertisements relating to books and exhibitions associated with Walter Strachan
  • /16 Drawings and watercolours by Walter Strachan
  • /17 Editorial correspondence relating to works by Walter Strachan
  • /18 Working papers and correspondence
  • /19 Miscellaneous material

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader. However, some material has been closed for copyright reasons; this largely applies to photocopies, transcripts and translations of unpublished material, and where applicable closures are noted at item level in the catalogue. Correspondence with or relating to living people in the archive (apart from that in WJS/1, which has been read in detail by the cataloguing archivist) may be subject to access restrictions or closure for Data Protection and confidentiality reasons. Readers are advised to contact the Library in advance if they wish to see any of this material.

Readers are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 in their use of the material.

This finding aid also contains personal data about living individuals. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) holds the right to process such personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately.

Acquisition Information

The collection was given to the Library by Geoffrey Strachan, son of Walter Strachan. It came to the Library in two separate accessions, in January and November 2008.

Separated Material

Various gifts and bequests of material from Strachan's archive and personal collection have been made to other institutions. The Taylor Institution Library at the University of Oxford holds his collection of complete livres d'artiste and original proof pages from such books, gathered over 35 years and representing over 250 different publications. A bequest was made to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, consisting of sculptors' drawings and graphics by F.E. McWilliam, Bernard Meadows, Oliffe Richmond, Ralph Brown, David Nash, Gio Pomodoro, Reg Butler and Lynn Chadwick, together with photographs of over 550 sculptures used to illustrate the first edition of Open air sculpture in Britain, as well as a large number of further photographs which were not included, and a substantial collection of Strachan's research materials for the book; the same institution also holds further material that Strachan collected for a projected second edition of the same book which was not ultimately published, as well as catalogues for a range of sculpture exhibitions held in Britain and Europe from the 1950s to the 1980s. Strachan's collection of 58 prints, drawings and paintings of owls was bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1993. The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge holds Strachan's correspondence and documents relating to his fifty-year interest in the livre d'artiste, including extensive correspondence with some fifty different artists of the book. Original letters sent to Strachan by Sylvia Townsend Warner were donated to Dorset County Museum, which holds Warner's own archive. The Special Collections Research Center at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, holds some letters from Nancy Cunard to Walter Strachan dating from 1943-1965.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

The majority of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Keeper of Manuscripts and Archives, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Appraisal Information

Some of the collection has been subject to appraisal, namely duplicate material and the large quantities of material classed as "background documentation" by Geoffrey Strachan, which was given to the JRUL on the understanding that the Modern Literary Archives team would assess and appraise where necessary.

Custodial History

The core of the collection consists of documents created and accumulated by Walter Strachan over a period of more than fifty years, reflecting his work as writer, translator, editor, lecturer and propagandist for the art of his time. He added to his own archive by retrieving the letters he wrote to Percy Horton (either from Horton's widow Lydia or daughter Katherine) after Horton's death in 1970. After Strachan's death, all of this material was retrieved from his house and looked after by his son and literary executor Geoffrey , who made further additions to his father's archive, including the acquisition by gift of original letters sent by Walter Strachan to Peter Whyte and Timothy Rogers, as well as photocopies of some additional letters sent to Horton.

Related Material

The UML holds the archive of Carcanet Press, publishers of Strachan's 1986 translation of Alain-Fournier's letters from London, Towards the lost domain, and joint publishers of The living curve: letters to W.J. Strachan 1929-1979 (1984); the Carcanet archive also includes much other material relating to modern literature in translation. The Papers of David Arkell are also held by the UML; Arkell published a life of Alain-Fournier with Carcanet in the same year as Strachan's volume appeared, and there is a letter from Arkell in the Strachan Collection. In addition, the UML holds the archive of Allen Freer (b. 1926), who also had a long career in teaching and is a passionate collector of art and illustrated private press books; a number of individuals represented in the Strachan Collection are also present in Freer's archive, including Edward Bawden, John Rothenstein and Will Carter.

Location of Originals

The collection includes photocopies of 24 letters sent to Walter Strachan by Sylvia Townsend Warner, 23 letters from Nancy Cunard to Valentine Ackland, three poems by Cunard, and a letter to Ackland from a friend of Cunard; the originals from which these copies were taken are held at Dorset County Museum.


Notes supplied by Geoffrey Strachan formed an invaluable source for the compilation of this catalogue, along with some of the volumes in the following list of major publications by Walter Strachan or with which he was associated. For a fuller list of his publications (including all his translations), see Appendix A in Only connect... (listed below).

W.J. Strachan, Moments of time: poems (London: Sylvan Press, 1947).

Apollinaire to Aragon: thirty modern French poets, translated, with an introductory essay, by W.J. Strachan (London: Methuen and Co., 1948).

W.J. Strachan, The season's pause: poems (London: Secker and Warburg, 1950).

A. Lhote, Treatise on landscape painting, translated from the French by W.J. Strachan (London: A. Zwemmer, 1950).

A. Lhote, Figure painting, translated from the French by W.J. Strachan (London: A. Zwemmer, 1953).

W.J. Strachan, The artist and the book in France: the 20th century livre d'artiste (London: Peter Owen, 1969).

W.J. Strachan, Poems by Walter Strachan (London: Christopher Hewett, 1976).

W.J. Strachan, Towards sculpture: maquettes and sketches from Rodin to Oldenburg (London: Thames and Hudson, 1976).

W.J. Strachan, Henry Moore: animals (London: Aurum Press, 1983).

Christopher Hewett (ed.), The living curve: letters to W.J. Strachan 1929-1979, foreword by William Anderson (London and Manchester: Taranman in association with Carcanet Press, 1984). This includes letters from 64 of Strachan's correspondents, many of which are included in the Strachan Collection held at the JRUL.

W.J. Strachan, Open air sculpture in Britain: a comprehensive guide, with foreword by Lady Gibberd (London: A. Zwemmer Ltd in association with Tate Gallery Publications, 1984).

W.J. Strachan (ed. and transl.), Henri Alain-Fournier: towards the lost domain; letters from London, 1905 (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1986).

W.J. Strachan, Le livre d'artiste: a catalogue of the W.J. Strachan gift to the Taylor Institution (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum and Taylor Institution, 1987).

W.J. Strachan, A relationship with Henry Moore 1942-1986 (Bishop's Stortford: Elliott Group, 1988).

W.J. Strachan, Masks and other poems (Llandogo: The Old Stile Press in collaboration with the Walter Strachan Archive, 2000).

Walter Strachan, Only connect...poets, painters, sculptors: friendships and shared passions 1924-1994, edited with introduction and notes by Geoffrey Strachan (Charlbury: Jon Carpenter Publishing in collaboration with The Walter Strachan Archive, 2005). This volume includes material from the Strachan Collection held at the JRUL.