The Spielmann Collection

Scope and Content

Papers of Marion Harry Spielmann (1858-1948), the well-known critic and connoisseur of the fine arts.

The bulk of the papers date from the time when Spielmann was editor of the Magazine of Art. The collection contains over 1,500 letters, and includes correspondence with Edwin Austin Abbey, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Sir Frank Brangwyn, Ford Madox Brown, Walter Crane, William Powell Frith, Sir Hubert von Herkomer, William Holman Hunt, Frederic Lord Leighton, Sir Edward Poynter, Val Prinsep, Sir William Blake Richmond, William Michael Rossetti, Sir (William) Hamo Thornycroft and George Frederic Watts. Miscellaneous papers include holograph articles from notable artists and critics submitted to Spielmann for publication in the Magazine of Art, many containing the author's and editor's emendations, as well as notes by Spielmann himself on his editorship.

Administrative / Biographical History

Marion Harry Alexander Spielmann was born in London on 22 May 1858, the son of a banker. He was educated at University College School and University College, London. He joined the Pall Mall Gazette as a journalist, specialising in art and literature, and he wrote for a number of other periodicals on these subjects. From 1886 to 1904 Spielmann was editor of the Magazine of Art, succeeding W.E. Henley. As editor, he had a great influence on contemporary artistic taste, with the journal carrying articles by the leading artists and critics of the day. Spielmann was a friend of many of the leading British artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and author of several works on artistic and literary subjects, including British portrait painters, 2 vols (1910), The portraits of Shakespeare (1907), Millais and his works (1898), and A history of 'Punch' (1895), as well as monographs on Ruskin, Millais, Watts, and Kate Greenaway. He also wrote studies of the portraits of Chaucer and Shakespeare, and the iconography of Vesalius. Spielmann was art editor for the 10th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and contributed numerous articles to the Dictionary of National Biography. He was responsible for the purchase and management of the collection of the State Gallery of Baroda, undertaken for the Maharaja Geakwar between 1911 and 1921.

Access Information

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library at auction at Sotheby's on 16 December 1964 (Lot 571).


Description compiled by Jo Klett, project archivist.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1952-1970 (English MS 1288-1303); outline list for later accession.

Related Material

The JRUL holds related material in the John Ruskin Papers (ref.: GB 133 RUS), the Holman Hunt Papers (ref.: GB 133 HOL) and the Fairfax Murray Papers (ref: GB 133 Eng MSS 1278-1283). Other Spielmann Papers are held at:

  • Birmingham University Special Collections: correspondence (ref.: GB 150 L Add).
  • British Library, Manuscripts Collection: correspondence with the Society of Authors, 1909-41 (ref.: GB 058 Add MS 56815);
  • Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts: correspondence, 1900-37 (ref.: GB 161 MS Johnson c 11);
  • Royal Institute of British Architects, Archives and Drawings Collection: correspondence etc. relating to lecture on the Queen Victoria memorial, 1904 (ref.: GB 104 SpM);
  • Royal Academy of Arts: correspondence with Alfred Gilbert and relating to the Royal Academy, 1885-1934 (ref.: GB 397 SP);
  • Victoria &; Albert Museum: papers relating to the Parliamentary Select Committee on the South Kensington Museum, 1899 (ref.: GB 072 MSL 1983/36);