Papers of James Fenton

Scope and Content

Small collection of personal papers, relating to the Fenton family, printers in Aberdeen and London, c 1830 - 1877. The collection comprises a small, manuscript volume, compiled by James Fenton (1809 - 1883) entitled The Family Record of Births Marriages and Deaths from the birth of my father in 1781, till the present time, n.d., and photocopies of other miscellaneous records. In the Family Record ... Fenton provides a lengthy description of his early years as a printer in London trying to find work with a variety of printers, and gives a detailed narrative of the lives and careers of other close family members. The volume contains a variety of correspondence, photographs, cuttings and ephemera relating to the family, including an obituary notice of his brother, Robert Hay Fenton, bookbinder in Aberdeen; a printed list of exhibits lent by Henderson, Rait and Fenton (including items from Fenton's own collection) for the Caxton Exhibition of 1877; various ephemeral items concerning Henderson, Rait and Fenton (including a specimen sheet of their music founts); correspondence, watercolour and proof printings of poems by William Bennet, printer in Aberdeen; references and certificates relating to Fenton's apprenticeship; and examples of poetry written by Fenton. Photocopied records include a copy of James Fenton's Duplicate of Work Book, which contains details of jobs and work done from Dec 1830 - Feb 1832; and a copy of a letter sent from Joseph Dun, printer in Aberdeen, to Fenton on 28 Oct 1835, discussing Fenton's personal circumstances and the changes which have taken place in Aberdeen since he left for London.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Fenton was born in Forfar in 1809, where his father was a bookseller and postmaster, but moved to Aberdeen in 1814, where his father took up employment with the bookselling, printing and publishing firm of MacKenzie and Dent. His mother, daughter of a Dundee bookseller, came from the famous Scottish bookselling family, the Millers. He joined the Aberdeen Chronicle as trainee compositor in 1822, and in 1831 moved to London, where he worked for various printing businesses in the city, before forming in 1863, the successful partnership of Henderson, Rait and Fenton, from which he retired in 1873. He was an early member of the Compositors' Society, and a committee member of the Printers' Pension Society.


None observed - listing in process

Access Information

Open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the University in Aug 1992

Other Finding Aids

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online

Alternative Form Available

No copies known

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to the condition of the original, copies may be supplied for private research use only on receipt of a signed undertaking to comply with current copyright legislation.

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures


No accruals expected

Related Material

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Additional Information

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