Correspondence of Sir Herbert Read (1893-1968)

Scope and Content

The correspondence consists of: letters to Mr. Wilson, 1929, 1930, and 1932; letter to Mr. Powell about the aesthetic instinct, 1936; and, letter to Mr. Farmer discussing fluency in writing, 1964.

Administrative / Biographical History

Herbert Read was born on 4 December 1893. He was educated at Crossley's School, Halifax, and then he studied at Leeds University. During the First World War he served with the Green Howards from 1915 and became a Captain in 1917, fighting in France and Belgium between 1915 and 1918. After the war he was appointed as Assistant Principal, H. M. Treasury, 1919-1922. From 1922, Read was Assistant Keeper at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and then in 1931 he was appointed Professor of Fine Art at Edinburgh University. Among his many publications were Naked warriors (1919), In retreat (1925), The end of a war (1933), Art and industry (1934), The grass roots of art (1947), The philosophy of modern art (1952), The art of sculpture (1956), and Art and alienation (1967). Read was knighted in 1953. Sir Herbert Read died on 12 June 1968.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Powell letter, purchased February 1976, Accession no. E76.10. Wilson and Farmer letters, purchased October 1982, Accession no. E82.70.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Who was who 1961-1970. Vol.6. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1972.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show another reference to Read related material (check the Indexes for more details): a letter to Read from Wallace and Guthrie, W. S., 1932, at Gen. 1733/27. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: correspondence and literary papers, for the location of these papers see Location register of 20th century English literary MSS 1988; correspondence and papers, circa 1918-1965, Victoria University Library; letters (100 plus) to Naum Gabo and his wife, 1941-1967, Yale University Libraries, Beinecke Library, see Copies in Tate Gallery archive (Location register of 20th century English literary MSS 1988); correspondence with Lord and Lady Russell, 1952-1966, McMaster University Library, Ref. Russell Archives NRA 12092 Russell; correspondence with Monty Belgion, Cambridge University, Churchill Archives Centre, Ref. BLGN NRA 23854 Belgion; letters (67) to George Bell and Sons, 1926-1963, Reading University Library, Ref. MS1640; correspondence with Lord Clark, 1933-1946, 1948-1953, Tate Gallery Archive, Ref. TGA 8812 NRA 32463 Clark, and letters (18) to Margaret Nash, 1947-1953, Ref. 7050.3131-72, and letters to Lady Norton, 1957-1969, Ref. TGA 9113 NRA 38816 Norton, and correspondence relating to Unit One, 1933-1935, Ref. TGA 9120 NRA 38813 Coates; letters (66) to E. Finlay, 1948-1968, Victoria and Albert Museum, National Art Library, Ref. NRA 13466 V and A Museum; and correspondence with James Hanley, 1936-1938, Liverpool Record Office, Ref. 920HAN NRA 16664 Hanley.

Corporate Names