Papers of Harold Osborne (1905-1987), philosopher and civil servant, 1947-1986

Scope and Content

The papers, which are still being processed, run from 1947 to 1986, and feature records from Osborne's time as a diplomat in South America, including official reports from the 1940s and 1950s on various Bolivian towns and cities. The bulk of the collection is, however, much later in date and literary in subject and thus provides very patchy coverage of Osborne's long and distinguished career. It consists mainly of manuscripts of published and unpublished monographs on aesthetics and offprints of journal articles by Osborne. The little correspondence which is present dates mainly from the 1970s and concerns Aesthetics conferences.

Administrative / Biographical History

Harold Osborne was born in 1905, and was educated at Wakefield Grammar School, Yorkshire. He was an undergraduate at Cambridge University, reading classics and philosophy. He served in the Intelligence Service during the Second World War and afterwards was a British civil servant in South America and then in the United Kingdom, becoming Principal Officer at the Board of Trade. While in South America he published two volumes, on Andean Indians, and Bolivia.

Osborne was an influential scholar and editor, and an active author throughout his life. His published output (more than 20 monographs and 50 articles) includes Foundations of the Philosophy of Value (1933), Theory of Beauty (1952), Aesthetics and Criticism (1955), Aesthetics and Art Theory (1968), and The Art of Appreciation (1970). He also edited the Aesthetics volume in the Oxford University Press Readings in Philosophy series, the introduction to which won him recognition for its masterly survey of aesthetic theory. High among his achievements was the founding in 1960 of the British Journal of Aesthetics. An obituary by T. J. Diffey, testifying to Osborne's international reputation, appeared in that journal, vol. 27 (1987) pp 301-06.


An interim arrangement of the papers has been completed, chronologically within form series (research papers, drafts of texts, correspondence, offprints).

Access Information

ACCESS: Access is restricted pending processing and completion of the finding aid.

REPROGRAPHIC: Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on access arrangements and the condition of the documents.

Other Finding Aids

NOTE: Copyright on all Finding Aids belongs to the University of Nottingham.

  • University of Nottingham Library: Draft box listing accessible to staff only pending completion of catalogue.

Conditions Governing Use

COPYRIGHT: Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Keeper of the Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections (email ). The Department will try to assist in identifying copyright owners but the responsibility for copyright clearance before publication ultimately rests with the reader.

LANGUAGE: English.

Custodial History

The papers were given to the University library in 1990, following the settlement of Osborne's estate and through the agency of a local academic.

Geographical Names