Letters to John Derry from Arthur Mee

Scope and Content

The letters cover the period from 1905, when Mee first contacted Derry about writing for his publications, until 1936, not long before Derry's death. Most concern the day-to-day business of the material Derry contributed. Publications mentioned include the Children's Encyclopedia, Children's Newspaper, Arthur Mee's Hero Book, The Children's Bible and The King's England (often referred to by its working title Motherland). There are also letters which record in more depth Mee's thoughts and opinions, not only about his work but also about current affairs. The collection also includes some letters written by staff working on Arthur Mee publications, in particular Stella Hancock and the art editor Hugo Tyerman.

Administrative / Biographical History

Arthur Mee (1875-1943) was born in Stapleford, Nottinghamshire. He entered the world of journalism at sixteen, as an apprentice to the Nottingham Daily Express and became editor of the subordinate paper, the Nottingham Evening Post, at twenty. From 1896, he began to write articles for the London daily press. The following year he moved to London and held a series of journalistic and editorial posts before being asked by Harmsworth in 1905 to take on the task of their proposed Self-Educator serial publication. This ultimately led to the production of Mee's own concept of the Children's Encyclopedia, first published 1908-1910, with a new edition 1922-1925. Mee's subsequent work concentrated on his values of the Christian ethic, patriotism, faith in the British Empire, and the importance of popular education. The Children's Newspaper, first issued as a weekly in March 1919, continued until 1965, and he published many books for children, often based on material from the newspaper, or from My Magazine.

John Derry was born near Ashby-de-la-Zouch, May 8 1854. Between 1880 and 1885 he wrote educational and leader articles and then worked as editor of local weekly papers from 1886 to 1890. He became editor of the Nottingham Daily Express, at the time when Arthur Mee was serving his apprenticeship, and remained until 1895, when he became editor and part-proprietor of the Sheffield Daily Independent. On his retirement from this position in 1908 he took up a post on the editorial staff of Amalgamated Press. Until 1934 he combined this with writing for various of Arthur Mee's publications, including the English Literature articles for the Children's Encyclopedia. He was associated with the educational and political life of Sheffield for many years, as an Alderman and member of several local committees and twice stood as parliamentary candidate for Eccleshall. He died in 1937.


Letters are arranged in date order. File 1 contains letters written between 1905 and 1927, and File 2 from 1928 to 1936. A third file contains partial or undated material.

Access Information

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check http://www.reading.ac.uk/special-collections/using/sc-using.asp for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the Library in 1993 from Mayfly Ephemera & Books, London.


Description prepared by Bridget Andrews.

Biographical source for Arthur Mee: Child of wonder by Sir John Hammerton (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1946)

Other Finding Aids

Handlist of the dated letters.

Related Material

The Library also holds correspondence of Arthur Mee in the collections from the publishers Chatto & Windus, and George Allen & Unwin.