W. G. Collingwood archive

Watercolour portrait of Mrs Beever, by William Gershom Collingwood (1854-1932)Watercolour portrait of Mrs Beever, by William Gershom Collingwood (1854-1932)
Watercolour portrait of Mrs Beever, by William Gershom Collingwood (1854-1932)

Papers and artworks belonging to three generations of the Collingwood family.

William Gershom Collingwood (1854-1932), a professional artist and professor of fine arts at the University of Reading, was perhaps best known for his friendship with John Ruskin (1819-1900). The archive contains over 200 letters from Ruskin, as well as sketchbooks and artworks belonging to both men. W. G. Collingwood published a number of books, and was actively involved with the Lake District Artists Society. The archive contains Collingwood’s correspondence, notebooks, drafts, diaries, and hand-drawn maps. Arthur Ransome (1884-1967) was a close family friend, who based his book Swallows and Amazons on his experiences of sailing with the Collingwood’s grandchildren. His wife, Edith Mary Isaac (1857-1928), was a respected artist in her own right, specializing in miniaturist paintings. Her sketchbooks, and 30 diaries are held in the archive, including those kept in the First World War years. It also contains c. 700 letters to her vast network of correspondents.

Robin George Collingwood (1889-1943), the son of William and Edith, is a celebrated historian and philosopher, and is also known for his work in the field of archaeology. Cardiff University is home to the British Idealism and Collingwood Centre, a centre dedicated in part to R. G. Collingwood's research contributions and writings. The archive contains his letters and diaries, as well as the sketchbooks and letters of his sister, Dora Collingwood (1886-1964). Like her parents, she was also a gifted painter and studied art in Paris. She married Ernest Altounyan and lived in a number of locations, including Aleppo during the First World War. Her sister Barbara Collingwood (1887-1961) was a respected sculptor, and her sketchbooks, 50 diaries and c. 200 letters are held in the archive. She married Major Oscar Theodor Gnosspelius (1878-1953), a civil-engineer who built monoplanes and conducted early aeronautic experiments, many of which are documented in his notebooks and photo albums. They had a daughter, Janet Gnosspelius (1927-2010), an architect and historian, whom we have to thank for care and collection of her family's archive. Her sketchbooks, 50 diaries, c. 200 letters, and extensive family history research are held.

Ruskin and Ransome rediscovered – a literary, philosophical, and artistic portrait from the Lake District

The Collingwood archive is currently in the process of being catalogued. National Archives’ Cataloguing Grants Programme - funded through the generous support of many international partners - awarded Cardiff University £38,601 to undertake this work.

The funding will also make parts of the archive – which is valued at £2,250,000 - digitally accessible to broad audiences across the arts, socials sciences and natural sciences.

The collection of more than 60 boxes comprises a treasure trove of unique materials that have been largely inaccessible to the public. The collection includes rare signed books dating from the sixteenth century, thousands of postcards, legal documents, photographs, sketches, paintings, thousands of letters dating from the eighteenth century, and diaries spanning three centuries. The University was one of eight successful applicants for the highly competitive funding, and received the largest grant awarded by the programme in 2016.

For more information on the collection, please contact Project Archivist, Judith Dray.

About this collection

Collection type: Archive

Dates: 19 century, Early 20 century, Late 20 century

Size: 20 linear metres

Formats: Archives

Subjects: Literature and journalism, Art and music, Medicine and science, History, Society and law

Special Collections and Archives team

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