Something of a milestone in the cataloguing process has been reached today; the material has now been placed physically into the intellectual system of arrangement outlined in the post of 26 May. So far rearrangement has reached what is generally known as ‘item’ level (i.e. where an ‘item’ refers to a volume or bundle that will be treated as one discrete object). A decision will need to be made at a later date if any of the bundles of correspondence and papers merit rearrangement at ‘piece level’ or whether their original order should be maintained.
Some basic repackaging to aid the preservation of the material has also begun. In particular this means replacing metal items like paperclips, staples and treasury tags with brass paperclips; and plastic items like document wallets and polythene bags with folders made from acid free card. With this collection this is largely a precautionary measure as the paperclips found so far have not been exposed to the kind of atmospheric conditions that induces rust. In any case the temperature and humidity controlled stacks which the material will be kept in here at Cambridge University Library will inhibit further corrosion.
Cataloguing the collection began at the beginning of May. The material was purchased in December from the executors of George Sassoon, the only child of Siegfried Sassoon, via Sotheby’s auctioneers. The sale inventory compiled by Sotheby’s has provided enough detail to allow the identification of the main groups, or in archival jargon ‘series’, into which descriptions of the collection will be arranged. Ideally the archivist aims to preserve as much of the ‘natural’ or ‘original order’ of the material as possible whilst also creating a logical structure of ‘categories’ that allows the researcher to readily identify material of relevance to their work.
So far the following series and sub-series have been identified:
- Sporting notebooks
- Commonplace books
- Legal and accounts
- Poetry notebooks
- Material relating to prose works:
- ‘The Old Century’
- ‘The Weald of Youth’
- ‘Siegfried’s Journey’
- Critical writings
- Printed matter
- Papers of other individuals:
- Katherine Gatty
- The Gatty family
- Hester Sassoon
- Rupert Hart-Davis
- Dom Wulstan Phillipson
- George Baker
Once this structure is a little clearer more detailed descriptions of the series (such as covering dates) will begin to appear under the classmark MS Add.9852 amongst the Cambridge University Library Department of Manuscript’s other catalogues displayed online at:
David Bamber (left) and Roger McGough during the recording of 'Poetry Please' in the University Library.
A team from BBC Radio 4’s ‘Poetry Please’ visited the Library in April to record two programmes based on our holdings of manuscript poetry.
The second of these programmes, due to be broadcast on Sunday 6 June at 16.30 (and repeated at 23.30 on Saturday 12 June), focusses exclusively on the writings of Siegfried Sassoon, as represented in the Sassoon manuscript collections here.
The presenter, poet Roger McGough, was shown treasures from our recently-acquired archive of Sassoon’s papers, MS Add. 9852, together with items from Sassoon collections accessioned in earlier years. Actor David Bamber (whose television roles include Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice and Cicero in Rome) voiced a selection of Sassoon’s poems, as well as the ‘Soldier’s declaration’, Sassoon’s 1917 statement protesting against the continuation of the First World War.
The recording took place in the Library’s Sir Geoffrey Keynes Room, a fitting venue given Keynes’s close links with Sassoon and involvement with the publication of many of his small press poetry editions, from Vigils onwards.
The illustration in the banner at the head of this blog is a detail taken from a tag given to Siegfried Sassoon for his voyage from France to Southampton aboard the Aberdonian on 1-2 August 1916.
Sassoon had gone down with enteritis on 23 July, while his battalion was temporarily withdrawn from the front line of the Battle of the Somme. His case was severe enough to have him despatched to the 1st New Zealand Stationary Hospital in Amiens (the scene of his poem ‘Died of Wounds’), and from there to the No. 2 Red Cross Hospital in Rouen. In the Memoirs of an Infantry Officer Sassoon (in the character of his alter ego George Sherston) recorded how, at the Rouen hospital, a doctor had spotted his name in a list of officers recently awarded the Military Cross, and that this lucky chance had ‘wangled’ him his evacuation back to England — thereby saving him from the hazards of further involvement in the Somme campaign.
The tag was discovered folded in a pocket inside the cover of Sassoon’s diary for the period.
Welcome to the Sassoon Project blog. Over the next few months we’ll be using this site to give updates on the progress of cataloguing the Library’s collections of Siegfried Sassoon’s papers, and news of other events such as exhibitions and talks.
A first date for your diary is Wednesday 21 July 2010, when the Library’s exhibition, ‘Dream Voices: Siegfried Sassoon, Memory and War’ will open to the public. See <http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/exhibitions/Sassoon/index.html> for details.