Back in August 2016 we told you all about the Atkinson notebooks (LIVNP 2012.06.216-232) – 17 small hard backed books containing drawings and information on pipes from various parts of the country, produced by one of the leading lights in clay pipe research, David Atkinson .
Over the next few days, we hope to be uploading the last of these notebooks as PDFs so that they will be available to researchers. These really are a mine of information with details of bowl forms and marks as well as possible attributions for the pipes themselves.
What wasn’t apparent to us at the Archive, when we first started scanning these notebooks, was how close the collaboration had been between David Atkinson and the other leading light in pipe research, Adrian Oswald . We were aware that these two titans of the clay pipe world had regularly collaborated with each other but we had not appreciated that these notebooks had clearly been passed between them.
On some of the pages, particularly in the London books, there are annotations in the unmistakable hand writing of Adrian Oswald. Adrian adds comments about the attribution of some of the marks and notes where other examples are known.
We now have instant access to documents and can send and receive messages from the comfort of our own home with just the push of a button, but in the days before the internet the only way information could be exchanged was via the post. It is clear that David sent at least some of his notebooks to Adrian for comment in the same way as he did to one of our Trustees, David Higgins, when he was compiling his PhD thesis on the Broseley pipe industry in Shropshire.
Both David Atkinson and Adrian Oswald were excellent record keepers and both men kept all the letters they were sent. We are lucky enough to now have these letters in our collection, preserving both sides of the conversation. They make for fascinating reading giving us insights into the lives and interests of these two great researchers outside of the world of pipes as well as providing a mine of valuable unpublished information.
It is possible that more connections will come to light as we continue to process the Atkinson Archive, as there are also clear references to the Elkins Collection, another substantial and important group of pipes from London that we now hold. What else will we discover?
Adrian Oswald (1908-2001) was, arguably, one of the founding fathers of post-medieval archaeology in Britain and his early publications not only laid the foundation for modern clay pipe research but also placed the study of pipes firmly at the centre of this new discipline.
In 1938 Adrian, who had studied history at Oxford, became archaeological assistant for the City of London’s Guildhall Museum. He was one of the first to recognise the significance of the capital’s post-medieval archaeology. In a radio broadcast in 1950 he said:
“Early one autumn morning in 1947 I stood on a bombed site at Cripplegate in the City of London and saw our workmen, excavating on the site of the ancient house of Neville’s Inn, thrown out from cess pits of the time of the Great Fire, quantities of clay tobacco pipes with pottery of all kinds. So began my curiosity in this subject. Such was the humble beginning of my researches and now, three years later, my house has clay tobacco pipes dotted about all over the place, my letters on the subject go to all parts of the world and piles of manuscripts begin to paint the picture an old, almost forgotten industry”.
He also said:
“a clay pipe can talk confidentially to me and can nearly always tell me when it was made, often where it was made and sometimes who made it”.
Using his wide knowledge of post-medieval artefacts Adrian used stratigraphic groups and sequences to establish reliable typologies for pipe bowls. His interests extended to include the social and economic background to the industry.
Following his retirement in 1964 he brought together his wealth of knowledge in Clay Pipes for the Archaeologist (BAR, British Series No. 14, Oxford, 1975), a seminal work which stands to this day as a standard reference work for all those interested in the study of pipes.
One of Adrian’s many research projects was his mark index. This index pulls together all the examples Adrian could find of marked pipes.
The mark index is grouped in a logical way, as is only to be expected of something that Adrian did. It is arranged in alphabetical order by surname and then Christian name (for example AA, BA, CA, DA ….. AB, BB, CB, DB…. Etc.). For each set of initials there is a typed “index” page that gives details of each example such as possible maker, provenance etc. This page is typed on an old fashioned typewriter so Adrian could add more examples as he came across them. There is then a series of drawings of these examples to accompany each “index” page. The sheets of drawings, or tracings are then often either loose drawings that have been stuck to an A4 piece of paper, or a sheet of tracing paper that he could then add to. Each surname initial is bundled together either held together with a paperclip or kept in a plastic packet.
Adrian’s drawings, by his own admission, were not the best, and they were often roughly traced from publications or photographs and were intended to give an indication of the bowl form rather than be an accurate depiction. In 1991 Adrian gave the National Pipe Archive access to his mark index and a copy was made and bound in four volumes for the archive’s use. These were later accessioned with the number LIVNP 1997.08.01-04.
Adrian continued to update his lists and indexes and produced a steady stream of publications until 1997, when failing health forced him to stop. Following his death in 2001 the majority of his books and files were deposited for safekeeping with Richard Le Cheminant in London.
In 2014, following Richard Le Cheminant’s death, Adrian Oswald’s paper archive was transferred to the National Pipe Archive, in accordance with Adrian’s long term wish. We are therefore in the fortunate position of having the original manuscript of the mark index together with all of the updates since 1991 (LIVNP 2014.01.192). These updates include moulded marks, French and Dutch marks as well as groups of pipes that fall into broad types such as “heads”, “transport”, “advertising”, “floral” and “societies” etc.
As part of the present Historic England funded project we made a start on digitising this mark index. To date we have scanned the first part of the alphabetical list – A to F – which we hope to get live on the website within the next few days. Time permitting, and within the confines of the current project, we are hopeful that we will be able to not only digitise more of the mark index, but also some of Adrian’s other invaluable resources. So watch this space!
Hello there! My name is Daniel. I am an Etruscan archaeologist. Yet, on Wednesday of every week I work at the National Pipe Archive digitising all sorts of pipe related documentation. I have, so far, scanned my way through a small sample of David Atkinson’s notebooks (those discussed below) and A through to F of Adrian Oswald’s pipe makers mark index (more coming soon). The collections of the National Pipe Archive to be digitised are as varied as they are vast. I certainly have a lot to be getting on with…
At the outset I envisioned I was in for a tedious (although undoubtedly worthwhile) task. Yet, as I progressed it became more and more difficult not to become engrossed in the material I was scanning. Surprisingly, the task was more absorbing than tedious. The character and charm of every document (be it notes, correspondence, or drawings) emerges from their meticulous detail and careful arrangement. I am consistently impressed by the level of thought, commitment, and time expended by their authors to create such useful resources.
The scanning can be a challenge (in more ways than one) but it is gratifying to be a part of the project that aims to facilitate improved access to so impressive an archive. The knowledge of the archive is now not only being more efficiently preserved, but also more efficiently opened to those who would put such knowledge to good use. I think those who so thoroughly devoted themselves to their study of pipes would be immensely gratified to see their work shared so widely. To see it continue to make an impact. To see it function as a key component of the National Pipe Archive. To see it digitised.
The scanning is absorbing because each scanned item more easily shares another amazing resource.