Saturday, May 12, 2012

Collector Profile John Blatchly

John Blatchly has written some excellent  reference books .
He was recently elected president of The Bookplate Society so I am delighted to feature his collector profile.

                                                   DR JOHN BLATCHLY MBE FSA

My own labels:

My great-great-grandfather's trade card adapted for my use.

A calligraphic label from the Kindersley workshop in Cambridge

A wood-engraved rebus plate engraved for me by John Craig, grandson of Edward Gordon Craig in 2007.
It reads: J B[latch]ly

This plate is for humorous books,

The Revd Dr William Stukeley of Stamford Lincs, was the founder secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1717. As no other copy of this armorial is known this is my best bookplate

Many ex-libris enthusiasts assemble their gatherings somewhat indiscriminately, whereas in the person of Dr John Blatchly, of Ipswich in Suffolk, you find a methodical student of British bookplates par excellence. His main collection is of East Anglian ex-libris, another being of labels of all periods and places. John's interest in bookplates is scholarly, so for him the thrill of the chase lies not so much in building a large collection but in researching and recording details of the owners and engravers of bookplates, principally those who lived and worked in East Anglia, comprising the three English counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

If you ask what drew John Blatchly into the study of bookplates, he will explain that as headmaster of Ipswich School he had (like most of his predecessors since 1614) taken charge of the ancient Town Library of Ipswich, where he found that many early volumes contained printed gift labels, some dated.  Thus in 1984 he approached the late Brian North Lee for help. Eight years earlier, Brian's Early Printed Book Labels had appeared (rather dry for some readers, but considered by Brian his best piece of research) without mention of these hidden labels (since none had strayed from this closed collection). It led in 1991 to an invitation by Brian (then editor of The Bookplate Journal) for John to write about the armorial engraved in 1748 for the same Ipswich Library. Later, for the years 1994-98, when Brian produced the March journal, John edited the September issue, and he remains a frequent and generous contributor.

In addition to his many articles John has also authored four books issued to members of The Bookplate Society. His book on Suffolk and Norfolk ex-libris was published by Society in 2000, followed in 2008 by its companion piece on East Anglian bookplates. His two other members' books were on the bookplate work of 20th century artists Edward Gordon Craig and George Wolfe Plank (who was born American, but in 1916 moved to England). With this wealth of bookplate literature to his credit, we shall no doubt read more from his pen.

Lest you should imagine that John’s sole focus is bookplates, let something be added about his remarkably wide range of interests. It may perhaps come as a surprise that as an undergraduate at Cambridge in the early 1950s he read Natural Sciences, and his PhD in 1965 was for research in Organic Chemistry. Having retired as headmaster in 1993, he was made LittD honoris causa for services to education at the University of East Anglia, where for six years he chaired the Centre for East Anglian Studies committee. He led teams to inspect 20 independent schools over the next seven years. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, is still archivist and museum curator at Ipswich School and is chairman of the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust and of the Suffolk Records Society. He worked with the Heritage Lottery Fund in the East of England for five years and was made MBE for services to heritage. Just recently he has been made a Senior Visiting Fellow in History in the School of Arts and Humanities of University Campus Suffolk. His numerous other non-bookplate books have centred on local history, he writes a weekly piece for his local paper, he gives talks to schools and associations, he has appeared on radio and TV discussing his investigation of the life of Cardinal Wolsey, and his impressive tally of articles contributed to the Dictionary of National Biography exceeds fifty. Here is a man, 80 later this year, whose energy and productivity sets a benchmark so high that most of us will not attain it. Elected this year in succession to Jim Wilson , he makes a worthy new president of The Bookplate Society.

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