66 – 70: Print and Paper

There are so many items which could be selected for this section on print and paper. Marlborough has produced many great writers, and the College is blessed with libraries containing over 40,000 volumes. Books can be found everywhere throughout the school in a wide variety of locations. The most extraordinary place is the book stack in the architect Sir Aston Webb’s great bridge over the Bath Road, which used to connect Field House (now Morris) to North Block. Very few drivers will be aware that they are passing beneath so many printed pages. In addition to the Memorial Library, there are numerous splendid departmental and house libraries, and there is a very fine collection of rare books, currently looked after by Dr Simon McKeown. His Rare Books at Marlborough: An A to Z describes this important library of almost 3000 volumes from across seven centuries, preserved in temperature-controlled and light-sensitive conditions. A group of pupils assist in the work of caring for this important part of the College’s heritage. For years the College had its own press, which was founded in 1934 by Richard Russell and operated until the early 1990s. The press was notable for some fine pieces of printing and gave hundreds of Marlburians an insight into this civilising craft. It launched numerous pupils into careers in printing, publishing and advertising. For a while, it was a distinguished small commercial business and 50 years after the press was established it was celebrated in a limited edition entitled A History of the Marlborough College Press 1934 – 1984.

Mention should be made of the Vicar’s Library of St Mary’s, Marlborough which was put together by William White, Master of Magdalen College School between 1632 and 1648 and later Rector of Pusey and of Appleton. He bequeathed it to the Mayor and Corporation of Marlborough in trust for the use of the Vicar of St. Mary’s. The collection of over 600 volumes contained 237 items printed in Britain before 1641, of which 8 are the only known copies and another 45 are rare. Attempts by the vicar (1898) and the trustees (1912) were made to dispose of the library, but somehow it was all forgotten about until 1942. Then, when a wartime ‘salvage drive’ commenced, the library was nearly destroyed. Fortunately, the great ‘G’ Kempson (CR 1926 – 67) raised the alarm and experts were called in. It was handed over on permanent loan to the College which, in 1985, gave it to the Bodleian Library in Oxford where its conservation could be ensured. The College’s role in saving this treasure should be more widely known.

There are many other paper items in the College’s possession which could be mentioned. The schools growing art collection has many fine works on paper, and the archives contain a remarkable collection of documents, letters and plans for buildings, built and unbuilt. The archival collection would have been more impressive still if in a wartime winter some evacuee members of the City of London School had not made a fire using some valuable documents as fuel. Of special note is the final paper object described here: one that has helped to shape the Marlborough community since its early days.

66. The Marlborough Struwwelpeter

Published in 1908, this is a clever parody of the children’s book by Heinrich Hoffman (1845). The work depicts sinful uniformed Marlburians of various types (such as the scholar, the sportsman, the bully, the smoker) and the terrible fate which befalls them. The work also made fun of some beaks, thinly disguised. The author was Arthur Williams (B2 1906-1909), a College Prefect. He was one of the four editors appointed to supervise The Marlburian in 1908/9. The other three were John Bell (to whom the Struwwelpeter was dedicated), Ronald Lias and George Turner. Bell went on to become High Master of St Paul’s and Headmaster of Cheltenham. Lias became Head of Victoria College, Alexandria. Turner became Senior Prefect and Master of Marlborough (1926-39). Williams became a distinguished Indian civil servant. Williams and Bell shared a study in Alley Block (now New Court) and read Livy and Thucydides together in the Lent term of 1908, about the time the Struwwelpeter
would have been written. In July 1908 The Marlburian mentioned that 440 people had volunteered to contribute to the production costs. A copy of this work exists in the Struwwelpeter Museum in Frankfurt-am-Main.

The figures in the stories illustrate interesting details about the uniform of the time. The cover depicts a boy wearing the black peaked cap which had been introduced in the 1860s by the Master, George Granville Bradley, to achieve conformity with headwear, and he carries a Marlborough ‘kish’, a form of cushion, black on one side and coloured on the other, which could be used both for sitting on and for carrying books.

67. The Wedgwood Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám is the title Edward FitzGerald gave to his 1859 translation from Persian to English of a selection of quatrains (rubāʿiyāt) attributed to Omar Khayyam (1048–1131), ‘the Astronomer-Poet of Persia’. By the 1880s the book was well-known throughout the English-speaking world and a fin de siècle cult of Omar Khayyám emerged.

The copy of this work in Marlborough’s rare books collection is a unique work, made in 1907 by the designer Edward Johnston for Allen Wedgwood (CO 1907-11), who was killed at Gallipoli in 1915. His mother gave the Wedgwood playing fields and the stone there (Object 15) in his memory.  She also gave the College this remarkable book.

Johnston designed the roundel symbol of the London Underground and the lettering used throughout this network. He influenced a generation of English typographers and has been credited with reviving the art of modern penmanship and lettering.  Marlborough’s Rubáiyát is an exquisite example of his work. It took him eleven days to make in his home at Hammersmith Terrace.  Dr Simon McKeown has observed that the medium was Indian ink and vermilion calligraphed by turkey quill on vellum. The yapp covers are goat skin and the ties Italian silk. 

Mary Wedgwood tended to give Allen beautiful books for his birthday and for Christmas. These were mostly fine small press books and several of them are in the College’s rare books collection. The splendid Johnston commission was for Allen’s Christmas present in 1907. Mary was on friendly terms with several members of the remarkable Hammersmith Arts & Craft set, including Emery Walker who was a neighbour of Johnston’s.

The Wedgwood Herbarium which started as a joint venture between mother and son will be discussed in a later section, together with the manuscript catalogue.

68. The Books of Remembrance in the Memorial Hall

The most precious volumes to be found in the school are the Books of Remembrance in the Memorial Hall which record the lives of those who fell in the service of their country.  To commemorate the 749 Old Marlburians killed in the First World War, beautiful books were placed in the western kiosk of the Memorial Hall.

The enormous task of compiling and editing these books was overseen by Freke Dalgleish Williams (C3 1871-1879), a partner of Fladgate & Coy, solicitors to the College since it was founded in 1843. The fine case which contains the books was designed by the architect of the Memorial Hall, William Newton (see Object 3).

They are used each year in the Remembrance Sunday service in Chapel, and Marlburians walk close by them each time they enter or leave the Hall by this entrance.


69. The Heretick

In March 1924, Matthew Wordsworth (B2 1920-24), the son of the former President of Council, John, Bishop of Salisbury (1843-1911), suggested publishing a provocative magazine. In Anthony Blunt’s words, it was intended ‘to express our disapproval of the Establishment generally, of the more out of date and pedantic masters, of all forms of organised sport, of the Officers Training Corps and of all the other features that we hated in school life, not so much the physical discomforts – they were almost taken for granted – but, as you might say, the intellectual discomforts of the school’.

The cover of the first issue showed a boy with a hockey stick being teased by aesthetes in the form of pipe playing fauns, and the magazine’s motto was ‘Upon Philistia will I triumph’.  Controversial articles by Anthony Blunt, John Betjeman and Louis MacNeice and others ensured that only one other issue was produced, but the magazine reflected a tide that was turning in the public-school world, as pupils reacted against the legacy of the Victorian and Edwardian ages.  It was also an indicator of the extraordinary intellectual brilliance which existed in the College at this time.

70. Marlborough College’s Royal Charter

To celebrate the Coronation of King Charles III in 2023, a range of material celebrating Marlborough’s royal connections since the Middle Ages was collated on the College’s website. Gráinne Lenehan, the College’s archivist, wrote about the College’s Royal Charter and its historical context, and explained how royal charters were granted by the Sovereign on the advice of the Privy Council between the 13th and 19th centuries.

‘Marlborough School for the Sons of Clergy and Others’ was given a charter on 21st August 1845 by Queen Victoria. The petitioners who applied to the Privy Council for the Charter on behalf of the school were William Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury, John Scott, 2nd Earl of Eldon and Edward Denison, Bishop of Salisbury.  The Charter allowed the school to change its name to Marlborough College and explained the structure of Governance of the College. It covered matters such as the purchasing of land, the buildings of the College, the proportion of pupils being sons of clergy and the fee structure. It stated that the petitioners believed that the success of the school would be

sooner attained if they were protected by our Royal sanction by means of a Royal Charter of Incorporation for the purpose of reconstituting them for Incorporation for more effectually carrying on and conducting the said undertaking under such regulations as to Us might seem right and expedient. 

Now know ye that we, taking the promises into our Royal Consideration of our especial grace, certain knowledge and more motions …..do grant reconstitute and appoint as follows, that is to say for the purpose of establishing, carrying on and maintaining a College to be called ‘Marlborough College’ a corporation consisting of Perpetual Governors and Life Governors shall be and is hereby founded and reconstituted.

As bye laws relating to some areas changed supplementary Royal Charters were issued in 1958 and 1975.

The original charter document, now very frail, is a beautiful work which marks an important moment in the school’s history. Of the many schools founded in Queen Victoria’s reign, Wellington, Haileybury, Clifton, Rossall and Radley were the only comparable institutions to be given a Royal Charter.