This month's post is over on "Beckett, Books and Biscuits", the blog for Special Collections at the University of Reading. I've been spending some time diving into a wonderful archive held there, the papers of Adam & Charles Black, publishers. A. & C. Black (for short) published both fiction and non-fiction, but I'm particularly interested in their non-fiction publishing efforts. Among this group can be counted a number of popular archaeology books written by Rev. James Baikie, and illustrated by his wife Constance Newman (Turner-Smith) Baikie.
I've written about one of Baikie's books – Wonder Tales of the Ancient World – here already. But this new research has helped contextualise both Baikies' work significantly. Although he wasn't an archaeologist, as I noted in Archaeologists in Print James Baikie was a prolific author of popular archaeology books – a pre-WW2 Leonard Cottrell – or, to use a more contemporary example, Tony Robinson. Constance Baikie, an unsung illustrator today, produced in my opinion brilliant work complementing and visually enhancing her husband's text. This took not just skill, but genius. I'm happy to say that A. & C. Black recognised her impact, crediting and paying her accordingly.
There's a lot more to the A. & C. Black collection than just information on James and Constance Baikie. It's full of authors and illustrators whose work is today almost totally unknown, but there are also more famous names, as you'll see. The Indexes to the "Letters Out" books – my main source for the post – are fascinating. I found myself wondering about the lives of those listed. Hopefully, more of them will be revealed.
You can read "Recovering Publishing Histories: The Adam and Charles Black Letterbooks" here.