C. H. Roberts at Blackwell’s

Colin H. Roberts (1909-1990) will be known to some as the papyrologist who published editions of many important papyri, including early Christian pieces like P.Ryl. Gr. 3 457 (a.k.a. P52) and the Magdalen College fragments of the Gospel of Matthew (P64). To others he will be known as the Secretary to the Delegates (basically the CEO) of Oxford University Press from 1954 to 1974.

His obituary in the Proceedings of the British Academy concludes, as these obituaries often do, with a few words about his physical appearance. That description includes the following interesting note:

“His physique and what it told about his character were well caught…in the well-known Muirhead Bone view of Blackwell’s, in which he is one of the browsing scholars.”

In my first trip to Blackwell’s in several years yesterday, I stumbled across this picture in person for the first time. I noticed it sitting in a somewhat beat-up frame, leaning randomly against one of the walls near a stairwell. I was surprised to see it was in color, as I had only ever seen a black and white reproduction. I’m guessing that Roberts must be the nearest figure facing right on the right side of the picture.

“Blackwell’s, Oxford, 1950” by Muirhead Bone; image April 2021

A comparison with a roughly contemporary picture of Roberts shows some similarities:

Left: C.H. Roberts ca. 1954; image source: Wm. Roger Louis (ed.), The History of Oxford University Press, Volume III: 1896-1970 (Oxford University Press, 2013) p. 131; Right: Detail of Blackwell’s, Oxford, 1950″ by Muirhead Bone

I wonder if the identities of any of the other figures in the picture are known? [[Update 19 June 2022: The identities of several of the people in the picture are revealed here!]]

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4 Responses to C. H. Roberts at Blackwell’s

  1. Vladimir Stissi says:

    The guy in the middle could also be John Beazley the pottery archaeologist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Beazley?

  2. Maybe someone has a partial list, though I have not found such. Someone at Oxford Art and Posters art@blackwell.co.uk may reply if asked?
    For a good full b/w print, in Came to Oxford, by Gertrude Bone, Muirhead’s wife:
    IMO, C.H. Roberts looks a good match. Either C.H. Dodd or John Beazley for the “middle” of the detail excerpt. For the middle of the whole, the woman does not resemble Dorothy Sayers nor Iris Murdock. I don’t find Isaiah Berlin nor JBS Haldane. But Tolkien or CS Lewis?
    The man on the right should be identifiable (by someone) and, except for dark eyebrows, could be Kenneth Clark? He had been associated with Fine Art at the Ashmolean, which held an exhibition of Bone’s drawings in 1944.

  3. Pingback: Blackwell’s at Oxford, 1950 by Muirhead Bone | Variant Readings

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