Blackwell’s at Oxford, 1950 by Muirhead Bone

Thanks to Stephen Goranson for sending a reference to Arthur L.P. Norrington, Blackwell’s 1879-1979: The History of a Family Firm (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983), which provides identifications of several of the figures in the Muirhead Bone pastel of Blackwell’s book shop from 1950 that I wrote about in an earlier post. I had ventured an identification of the papyrologist Colin H. Roberts. Norrington identifies several of the figures with reference to a quotation by Basil Blackwell (1889-1984), a.k.a. “The Gaffer,” son of the founder of Blackwell’s, and chairman of Blackwell’s for forty-five years.

Image source: Arthur L.P. Norrington, Blackwell’s 1879-1979: The History of a Family Firm (reprint; Oxford: Blackwell, 1985), page 122.

“The Gaffer’s key to Muirhead Bone’s drawing on facing page.
On the right is the Revd. Colin Stephenson, Vicar of St. Mary Magdalen and later Chaplain of the Slipper Chapel at Walsingham. Beyond him Colin Roberts, Secretary of the Delegates, J.D. Mabbott, President of St. John’s, and the fine figure in the centre of Professor Hugh Last, Principal of Brasenose. (G. N. Clark originally posed for this position, but was dismissed by Bone as not being of sufficient height and dignity, and Last was sent for). Seated on the left is an an undergraduate … D.L. Edwards of Magdalen. Behind him is Professor Garrod, my Mods tutor, of Merton, and in the far distance Enid Starkie (in all the colors of the Rimbaud!–a witticism attributed to me but above my blood. I tackled Bowra on this head, but he denied it). At the foot of the staircase, seen in profile, is son Richard; coming down the staircase–myself.”

So, the people identified in the picture are:

John Colin Stephenson (d. 1973) [[20 June 2022: See comment by Llewelyn Morgan below]]
Colin Roberts (1909-1990)
John David Mabbott (1898-1988)
Hugh M. Last (1894-1957)
David L. Edwards (1929-2018)
Heathcote William Garrodd (1878-1960)
Enid Mary Starkie (1897-1970)
Richard Blackwell (1918-1980)
Basil Blackwell (1889-1984)

Norrington adds that Ewart ‘Edgar’ Hines “is the figure behind the serving desk.” Mentioned but not pictured are George N. Clark (1890-1979) and Maurice Bowra (1878-1971).

It is interesting that Last and Roberts are together in the image, as Last appears in the obituary for Roberts in the Proceedings of the British Academy 84 (479-483):

“In H.M. Last he had an ancient history tutor who could be extremely stimulating, and Colin had from boyhood always thought of himself as a historian rather than a pure scholar. It may well have been Last who determined Colin’s choice of career, as he was to do three years later with another young Oxford classic, Eric Turner.”

Thanks again to Stephen for the tip!

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7 Responses to Blackwell’s at Oxford, 1950 by Muirhead Bone

  1. Bruce W Griffin says:

    This is great! Thanks. 🙂

  2. Pingback: C. H. Roberts at Blackwell’s | Variant Readings

  3. judithst0ve says:

    Interesting account. ‘…Colin had from boyhood always thought of himself as a [sic] historian rather than a pure scholar’: hmm, not something we’d tend to write these days, because we wouldn’t think these were even partially exclusive categories. What, then, did the writer mean by ‘pure scholar’ which did not cross over with ‘historian’?

    • I read that phrase as a contrast between philology strictly speaking (textual criticism, exegesis, and translation) and history writing more broadly (incorporating all sorts of evidence–textual, epigraphic, archaeological) to try to tell a richer story. But I could be wrong. There may be a specialized use of these terms among Oxford folks of which I’m not aware.

  4. My friend, who’s the current incumbent at St Mary Magdalen, tells me that Stephenson left Mary Mags for the Anglican shrine at Walsingham: the Slipper Chapel is Roman Catholic. If I understand my friend correctly, BB should have known as much as he, BB, was churchwarden at Mary Mags. Anyhow, the image leaves me generally sad, with its strong complement of Classicists, as the Classics section of Blackwell’s has been radically reduced in the last couple of years. But thank you for this and your other blogs!

  5. Clarification: Basil’s dad, Blackwell 1, was churchwarden at Mary Mags “around 1900”, so Basil can be forgiven.

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