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Walter Strachan Collection

Date range: 1920s–2007.

Walter John Strachan (1903–94) was an inspirational schoolteacher at Bishop’s Stortford College, Hertfordshire, who had a parallel career as a poet, French translator, critic and connoisseur.

Strachan began to write poetry in the early 1940s and issued two full-length collections, Moments of Time (1947) and The Season’s Pause (1950).

He enjoyed a number of long-term literary friendships, notably with Sylvia Townsend Warner, Cecily Mackworth and Stevie Smith. Strachan had a life-long fascination with French literature and culture and, with the encouragement of Nancy Cunard, in the late forties he began a series of important translations of modern French poetry. His most significant contribution in this field, Apollinaire to Aragon, was published by Methuen in 1948.

Strachan’s interest in art developed throughout the thirties and forties. He collected French livres d’artistes with a passion, becoming firm friends with many of the artists and he wrote the definitive study of this subject, The Artist and the Book in France (1969). Strachan also wrote and lectured extensively on modern sculpture, especially the work of his long-time friend Henry Moore.

The Walter Strachan Collection comprises a large body of material generated and accumulated by Strachan in the course of his work as a writer, translator, editor, art critic and connoisseur.

There are several thousand items of correspondence with a wide range of sculptors, painters, engravers, printmakers, illustrators, typographers, printers, makers of fine books, other collectors, representatives of galleries and museums, writers, editors and publishers in Britain, France, Italy and the United States.

There are significant exchanges of correspondence with the sculptors Kenneth Armitage, Ralph Brown, Elisabeth Frink, André Lhote, Henry Moore and Lucile Passavant, artists such as Percy Horton and Geoffrey Rhoades, and writers including Vera Cacciatore, Nancy Cunard, Julien Gracq and Cecily Mackworth.

Strachan’s son Geoffrey augmented the archive by acquiring some of the original letters his father sent to Percy Horton, Peter Whyte and Timothy Rogers. The correspondence illustrates well the overlapping friendships and connections that Strachan developed over his lifetime among a wide community of artists and writers in Britain and abroad.

The collection also includes an extensive body of Strachan's own publications, in every field of his activity, and a mass of material accumulated by him in the course of his research.

It is a major resource for studies of twentieth-century art and literature in Britain and France, translation studies, and the histories of art criticism, collecting, and the livre d’artiste.1

1Strachan made gifts or bequests of material to several other institutions, including the Taylor Institute Library at the University of Oxford, the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and Dorset County Museum.

Finding aids

Catalogue available online via ELGAR.

Location

The John Rylands Library

Using the reading rooms in the John Rylands Library

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