The Bodleian Library

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The Bodleian Library


NameThe Bodleian Library
DescriptionThe Bodleian Library collections include the H.J.R. Murray Papers and the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera (which in our site has a separate Collection entry). More detailed information on the games content of The Bodleian, and specifically the John Johnson Collection, can be seen in a fuller note by clicking on The Bodleian Library in the Name column here. The recent additions mean that the Bodleian is probably now one of the nation's largest archives of British printed games from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Collection TypeLibrary
Main WebsiteThe Bodleian
Other WebsiteDigital Bodleian
Examples in GARD14 Examples
The Bodleian holds several repositories of games, not all of which are immediately apparent. Some are shown below. Most should be viewable by appointment. Some items have been digitised and are available online namely "Writing Blanks, Board Games, and Other Educational Games of the 18th and 19th centuries from the John Johnson and Harding Collections". (The Harding is mainly music based material). It also holds, now within the John Johnson Collection, rules of games which were deposited at the time of Copyright. An exhibition "Children's Games and Pastimes" was held from Nov 2005 to April 2006 showing items from the John Johnson, Opie and Harding collections. " The H.J.R. Murray Papers. Harold James R Murray (d1955), author of History of chess (1913), bequeathed a collection of books on chess, plus newspaper cuttings, book catalogues, prospectuses of books etc. The papers were given to the Library with a collection of printed books and Oriental manuscripts in 1955. The John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera. The John Johnson Collection is one of the most important collections of printed ephemera in the world. It was assembled by John de Monins Johnson between c.1923 and 1956 and was housed at the Oxford University Press (where it was called The Constance Meade Collection of Ephemeral Printing) until its transfer to the Bodleian Library in 1968. Johnson collected retrospectively, establishing 1939 as his terminus ante quem (although there are exceptions). While the majority of material dates from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, there is ephemera dating back to 1508. There are over 1 million items in the original collection but additions have been made since. The material is principally British. Mary Gardiner Collection of Happy Families and other card games. Mary Gardiner, a schoolteacher from Northleach, came to the John Johnson Collection in search of Happy Families card games and, finding only one or two packs new to her, bequeathed her collection to the John Johnson Collection in 2002. The Jessel Collection of Playing Card Literature. Frederic Henry Jessel (d. 1934), author of "A bibliography of works in English on playing cards and gaming" (1905), bequeathed, in 1934, to the Bodleian c 3,400 vols relating to the history and use of playing cards, card games, games of chance, gaming at casinos, fortune-telling by cards, and card-tricks. They include satires and tracts on the social aspects of gaming; novels, poems and plays in which card-playing figures; Acts of Parliament directed towards the control of gaming and lotteries, extracts from periodicals, newspaper cuttings, packs of cards etc. There are some practically complete sets of editions of some of the most important works on the subject, both English and foreign. The Opie Collection of Books for children. A collection of works written or published for children, or related thereto, mainly British, totalling c. 20,000 items, put together from the mid 1940s to the early 1980s as a private research resource by Iona (1923- ) and Peter Mason (1918-1982) Opie. Accompanying the collection are records of the books: catalogue cards, accession diaries, notes loosely inserted into books, etc. Acquired by the Bodleian in 1988 after a public appeal, Iona Opie donating half the value of the collection. The Opies also collected some important children's games. A good selection can be seen in "Treasures of Childhood", Pavilion Books Ltd and U.S. Edition by Arcade Publishing Inc 1989/90. The Ballam Collection . The part of this collection now added to John Johnson Collection has a separate Collection entry (mainly printed games, dissected puzzles and educational toys). (Another part has an entry in Private Collections in this database). The Donald Welsh Collection. A very large collection of card games and packs of playing cards and related literature collected by the late Donald Welsh who effectively ran the English Playing Card Society (EPCS) for many years.


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