Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Foraging through Fickling’s Archive Part 1


This has been an extraordinarily busy year for our collections team with the arrival of so many new collections. We are very pleased that among the new arrivals is the David Fickling collection. 

Over the next few days we'll be posting the archival adventures of our fantastic volunteer Grace.  She was one of the first to get to know David Fickling's collection.  Grace is something of a children's literature expert after completing her MLitt in Children's Literature so it seemed fitting that she should work on a collection that represents such a wide range of children's book titles. Her insight and perspective into our collections has been invaluable and we are very thankful for the work that Grace has done for us.  We wish her the best of luck in her new job, spreading the love of children’s books as a teacher.  

Part 1

Today I was delving deep into the higgledy-piggledy piles of David Fickling’s archive, which had just arrived in the collection department, essentially looking for treasure. David Fickling, for those who don’t know, is a children’s editor and publisher. He has worked for a wide range of publishers including Oxford University Press and Scholastic, subsequently setting up David Fickling Books as an imprint under Random House, before finally becoming an independent publisher. He’s published authors such as Linda Newbery, John Boyne and Philip Pullman – big names, so you can see why I was intrigued by the pile of papers before me.



To be honest though, I was equally intrigued by the process the pieces in the archive had to go through before they arrived mounted and framed perfectly preserved on Seven Stories’ exhibition walls. They had arrived in the past few days in plastic storage boxes, and we knew there would be some valuable stuff in there, but I was the lucky person who was allowed to explore. I literally had to find out what was in there, and sort, the boxes so that the team knew what they were dealing with. Someone once mentioned to me that often archives have a backlog of work that is measured in years and after seeing this one collection I can see why. The boxes held drafts and drafts of work hoping to be published. For example, Varjak Paw The Outlaw by SF Said had over 8 drafts, all slightly different, many with yellow sticky notes all over with edits, all of which will have to be stored and preserved carefully. The sorting out was just the start.

I am very interested, as a researcher of children’s literature, in how the author and the editor work together to be published. I want to know what children are allowed to read, what is deemed acceptable, who is more adventurous - the author or the editor? Consequently, the yellow sticky notes fascinate me!

Many of the typescript drafts have post-it note comments from editors.  This is a typescript of John Dickinson's A Cup of the World (David Fickling Books, 2004). The post-its will all be removed and flattened in melinex sleeves for preservation. 

Anyway what did I find…? I found, in amongst one of the preliminary drafts for Tony Mitton’s Wayland and a short story of Jamila Gavin’s, several documents relating to the film The Golden Compass. Aha – pure gold!

- Grace Owens.

Next week is The National Archives Explore your Archive Week.  So come explore our archives and join in the #exploreachives conversation.  Join us on Twitterand Instagram using the handle @7stories and on Facebook by searching for 'Seven Stories, National Centre for Children's Books'.


Seven Stories was able to support the acquisition of David Fickling's archive through support from a Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Collecting Cultures’ grant. This has been awarded to Seven Stories in recognition of the museum’s national role in telling a comprehensive story of modern British children’s literature. For more information on our HLF Collecting Cultures project see: http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/news/latestnews/hlf.




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