It was during a casual conversation with David Pearson in 2001 that I first learned about John Morris’s work on armorial bindings. At David’s urging I wrote to John and enquired about the status of his work. John invited me to Edinburgh in 2002 and during our meeting asked me to assist him in gathering data for his armorial catalogue. The first acknowledgment, therefore, is to David Pearson, without whom, it is unlikely I would ever have heard about John Morris’s research. In addition David’s excellent handbook Provenance research in book history (1994) has been a great inspiration.
To David Pearson and to Mirjam Foot, who since John Morris’s death in 2005, have formed an unofficial advisory committee, I owe a special debt of gratitude. Over the years of my involvement they have been steadfast in their support and have offered much sensible and valuable advice.
I am also greatly indebted to David Shaw. When I began my first odyssey around British libraries in 2003, David introduced me to the library and staff at Canterbury Cathedral, one of my first ports of call. The wonderful experience I had at Canterbury still lingers in my memory, and gave me a taste me of the great adventures that lay ahead. David Shaw was also chair of the Publications Committee of the Bibliographical Society at a time when publication of the database by another publisher ran into difficulties. The Bibliographical Society through the offices of David Shaw and Meg Ford came to the rescue by offering to sponsor publication of the database. To the Bibliographical Society, especially the members of the Publications Committee, now chaired by Christine Ferdinand, and which includes David Shaw, Mirjam Foot, and Meg Ford, and once again, to David Pearson in his capacity as President of the Bibliographical Society, my deepest thanks.
A project of this nature relies heavily on the good will and co-operation of a large number of people. To my good fortune I have found these in great abundance. To the multitude of librarians, library assistants, curators, archivists, members of the book trade, and owners of private libraries, without whose help this database would have been impossible, an enormous debt of gratitude is due. In the two hundred plus libraries I have visited over the past eight years, I have received warm hospitality, much kind assistance, and have been treated more as a colleague than a patron. In many instances the usual rules of non-access to the book stacks have been waived to facilitate the process of finding relevant bindings. The list of individuals who deserve my sincerest thanks is much too long to enumerate here, and I hope no offence will be taken by those people who are not mentioned by name. There are, however, several people who went the extra mile, and continued to send me examples of armorial stamps that had been missed at the time of my survey, or have been received by the library after my visit. I would like to give my special thanks to Nicholas Smith of Cambridge University Library; Timothy Cutts of the National Library of Wales; Stephanie Coane of the John Soane Museum in London; Mary Person of the Harvard Law Library; Ruth Lightbourne of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand; John Blatchley of Ipswich; and Robert Harding of Maggs, London. Their continued interest in the database is greatly appreciated. A special expression of gratitude is reserved for Philippa Marks, Curator of Bookbindings at the British Library for her cheerful efficiency in answering my many queries, and for obtaining images of stamps. Her unflagging enthusiasm and support for the project are greatly valued.
Although John Morris essentially worked alone on the armorial catalogue, he did receive regular reports from the late Paul Morgan of the University of Oxford, and John P. Chalmers of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and there are undoubtedly others whom I may have inadvertently omitted. On John’s behalf I would like to express gratitude to all of those people who helped and supported him, and who recognized the significance of his work.
Also deserving special mention are Mark Purcell and Sarah Deacon of the National Trust for arranging visits to many of the splendid libraries under the Trust’s supervision.
I am indebted to friends and colleagues at the University of Toronto and elsewhere for their support. I am especially grateful to Scott Schofield with whom I have had numerous helpful conversations about the progress of the database over the past few years and who proofread parts of the armorial catalogue.
A huge debt of gratitude is owed to the IT team at the University of Toronto Libraries, to Sian Meikle and her predecessor Peter Clinton, Andrew McAlorum, Ken Yang, and Gordon Belray, who have done such an outstanding job in preparing the data for publication and designing the website. A special thank- you goes to Carol Moore, retired Chief Librarian at the University of Toronto for recognising the importance of the project, and for enabling it to be published by the University of Toronto Libraries. To my employer the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library I am grateful for the several sabbatical leaves I have been granted in order to carry out the research in the many libraries I have visited. On the technical side I am also indebted to my son Alistair Oldfield, and my good friend Paul McCartney (not the Beatle) for much helpful advice.
I have been the fortunate recipient of several fellowships and awards which have enabled me to visit libraries I might otherwise have missed: The Royal Oak Award of the National Trust, administered by the Bibliographical Society, 2003; Bibliographical Society of America Fellowship, 2003; the Joan Nordell Fellowship at Harvard, 2004; Visiting Scholar Fellowship Folger Shakespeare Library Washington D.C., 2006; Beinecke Fellowship at Yale University, 2008; and a Henry E. Huntington Fellowship, 2009. The wealth of material I found in these libraries has greatly expanded and enriched the armorial catalogue.
Many institutions have permitted me to photograph, or have provided digital photographs of the hundreds of armorial stamps that populate the database. To acknowledge each image individually would be an impossible task. I would like to acknowledge the co-operation of the following libraries: National Library of Scotland which provided thirty-eight images; the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, twenty-six images; University of Edinburgh, twenty-five images; Bodleian Library Oxford, seventeen images; the Folger Shakespeare Library, twelve images; the University of Glasgow, nine images; Houghton Library Harvard University, eight images; Lambeth Palace Library, three images; the Codrington Library All Souls College Oxford, three images; Longleat House, two images; Worcester Cathedral, three images; the University of Aberdeen, three images.
Finally my biggest debt of gratitude is to John Morris who invited me to be his assistant and initiated me into the arcane and fascinating world of heraldry. Working on the project has been an unforgettable educational experience, which has greatly enriched my professional and personal lives. I have been to many outstanding libraries and have met many wonderful people during my travels. My thanks to all concerned.