Nichols Archive Project.
Julian Pooley, FSA, Centre for Regional and Local History, University of Leicester.
The papers accumulated and collected by John Nichols and his family of printers and antiquaries between 1745 and 1873 are a major source for the study of the book trade, of antiquarianism and of lives and letters in Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As proprietors of one of London’s leading printing houses and editors of the Gentleman’s Magazine, they were at the heart of a national network of information exchange between members of the London and provincial book trade, antiquaries, bibliographers, collectors, artists, engravers and writers. Their personal research interests ranged from literary biography to local history and from genealogy to the collecting of autograph letters.
The Nichols papers are scattered among over 100 repositories and libraries across the world and 26 private collections. The project is bringing them together on a searchable database which will provide scholars with an analytical guide to the range of documentation left by this remarkable and influential family of printers and antiquaries. It will comprise:
- a calendar of the family’s correspondence between 1745 and 1873.
- a descriptive list of other documents they accumulated.
The calendars are stored on a Microsoft Access database, allowing the original order of the undisturbed private collections to be preserved while permitting indexes to be made of the senders or recipients of letters.
- Free-text searches also allow groups of letters to, from or mentioning a particular person, or concerning a given topic, to be seen together, even though the originals are held by several different public repositories or are in private hands.
- There are links from the Nichols Archive Database to full transcripts of diaries, travel journals and other documents.
- A 550 page ‘Chronology’ traces the principal events in the lives of the family from 1745 to 1873 and includes an itinerary of their travels, details of their research and a checklist of the works they printed or were associated with.
- A link to a 340 page Union Index identifies many of the thousands of individuals named in the letters and other documents.
Although the Nichols Archive Database is not yet online, it may be consulted by prior appointment at Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, GU21 6ND by emailing email@example.com. The first stage of the project is the calendaring of the documents in private hands; the second stage, already underway, is adding calendars of Nichols papers held in repositories around the world.