The John Ruskin letters launch on MDC

John Ruskin letters launch on MDC

In the first months of lockdown in 2020, a call went out in Curatorial Practices for suggestions of digitised material which could be transferred to our new image viewer, Manchester Digital Collections (MDC).

My second proposal was the digitised sections of the John Ruskin Papers, in the hopes that access to this well used and popular collection would generate further research interest, and enable us to make a case for the further digitisation of the collection.

John Ruskin, 19th century art and architecture critic and social critic, was ‘a gifted painter, a distinctive prose stylist, and a writer of polemical prose who seeks to cause widespread cultural and social change’[1]. He was the first to bring the assumptions of Romanticism to the practice of art criticism, and his notable works include ‘The Stones of Venice’, ‘The Seven Lamps of Architecture’, ‘Unto This Last’, ‘Praeterita’ and ‘Modern Painters’. 

The MDC collection represents only a fragment of our Ruskin holdings, details of which can be found in the catalogue. It consists of 155 letters by John Ruskin, the majority of which come from English Manuscripts 1245, 1254 and 1267. The first series, English Manuscript 1245 consists of letters to Peter Bayne, author and editor of the ‘Edinburgh Witness’ and the ‘Weekly Review’, and the second, a section of English Manuscript 1254 contains multiple recipients. English Manuscript 1267 consists of 7 letters by John Ruskin to William James Stillman, artist and writer.

English MS 1254/37 Letter to Robert Chester to John Ruskin

The Ruskin Papers are a complimentary collection to the Rylands’ printed Ruskin collection, and contain over 2,000 items relating to Ruskin, his family, work and his contemporaries.  The collection sheds light on Ruskin himself and his works, his personal affairs and his domestic and financial problems.

The cataloguing of these letters was both a pleasure and a challenge, largely owing to Ruskin’s illegible script!

The John Ruskin MDC Collection can be accessed here.

[1] Nicholas Shrimpton

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