Robert J. Charleston letters

TRC volunteer, Alice Jaspars, studying the Robert Charleston correspondence housed in the TRC library (February 2019).

TRC volunteer, Alice Jaspars, studying the Robert Charleston correspondence housed in the TRC library (February 2019).

On Sunday, 24 February 2019, Alice Jaspars wrote:

Robert J. Charleston (1916-1994) was one of the leading experts on glass in the United Kingdom and was Keeper of Glass and Ceramics at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The current archive of Charleston’s letters stored at the TRC Leiden details his lesser known passion for textiles, with correspondence both to and from him. His letters detail an interest in pursuing a PhD in the subject of the archaeology of textiles, though unfortunately this never came to fruition. 

I have transcribed some thirty letters of Charleston now, most pertaining to his desire to publish a particular article during the Second World War, but facing issues due to paper rationing. The style and content of his letters make the transcription far more of pleasure than a task.

Thanks to the TRC’s director, Dr Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, we are now privileged to have this extensive correspondence between Charleston and other prominent figures, from the early 1940s onwards.

The archive is exceptional as we have both the letters written to, and the letters from Charleston, in almost perfect and precise chronological order. Having transcribed only a fraction of his letters thus far, it is clear that Charleston exhibits a tremendous intellect, ranging from assorted types of fabric, to the way in which he interacts with various well-known academics of textiles of the day.

Whilst I have only been able to transcribe a portion of the letters to date, I hope to use them as a basis for considering the ways in which relevant individuals from the time interacted with one another, and the way in which the knowledge of the time was developed into more personal correspondence such as these.

I will keep the blog up to date with any work of particular interest or of note.

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