Faber archive opens up its doors for one night only

By Gemma Lovett | 24 May 2010
a photo of a group of people seated round a table

Courtesy Faber and Faber

Intimate stories from one of our greatest literary publishing houses and tales of literary cats and literary lions were the order of the evening for seven lucky winners of an exclusive Museums at Night competition to delve into the archive of Faber and Faber.

Faber and Faber, founded in 1929, remains one of the last of the great independent publishing houses in London. Under Geoffrey Faber's chairmanship the board in 1929 included T. S. Eliot and Richard de la Mare.

This young and highly intelligent team built up a catalogue of biographies, fiction, poetry, art and children's books, which gave an unmistakable character to the productions of 24 Russell Square, the firm's Georgian offices in Bloomsbury.

On Friday May 14, the Faber archive, at the company’s new home on Great Russell Street, opened its doors to the public for the very first time, as part of an exclusive competition with Museums at Night and Culture24.

a photo of a man in a striped jersey holding a book

Faber’s archivist, Robert Brown. Courtesy Faber and Faber

The winners, chosen at random were Anna Tuckett, Claire King, Helen Cox, Josie Kehoe, Simon Quicke and Victoria Linde – a fantastic group of book lovers and Faber enthusiasts!

Faber’s archivist, Robert Brown began the evening with a virtual tour of Faber’s original office on Russell Square. Along the way, we were introduced to Morgan (the original Faber cat); watched Geoffrey Faber chair a boardroom meeting in a film from 1951 and saw T. S. Eliot’s office in a series of photographs taken on the day he died.

Robert then uncovered key items from the Faber treasure chest, including Eliot’s first letter to a young W. H. Auden, an early drawing of Old Possum and an amusing postcard sent by Philip Larkin whilst he was on holiday.

Amongst the book reports and other literary riches, Robert told the winners intimate stories from Faber’s history – from fire watching in Bloomsbury during the Blitz to recovering William Golding’s Lord of the Flies from the rejection pile.

a photo of a man with documents at a round table

Courtesy Faber and Faber

Joe Dunthorne and Heather Phillipson (two of Faber’s newest poets) ended the evening with a wonderful poetry reading. Alongside a selection of their own poetry, they read a range of other Faber poets such as Charles Simic, John Berryman, Simon Armitage and Don Paterson.

For more information on the Faber archive, please visit http://faber.co.uk/archive/ and to explore Faber’s design history please visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/22703722@N04/.

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