Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Olive Cook Collection

Part of the Olive Cook Collection in the Yates Thompson Library

Following on from our post about the scrapbooks and journals of the Newnham students of the past is another about a Newnhamite who left the library a different kind of bequest. Olive Cook (1912-2002), an artist and writer, was born and raised in Cambridge before she became a student here in 1931. Her deep love of her native countryside is expressed in ‘Cambridgeshire: Aspects of a County’ which she wrote in 1953, a copy of which resides in the Olive Cook Collection at Newnham Library.

The guide was written at the same time that Cook began collaborating on architectural texts with her photographer and artist husband, Edwin Smith (1912-71).[1] These were illustrated by Edwin and written by Olive. Many of them, such as English Cathedrals and The Wonders of Italy were bequeathed to the library after Olive’s death. The collection is kept in a display cabinet in the Yates Thompson library, ready to be admired.

A selection of travel guides, children's books and art books from the collection

Tryphema Pruss written by Olive Cook and illustrated by Walter Hoyle

The children’s books that she wrote or introduced, such as The Playbook Faces: A Nursery Frieze Book and Coronation Peep-Show Book add a dash of vivid colour to the display and illustrate the wide-ranging talents of Olive. Tryphema Pruss, a short story about a woman who is unhappy with life until she finds her true self, is beautifully illustrated by Walter Hoyle in reproduction watercolours and signed on the back page by both artist and writer.

Like the scrapbooks that featured in the last blog post, the Olive Cook Collection conveys the strong links that exist between the work of the library and the archive at Newnham. When the book collection was given to the library, the archive was bequeathed a selection of personal papers, including cards, newspaper clippings, notebooks with drafts inside, articles and short stories, and many photographs.

The Olive Cook Collection in situ

The material, belonging to both Cook and Smith, ranges from their lives in the 1930s, right up to Cook’s correspondence dating from the 2000s. These personal mementos and papers shed light on the lives of the artists, beyond the works kept in the display cabinet.

You can read more about Olive Cook and the archive collection on the Janus Catalogue web page: http://tinyurl.com/bq9emgb

If you would like any further information please email librarian@newn.cam.ac.uk or archives@newn.cam.ac.uk.

Kirsten Southard, Graduate Library Trainee, 2012-2013

 [1] http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/node.xsp?id=EAD%2FGBR%2F2911%2FPP%20Cook [Accessed 09.11.12]

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