Goldsmiths’ Company library
Goldsmiths’ Company librarian Eleni Bide in its library.

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A database of books and papers relating to antique jewellery, gold and silver will appear online for the first time thanks to the Goldsmiths’ Company library, while decades of research into regional chairmaking will also become available digitally this year.

Goldsmiths history

The Goldsmiths’ Company library in the City of London is undertaking a five-year project to create a digital catalogue of its 15,000 books and journals which span 700 years of history.

Although the individual pages of books will not be scanned and uploaded due to copyright issues, the ability to access online what is contained in the library without having to travel is a boost for collectors, dealers and academics.

Goldsmiths’ Company librarian Eleni Bide said: “Knowing what books are available is a good first step for people. They may not know that some of the books we have even exist.

“Once they discover it, they may then find it elsewhere rather than visit us here, but the digitisation enables them to find it initially.

“We are cataloguing in-depth and are making sure that what is in each book is easily documented.

“We are providing the meta data: not just the title and author but describing what is in the book, such as the names of the makers mentioned inside. This information is then easily searchable.”

Bide adds: “As the UK’s largest specialist library for jewellery, silversmithing and hallmarking, improving access to our records is key to inspire and educate the next generation of craftspeople as well as providing invaluable resources for students and academics. If you are interested in any aspect of jewellery, silver and hallmarks we are a great place to start your research.”

One quarter of the collection is already available to browse online as the project continues.

There is also a plan to upload archive material and the library has begun photographing items ready for this.

For instance, it has silversmith Omar Ramsden’s (1873-1939) workbooks which are extremely fragile and cannot easily be viewed in the library. But once the pages are digitised they will be searchable online.

The library, in the longer term, will also look at uploading pages of books that are out of copyright.

Regional chairmaking

A dedicated group of vernacular furniture specialists is making available more than 50 years of research into English regional chairmaking.

Bernard and Geraldine Cotton created an index of almost 7500 English regional chairmakers which has now been added to the British and Irish Furniture Makers Online (BIFMO) database.

Making this resource accessible online opens the way for further discoveries about the makers of Windsor chairs and turned chairs from Cumbria to Cornwall over the last 300 years.

Dr Bernard Cotton’s publication, The English Regional Chair (1990), identified the names, dates and locations of many makers through research of local trade directories, census returns, newspapers and other documents.

Data from a card index was recently scanned and then transcribed into an Excel spreadsheet which has now been uploaded onto BIFMO.

Funding for this work was provided by a donor and a grant from the Regional Furniture Society alongside support from the Furniture History Society, which created and manages the BIFMO site, and the largely voluntary commitment of Laurie Lindey, BIFMO managing editor.

Goodchild chair

Among the items from the Cotton Archive of British Regional Furniture is tis Goodchild chair.

Photographs of chairs made by these makers, who identified their work with their branded or stamped initials or name, or with a label, will be added to the entries.

Many of these images are of the 200 English regional chairs from the Cotton collection which the couple donated to the Museum of the Home (formerly the Geffrye Museum) in east London in 2002.

In parallel with this chairmaker index, a further index of English regional cabinetmakers, turners and joiners is being transcribed.

This was also put together by the Cottons and comprises 25,000 names and will in due course be added to BIFMO.

The Cotton Archive of British Regional Furniture is being catalogued prior to it being donated to the Museum of the Home.

It includes digital recordings and transcripts of 12 interviews with Dr Cotton made as part of the cataloguing project.

Dr Cotton hopes others will “continue the research to which my wife, Geraldine, and I have devoted much of our lives. We are grateful to all those who have made this possible and are excited by the prospect of new discoveries being made as a result.”