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Percy Manning: The Man Who Collected Oxfordshire
edited by Michael Heaney. Paperback; 175x245mm; xviii+314pp; illustrated throughout in colour and black & white. 311 2017 Archaeological Lives . Available both in printed and e-versions. Printed ISBN 9781784915285. Epublication ISBN 9781784915292.
Book contents page
Percy Manning (1870-1917) was an Oxford antiquary who amassed enormous collections about the history of Oxford and Oxfordshire, which now constitute a valuable resource in Oxford University’s libraries and museums.

Manning was interested in all periods of history and prehistory, collecting Stone Age tools, Roman coins, medieval tiles, and relics of ways of life that were disappearing in his own day, such as decorated police truncheons and local pottery. He methodically documented and explored the archaeology of the county. He collected literally thousands of prints depicting Oxford and places throughout Oxfordshire as records of changes in the built environment, and moved beyond material objects to uncover and document superstitions, folklore and customs, especially where he thought they were disappearing. He sought out May songs and morris dancers, reviving the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers in 1899. There is scarcely a community in the county which is not reflected somewhere in his collections.

This volume provides the first detailed biography of Manning, together with studies examining specific parts of his collections in greater detail. Other chapters demonstrate how the collections can be used as springboards for in-depth study and for fresh approaches to the history of Oxfordshire. Particular emphasis is placed on Manning’s ground-breaking research into the folklore of the county in conjunction with its material culture.

About the Editor:
Michael Heaney, the editor of and main contributor to the volume, is a respected researcher into folk music and folklore who has published widely on the subject. He combines this with extensive knowledge of the collections in the Bodleian Library where he spent his professional career. He is a past Editor of Folk Music Journal (and continues on its board) and acts as adviser to and a Trustee of the country’s leading research library in the field, the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. His colleagues bring their professional expertise from the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museums, the University’s Music Faculty and Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, and beyond.

'"On Aug. 15 [1917]’, noted Bodley’s Librarian Falconer Madan, ‘Puddifer’s motor-van went to 300 Banbury Road, and brought about ½ a ton of books and portfolios, being the 2nd and final instalment of the Manning Bequest, to the Library. The whole bequest is in the Savile Room under lock and key". The donor in question was Percy Manning, the centenary of whose death fell last February, and whose vast and strikingly eclectic collections of notes, books, manuscripts, drawings, maps, archaeological finds, ethnographic material, and objects relating to Oxfordshire folklore and popular culture was ultimately split amongst the Bodleian Library, the Ashmolean Museum, and the Pitt Rivers Museum. Combined with inadequate cataloguing, for a century that division had the unfortunate effect of making Manning’s collections less visible and less usable than they deserve, until preparations to mark the centenary (driven largely by Mike Heaney) began to rectify the situation. Along with new online catalogues and an interactive map, this excellent new book – as entertaining and stimulating as it is scholarly – is one of several happy outcomes, emerging from what soon developed into a multi-disciplinary research project involving experts from all three institutions as well as from outside.

The book is attractively presented and prodigiously illustrated, with a range of images which reflect the full breadth of Manning’s interests. Thus photographs of the Islip mummers rub shoulders with Malchair drawings, medieval floor tiles, and Manning himself surveying North Leigh Roman villa from under a rather fetching straw hat. Beyond their fascinating accounts of the man and his collections, the various contributions shed an interesting sidelight on the intellectual and social milieu of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Oxford, the beginnings of professional archaeology and anthropology, the changing social and intellectual context of museum collecting, and, of course, on Oxfordshire’s social and cultural history in the widest sense. There is also a useful index. In short it is difficult to conceive of a reader who will not find something of interest, while the book as a whole is a credit to all concerned.'—Simon Townley, Bodleian Library Record, volume 30, April 2021

'Percy Manning comprises chapters by ten contributors which collectively survey Manning's life, collecting and collections, while also shedding light on the late Victorian and Edwardian Oxford and the folk culture of Victorian rural Oxfordshire - the last illustrated with vivid photographs.—R.B. Perberdy, Oxoniensia, Volume 23, 2018

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