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Dr. Joseph Spears and Guy Hartcup donations | 09-Aug-13

In 2012 the Poetry Library received two separate donations of poetry collections from Guy Hartcup and from the family of Dr. Joseph Spears which have greatly enhanced our holdings.

Dr. Joseph Spears, 1914-2009

Dr. Joseph Spears was born in Glasgow in 1914 and entered Glasgow University aged 17 to study medicine, graduating in 1937. He moved to Gulson Hospital in Coventry in October 1937, where he met Margaret Colville, who was working as a nurse. They married in September 1939, shortly after Joseph had started work as an Assistant General Practitioner. He served overseas in the RAF during the war and he and Margaret returned to Coventry in 1946, where he resumed work as a GP. In addition to General Practice, Joseph had a number of medical interests: notably Paediatrics and Obstetrics; working as medical officer for Daimler and Jaguar in Coventry and later practising in Child Guidance and Family Therapy. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of General Practice and finally retired in 1986.

Joseph was an instinctive scholar from an early age, gifted at languages and with a particular interest in the classics of English literature. Margaret, who was also an avid reader of the literary classics and a collector of books, further encouraged his interest in literature. Joseph became a serious bibliophile in the 1960s and developed a particular passion for modern first editions, poetry and fiction. Over the next few decades, the postman's regular delivery of dealers' catalogues and brown-papered parcels of books became a feature of home life. Holidays were planned to incorporate visits to a network of second-hand bookshops around the UK (and sometimes abroad) and each visit normally produced a few much-prized discoveries, which were added to the ever-expanding library. In addition to the thrill of the hunt and the desire to complete collections, Joseph retained his love of reading and kept himself up-to-date with the latest poetry and fiction.

After retirement, Joseph and Margaret lived for 20 years in Cumbria before moving to Reading in 2006. They had five children, 12 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Joseph died in September 2009, aged 95, a week after their 70th wedding anniversary.

The collection, given to the Poetry Library by Margaret Spears in her husband's memory, included around 300 items, mainly books but some pamphlets and magazines.  Particular highlights of the Spears donation include:

- First American editions of Poems : North & South by Elizabeth Bishop and Life studies by Robert Lowell.

- Signed editions of 4 books by Charles Causley Figure of 8: narrative poems, Johnny Alleluia: poems, Survivor's leave and Union Street: poems.

- Signed special edition of Nil nil by Don Paterson, produced by Faber and Faber for members of the Poetry Book Society in 1993.

- Pristine first and early editions of a large number of books by W. H. Auden and  a copy of the order of service for W. H. Auden's funeral at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, Saturday, October 27th, 1973.

- Early issues of Poetry London from the 1940s.

Guy Hartcup, 1919-2012

Guy Hartcup came from cultured family and his godfather was Rider Haggard.  He read history at Cambridge, and served in the Far East during the war.  After graduation he became a professional historian and writer in the civil service, working on the official histories of the war in the then Air Ministry and on histories of economic policy in the Treasury.  He was seconded for a few years to the Atomic Energy Authority in Vienna.  Towards the end of his career and all during his retirement he wrote a large number of important books on twentieth-century military history, including a biography of Sir John Cockcroft, the 'father of the atom bomb'.  Guy remained extremely active intellectually until his death, reading widely, and writing articles and reviewing books on military history.

Guy was very artistic.  He drew and painted all his life, and his works appeared in a number of exhibitions.  He was taught painting by Gilbert Spencer, the brother of Stanley Spencer, and he met his Viennese sculptor wife at the life drawing class in London which they both attended regularly in the 1940s.  They lived in Chelsea and met many of the artistic and literary people of the day.

However, Guy's first love was poetry, and when he was young his ambition was to be a poet.  Although he was not successful in this way, he nevertheless kept up with all the developments in English, European and American poetry throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and built up the large collection of poetry and poetry magazines which he gave to the Poetry Library.

The Guy Hartcup bequest included 97 books and around 50 issues of magazines.  The magazine donation allowed us to fill gaps in our poetry magazine holdings such as Agenda : special issue in honour of Ezra Pound's eightieth birthday, Adam and X: a quarterly review, and also introduced new magazines into the collection such as Alphabet and Image, Now and Polemic.

Book and pamphlet highlights from the Guy Hartcup bequest include:

- 20 books by and about W. H. Auden, including the gem Education : today and tomorrow by W. H. Auden and T. C. Worsley, a guide to the British education system, published by The Hogarth Press in 1939.

- Works of criticism from the 1930s and 40s by Louis Macneice and Stephen Spender.

- The pamphlet Three things by W. B. Yeats, with drawings by Gilbert Spencer.

- Second impression of East Coker by T. S. Eliot, 1940.

- 1907 edition of A Shropshire lad by A. E. Housman.

To search for material from these collections on the Poetry Library catalogue please search for "Guy Hartcup bequest" or "library of Dr Joseph Spears" in the Word(s) search field:

Thank you to Jim Spears and Frank Stack for providing biographical information for this article.

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