Noddy and Big Ears BIG Picture

I couldn’t resist sharing these photographs from our Noddy and Big Ears BIG Picture event.  The event happened during half term, and involved visitors (of all ages!) in contributing to a life-size picture of Noddy and Big Ears.   

The result, as you can see, was fantastic!

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A word from our Chief Executive

As you may have gathered, last week was quite a week for us – we were overwhelmed by the public response to the discovery of an unpublished Enid Blyton novel, and were thrilled to see there is still so much interest in her work.  We are also delighted that so many people can see the value of the work we do here at Seven Stories, preserving Britain’s literary heritage and making it accessible to the public.

Our chief executive, Kate Edwards, said last week: “The international interest in this find has been overwhelming. It shows, without a shadow of a doubt, the value of our work to protect Britain’s literary heritage for children and to celebrate the creative lives of its authors. The Enid Blyton archive was in danger of being lost to the nation – we were only able to save it through generous grants and donations from people who understood the significance of our work, enabling us act quickly to purchase it on the nation’s behalf.

“We are quite a small charity that has taken on the massive task of building a national children’s literature Collection, which we protect and bring to life through exhibitions, events and learning activities for our young audiences. There are other important archives like this one, that are in danger of sold to private collectors. Anyone who cares about protecting them for future generations, and who believes in the vital and magical part that children’s books in childhood, can help us by making a donation or by becoming a Friend of Seven Stories.”

Given the huge public interest, the manuscript of Mr Tumpy’s Caravan is now on display in Seven Stories – if you’re in the neighbourhood, pop in to Storylab on Level 6 to take a peek.  And you can also find out more about the Enid Blyton archive, and see a selection of digitised images, on the new Enid Blyton page on our website.

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Mr Tumpy’s Caravan hits the headlines!

As some of you may have seen and heard yesterday evening, we have rather hit the headlines this week!  We had a very busy couple of days on Monday and Tuesday, with BBC reporters visiting to find out more about the typescript Mr Tumpy’s Caravan, which we believe to be an early, unpublished novel by Enid Blyton. 

There has been a little confusion from some Blyton fans, who know and love Blyton’s picture strip book Mr Tumpy and His Caravan, published in 1949.  There have already been a couple of comments on here on the subject.  The confusion is understandable, given the similarity in the titles – we assumed, when we first acquired the typescript, that it was simply a draft of the published Mr Tumpy and His Caravan.  It was only after more detailed examination of the typescript, and discussion with Tony Summerfield of the Enid Blyton Society (who is an expert on Blyton’s published works), that we realised what we have is an unpublished novel.  Not only is the format completely different from that of the published picture strip book, but the content is also completely different.  Enid had a habit of using similar, sometimes identical, titles for different stories and books, so it’s perhaps not surprising that she did so in this case.  She obviously liked the name Mr Tumpy, and decided to reuse it for the later work!

We think the typescript was written some time in the 1930s – the title page gives Blyton’s address as Old Thatch, a house she moved out of in 1938, so it was certainly written before that date.  It looks like a finished work, with a title page and contents page, and Blyton’s summary on the title page that it’s “a humorous children’s story.”  The typescript is fairly clean, with very few alterations or amendments to the text, which again suggests it was something she at least planned to send to a publisher.  We can only speculate, however, as to whether it was sent and rejected, or if Enid herself didn’t think it worth sending, and simply filed it away in a drawer.

To read more about the discovery, and see a few pictures of the typescript, visit the news page on our website.  You can see the BBC’s coverage of the story on their website.  And if you’re interested in seeing the typescript in one of our behind-the-scenes tours, you can find out more on our events page.

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The Enid Blyton Collection’s public debut!

Reading The Circus of Adventure typescript

Last Friday, members of the public had their first opportunity to see the Enid Blyton Collection, as part of a special ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour of Seven Stories.  It was a great moment for us, to see people having a genuinely ‘hands-on’ experience of the typescripts, artwork and books, and to be on hand to answer any questions they had.  There was lots of discussion about Enid Blyton’s working methods, as well as plenty of opportunity to share childhood memories of reading Blyton.  All in all, it was a resounding success!   We will be running more of these behind the scenes tours, with hands-on access to the Blyton archive in the coming months.  The next one is scheduled for 10th March – check out our website to find out more. 

Enid Blyton's autobiography prompted some interesting discussions!

 

This morning, our assistant curator also installed a display of material from the Enid Blyton Collection in the Storylab at Seven Stories.  So it’s all go for a Blyton Bonanza of a half-term!  And for those of you who might be thinking “This is all very well, but it’s a little far for me to just pop in and take a look”, the digitisation of material from the collection is progressing well, and we should have some images online very soon.  And blog readers will be the first to know when they become available to the public!

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Repackaging in progress

One of our volunteers, Ann, repackaging 'The Circus of Adventure' typescript

Hard at work!

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Digitising Blyton – the story continues…

Once we’ve made our selection of material for digitisation, every chosen item is reproduced as a high-resolution tiff file.  These large, high quality images serve as digital master files, stored off-line and only accessible to authorised members of staff.  Creating digital images from archive material can be quite damaging to the material, because of the high levels of light exposure involved in scanning.  We want to avoid having to re-digitise items and risk further damage, so we archive these digital master files, complying with procedures for management and storage which will ensure the integrity of these digital master files for as long as possible. 

From the archive master files, we create smaller, lower resolution jpegs to go on the internet.  Every image we use online is watermarked with a clear attribution and copyright statement, to ensure that online users clearly understand that the images are protected by copyright and cannot be re-used without permission.  Once images have been watermarked and quality checked, they can then be uploaded to the internet for public access. 

We hope to start making some Enid Blyton images available on our website within the next couple of weeks, and more will gradually become available as the digitisation process gets into full swing.  So watch this space for further updates!

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Digitising Blyton – what to choose?

Now that the Blyton collection has been fully catalogued and numbered, we can start work on digitising some of the material.  As with most of the material in the Seven Stories archive, the Blyton typescripts are all still protected by copyright law and ownership of the physical items does not carry with it any rights in terms of reproduction.  Copyright in all of the Blyton typescripts is owned by Chorion, and we have agreed with them permission to reproduce complete chapters from three of the typescripts – Five Have a Wonderful Time, Last Term at Malory Towers and the play Noddy in Toyland – online, as well as reproducing single pages from the other typescripts.

The process of digitisation can be quite complicated, and does take time.  The first step is deciding which pages to select for digitisation.  We generally take quite a mixed approach to this decision-making process – some things will be the archivist’s choice, based on a consideration of what offers a good insight into the creative process; some things will be items which have struck volunteers as particularly interesting or quirky when they have been working with a collection; and some things may be selected because they have proved particular popular with school groups or members of the public who have had the opportunity to view material first hand. 

Given the unique opportunity this blog presents, we can open that selection procedure up further and canvas opinion from you on what you would like to see.  We are, of course, constrained to some extent by the limits of our licence, but we do have free rein to select any chapter from Five Have a Wonderful Time and Last Term at Malory Towers and reproduce it in full online.  So, if you have a favourite chapter from either of those titles, and a burning desire to compare the draft with the published version, then let us know and you may well see your wish come true!

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