Fonds GB 0210 MSCAPEAUG - Augustus John (Jonathan Cape) manuscripts

Identity area

Reference code



Augustus John (Jonathan Cape) manuscripts


  • [c. 1950]-[early 1960s] (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

7 volumes.

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Augustus Edwin John, artist, was born at Tenby, Pembrokeshire, on 4 January 1878. He studied at the Slade School in London between 1894 and 1899. A diving accident in 1897 caused severe head injuries, reputedly affecting his personality and painting style. He married Ida Nettleship in 1901 and they had five children. At about the same time, he was appointed to teach art at the University of Liverpool, where he was taught the Romani language. Periods of travelling throughout England and Wales in a gypsy caravan inspired much of his work before World War 1. In 1902, he met Dorothy MacNeill, giving her the Romani name Dorelia. She became his most important model and lifelong inspiration; she moved to Paris with Augustus's sister, the artist Gwen John, the following year. Augustus based himself mainly in Paris in 1906-1907. After Ida's death in 1907, Dorelia became John's partner (they never formally married). They had four children together, both before and after Ida's death. His early period of work was characterised by drawings from life, notably of contemporaries including Ida and Dorelia and his sisters, as well as portraits in oils influenced by the Old Masters and an experimental series of etchings. He was elected President of the National Portrait Gallery in 1914. During World War 1 he spent a brief time in France, employed by the Canadian government as a war artist, and was official artist at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. After a period of painting landscapes and employing a more modern impressionistic idiom, he became increasingly successful as a portrait painter. His subjects included Thomas Hardy, T. E. Lawrence, George Bernard Shaw, and David Lloyd George. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1928, resigned in 1938, and was re-elected in 1940. He was elected President of the Royal Cambrian Academy of Art in 1934 and President of the Gypsy Lore Society in 1938. In 1942 he was awarded the Order of Merit for services to art. He died at Fryern Court, Hampshire, his home since 1927, in 1961.

Name of creator

Administrative history

The publishing firm Jonathan Cape was founded in 1921 by Herbert Jonathan Cape and Wren Howard.

Name of creator

Biographical history

Archival history

Consigned to auction in December 2016 and July 2019 by a former employee of the publishers Jonathan Cape.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

NLW MSS 24104-5: Sotheby's; London; Purchased at auction, lot 186; 13 December 2016; 99726535302419.
NLW MSS 24104D (ff. 2, 317, 319), 24133-6: Sotheby's; London; Purchased at auction, lot 152; 9 July 2019; 99977143602419.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Typescript drafts and proofs of Augustus John's first volume of memoirs, Chiaroscuro: Fragments of Autobiography (London: Jonathan Cape, 1952), [1950]-1951; working manuscripts, typescripts and editorial correspondence relating to the follow-up volume, published posthumously under the title Finishing Touches (London: Jonathan Cape, 1964), [1950x1952]-[early 1960s]; and other miscellaneous autobiographical fragments, [c. 1950], [?1959].

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Arranged according to NLW MSS reference numbers: NLW MSS 24104-24105, 24133-24136.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to abide by the conditions set out in information provided when applying for their Readers' Tickets, whereby the reader shall become responsible for compliance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation 2018 in relation to any processing by them of personal data obtained from modern records held at the Library.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply. Information regarding the ownership of Augustus John copyright can be found at (viewed October 2019).

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes


Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

For further autograph and typescript drafts of Augustus John's autobiographical writings see NLW MSS 21570E, 22795-6. For correspondence and other papers of Jonathan Cape with, and regarding works by, Augustus Edwin John see Reading, University of Reading, Special Collections Service, Records of Jonathan Cape Ltd, JC A8/1/1, JC 34/1, JC G/1/29/24.

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Notes area


Title based on contents of fonds.

Alternative identifier(s)

Alma system control number


Access points

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Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used

Description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

October 2019.




The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Augustus John, Chiaroscuro: Fragments of Autobiography (London: Jonathan Cape, 1952); Augustus John, Finishing Touches (London: Jonathan Cape, 1964).

Archivist's note

Description compiled by Rhys Jones.

Accession area

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