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Boston College collection of David Jones

Collection MS-1986-001: Boston College collection of David Jones


  • Creation: 1922 - 1982

Scope and Contents

This collection documents nineteenth-century British author and artist David Jones through his correspondence, ephemera, drawings, paintings, prints, manuscripts, typescripts, and proofs of his poetry and prose.

Jones's correspondence is largely with friends and publishers. Of note are letters to Louis Bussell, which focus on the events on the Continent prior to World War II as well as artistic matters. Correspondence to Edward Little discusses the publication in the United States of Jones's "The Dying Gaul" broadcast. Letters to the poet Vernon Watkins, the largest single group in the collection, relate to the publication of "The Wall" and "The Tutelar of the Place" in the American journal Poetry.

Jones’s writings are mostly short works for publication in for periodicals or delivered as radio addresses. Prose writings include essays and addresses, most of which were later published in the collections Epoch and Artist (1959) and The Dying Gaul (the posthumous collection, 1978). Poems include multiple versions of "The Fatigue" and "The Wall."

Jones’s art works comprise drawings, engravings, and watercolor paintings. The wood engravings includes proofs for his illustrations of The Book of Jonah and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, with both first state and final plates. The collection also includes Jones’s art used to illustrated printed materials, mostly by St. Dominic's Press, during his lifetime.

Lastly, the collection contains some materials about Jones and his works, as well as his collected ephemera.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Biographical note

Born in Brockley, Kent on November 1, 1895, Walter David Jones, known as David, was the third child of Welshman James Jones and Englishwoman and amateur watercolor artist Alice Ann Bradshaw. Jones's Welsh heritage was a large influence throughout his life and work.

Interested in art from an early age, Jones enrolled in the Camberwell School of Art at fourteen. In 1915 he left to enlist in the Royal Welch Fusiliers to serve in World War II, where he was wounded in the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. He served on the Western Front until 1918.

In 1921 Jones converted to Roman Catholicism. In 1922 he joined Eric Gill's Guild of Saint Joseph and Saint Dominic at Ditchling, Sussex, where he learned wood and copper engraving. He illustrationed for fine print presses including St. Dominic's Press and The Golden Cockeral Press, and his projects included The Book of Jonah (1926) and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1929). Jones developed a close friendship with Gill and his family, and relocated to Capel-y-Ffin, Wales in 1924 following their move there. Jones continued engraving, and also worked at the Benedictine community on Caldey Island. He was engaged to the Gills' daughter, Petra from 1924, but she ended it in 1927. Jones also developed a lifelong friendship with Gill's business partner Rene Hague.

After the Gills left Wales for Buckinghamshire in 1927, Jones divided his time between their new home, his parents' home in Kent, and his friend and patron Helen Sutherland's residence in Northumberland. The period from 1926-1933 was a prolific one for Jones's art, during which he produced engravings, illustrations, watercolos, and drawings. His work was included in several gallery exhibitions in London and abroad.

In 1930 Jones gave up engraving due to eye problems, working on watercolor painting and writing. In 1927 he started writing what would become In parenthesis; seinnyessit e gledyf ym penn mameu (1937), a combination of prose and poetry about World War I. Although it was not a commercial success, in 1938 it won the Hawthornden Prize. In 1932 and again in 1947 Jones suffered psychological breakdowns after periods of intense creative output, following which he largely gave up art and had to reduce the pace of his writing. In 1952, he published the long poem The Anathemata, which was awarded the Russell Loines Memorial Award for poetry by the American National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1954. He was made Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1955.

In 1962, Jones moved to Harrow, where he lived a retired life but continued to correspond extensively with friends. In 1970, he suffered a stroke and a broken leg. He moved to the Calvary Nursing Home, where he died on October 28, 1974.


Blamires, David. David Jones: Artist and Writer. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1971.

Grisewood, Harman, ed. Epoch and Artist: Selected Writings by David Jones. New York: Chilmark Press, 1959.

Hague, Rene, ed. Dai Greatcoat: A self-portrait of David Jones in his letters. London: Faber and Faber, 1980.

Rees, Samuel. David Jones. London: Twayne Publishers, 1978.


4.5 Linear Feet (6 containers)

Language of Materials



This collection documents nineteenth-century British author and artist David Jones through his correspondence, ephemera, drawings, engravings, paintings, manuscripts, typescripts, and proofs of his poetry and short prose. Also included are some materials about Jones and his works, as well as ephemera he collected.


Organized in six series: I. Correspondence, II. Literary works, III. Art, IV. Printed materials using Jones's artwork, V. About Jones, and VI. Belonging to Jones.

Series II. Literary works is further divided into two subseries: A. Prose and B. Poetry.

Series III. Art is further divided into three subseries: A. Engravings, and B. Drawings, and C. Watercolors.


Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time. However, correspondence on file indicates that some materials were purched before 1986 from: Bertram Rota (1976, 1979, 1980), Serendipity Books (1979-1980), Robin Waterfield Limited (1982), Sotheby's (1983), and Douglas Cleverdon (1984). Post-1986 acquisitions include a purchase from Serendipity Books (1986-1987) and a gift of Michelle Russell (2000).

Related Materials

Boston College collection of Eric Gill, MS.1986.139, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Boston College collection of George F. Trenholm, MS.1994.038, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Eva McKee art works, MS.2005.006, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Loretta Clarke Murray collection of women in revolutionary Ireland, MS.2016.016, John J. Burns Library, Boston College. (See especially the Cuala Industries series for printed materials from Cuala Press.)

Separated Materials

Published works associated with this collection have been transferred within the Burns Library and can be found in the Boston College Library catalog.

Boston College Collection of David Jones
In Progress
Michelle Russell and Mark Roskoski (1994); revised by Lynn Moulton
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023 July: Light reprocessing to remove publications and reproductions, as well as to more accurately assign form/genre information. Unframed and rehoused oversized materials.

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States