Our aim is to record, arrange and explain evidence so that it can become generally useful. This means that we publish original materials and research based on primary materials, whether visual or documentary. Readers reach for a Walpole Society volume to answer the fundamental questions– who, what, when, where, how – meaning that our volumes have an enduring reference value. Usually Walpole Society contributions are one of the following: transcripts of documents, artists’ or collection catalogues, biographical studies or dictionaries, or descriptive or narrative accounts of artworks, institutions and the art trade. Our publishing agenda is the same now as when we were founded in 1911, and our index of past volumes demonstrates how we have tried to realise our founding principles.
We do not expect to publish interim studies. Articles should aim at a definitive character in order that the contribution will have a lasting usefulness to scholarship. Our volumes continue to be consulted decades after publication. We expect to equip our publications with any necessary apparatus in the form of an introduction, footnotes, index and illustrations.
The distinctiveness of Walpole Society contributions is that they are rooted in primary sources, so essays that depend on a theoretical scaffolding or which are chiefly argumentative in character are beyond our remit.
We specialise in long studies. We aim not to duplicate or compete with other publications, but rather to fill a gap, so we do not expect to publish essays of the kind normally accommodated by journals like The British Art Journal and The Burlington Magazine. Walpole Society contributions are usually much longer and, if the material requires it, book-length.
We publish contributions on topics as diverse as embroidery and glass painting. Our founding manifesto called for more attention to be paid to a wide range of art, and bemoaned the monopolising influence of a few famous names; the Society’s mission was to draw attention to overlooked artists, periods and topics. We have published on many areas of artistic practice including gem engraving, sculpture and carving, metalwork, manuscript illumination, textiles, architecture, paintings, prints and drawings. We have published important studies on individual art collections; on institutions and teaching about art; on buying, selling and displaying art; and on travelling for art.
We welcome contributions on subjects from any period in history from the Norman Conquest to the 1960s. Though we are best known for the study of 17th and 18th century art and artists, we have published many studies on medieval subjects, and a series of letters written by Stanley Spencer in the 1950s.
“it is not too much to say that, but for the encouragement of this Society, much of the material which it has published would probably never have been even investigated."
THE BURLINGTON MAGAZINE, 1934
We have no formal definition of ‘British’ but contributions fall into one or more of the following categories.
British art history is the story of art within the UK itself. A British artist is one who – regardless of nationality – lived and worked within this country. Past contributions to the Walpole Society have included: Canaletto in England (vol 9, 1920-21), Drawings of England by W.Schellinks, J.Esselens and L.Doomer (vol 35, 1954-6), Peter Tillemans, with a list of Paintings (vol 47, 1978-80). The Catalogue of the Collections of Charles I by Abraham van der Doort (vol 37, 1958-60) which, though it describes the English royal collection, preserves in its phonetic spellings its author's heavy Dutch accent.
British art history is also the story of encounters overseas between the British and people, ideas, markets and artistic traditions of other societies. Walpole Society contributions often describe British artists, agent or collectors in other countries, such as The Virginia drawings of John White (vol 13, 1924-5), British artists in India, 1760-1820 (vol 19, 1930-31), British Travellers in Spain, 1766-1849 (vol 77, 2015), and Sir James Thornhill's visit to Paris (vol 80, 2018). Given the primacy of Italian art in post-Renaissance Europe, accounts of travels there have been a particular focus of studies published by The Walpole Society, such as The Memoirs of Thomas Jones (vol 32, 1946/48), and Lord Shaftesbury in Naples, 1711-13 (vol 54, 1988).
Thirdly, we are interested in foreign nationals working overseas for a clientele in Britain. For example The Diaries of Otto Mündler (vol 51, 1985) which record his travels in Europe as an agent of the National Gallery.
We treat as British all regions of the United Kingdom, even if they were politically independent during the period under study. Also in scope are the art worlds of colonial territories while they were under British rule.
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Our committee meets three times a year to consider proposals (mid March, early June, late October or early November). We ask authors to send their proposal in at least three weeks before a meeting, so that there is time for the Editor to read it and to ask them about it, anticipating the questions the committee will have. If authors are working on a major project or have extensive writing or materials to send, please notify us early and allow much more time for us to digest the materials. We can be in conversation with an author for many years before they complete their work, so please feel free to contact us at any point.
We will let authors know the outcome of the committee’s discussion within a couple of weeks of the meeting. The committee may feel the proposal doesn’t fit the Walpole Society’s remit; that we would like to know more about the work before forming a judgment; that we are interested and encourage the author to develop their work further, before returning to us; or (in the case of a particularly important project) we might commit in principle to publish work as proposed (on the understanding that this is not an unqualified or open-ended commitment) so allowing a scholar to invest the time required to prepare their article with reasonable confidence of publication. All offers of publishing are conditional on receiving an acceptable finished draft. Typically the core editorial decision is made by the executive committee, but sometimes we draw on expertise from our consultative committee. Occasionally an author’s proposal won’t be taken to the committee, if the Editor feels confident that it’s not right for the Society. If an author’s proposal is declined, the Editor will explain the reasoning, and offer advice to help the author achieve publication elsewhere.
We ask authors to set out on one or two sides of A4 the basic facts and rationale for their proposed publication, to include:
a basic descriptive outline of what is proposed, including an explanation of this work’s importance and what it adds to existing literature.
What scholarly apparatus is envisaged to support the main body of the work, eg an introduction, footnotes, index, images.
Estimates of length (numbers of words, entries, images) for the major elements of the proposed work.
If you are transcribing a manuscript, confirmation that the owner is supportive? Are there other permissions complexities?
A sense of the author’s availability to undertake this work (always best to be realistic rather than aspirational)
The more information and material an author can share with us, and the more advanced the work, the better placed the committee will be to return a constructive reply. If an author has already completed the transcript of a document, it is better to send us the entire thing rather than a sample. We would not disclose any writing or archival material beyond our committee without clear prior permission from the author.
Unfortunately we are unable to pay our authors. However, each author will receive up to six complimentary copies of that year's volume, and may buy further copies at cost at the time of printing. We are also happy to write supportively to grant-making bodies that authors might be approaching for help.
By publishing in our volume, authors grant The Walpole Society the right to republish their work in other formats. This is chiefly so that we ourselves can allow JSTOR to publish an electronic version of our volume, and so that we can create and distribute an electronic edition to our members or other purchasers. Occasionally we also organise a reprint in hard copy which we then offer for sale. The permission that authors grant us does not limit their right to use their own writings in any way they choose.
The volume is published in full colour, with text and images alongside one another on the same page. The number of images published varies widely according to the needs of each researcher’s work. One might have no images, others several hundred. We expect there to be a good rationale for each image; the better-known a work of art is, the weaker the reason to publish a fresh image of it unless it is needed to make a specific point. It is the role of the author to assemble images and gather the necessary permissions.
The volume is formally peer reviewed by two external reviewers.
We ask for completed drafts to be sent in around May or June in the year before they are due to be published. The Editor will work with authors on their drafts to get them ready to be typeset by our designer. Typically this involves ensuring that all information and references have been supplied and are correct, all errors spotted and the entire thing is consistent. It is important that authors are happy with their work and, until this point, it is possible to make changes. However, once the draft is sent to our designer, the scope for improvement is very limited and changes are ideally restricted only to the elimination of errors.
Our publication schedule varies by year, depending on what we are publishing, authors’ readiness and the Editor’s own commitments. In an ideal world we aim to publish in the second quarter of the year but the volume often appears at other times.
John Robert Cozens (1752-97)
A Grotto in the Campagna, 1776 [detail]
Watercolour, size unknown
Paul Nash (1903-42)
Trees in Bird Garden Iver Heath, 1913 [detail]
Pen and ink, watercolour, size unknown
"I have recently looked through the titles of the articles printed over the last fifty or so years and stand amazed at the range of scholarship displayed."