London Library of Recorded English was a 6-volume Anthology of English Literature, consisting of poetry spanning 16th-20th century England, read aloud by well-known British poets, scholars, and actors. The first four recordings were edited by poet-scholars V.C. Clinton-Baddeley and Joseph Compton, and when it was acquired by Britam Agencies in 1955, Clinton-Baddeley stayed on to create two more releases. The collection contains 6 LP recordings, as well as the business papers associated with the creation and management of the Anthology.
This collection is arranged in two series: 1. Papers, 1949-2010, arranged alphabetically by subject and chronologically thereafter, and 2. Audiorecordings, 1956-1965, arranged chronologically.
Biographical / Historical:
The London Library of Recorded English had roots in V.C. Clinton-Baddeley's 1937 recordings of poetry broadcasts with W.B. Yeats for the BBC. In 1940, during World War II, Clinton-Baddeley helped prepare British propaganda on gramophone discs for the use of foreign radio stations. A portion of these recordings were dedicated to "cultured propaganda," and this included recordings of English poetry produced by Clinton-Baddeley and read by himself and other well-known readers.
During the war, Clinton-Baddeley was speaking to Joseph Compton, a prominent specialist in English literature education, about the propaganda records. Compton believed that recordings of literature would be in demand in schools. When the war ended, E.J. Vetter, a recording engineer told Clinton-Baddeley that he would be setting up a small recording studio where it would be possible to make some poetry recordings. Compton soon got on board, and the recording studio, which was a part of United Programmes Limited (UPL) of London, England, would support the production of the recordings.
The first four volumes (called "books") of the anthology were made with UPL in the late 1940s. These were directed by Clinton-Baddeley and engineered by Vetter and J. Bramhall. Compton made selections and provided literary criticism. Both Clinton-Baddeley and Compton were considered editors of the series.
UPL went into receivership and in 1950, Edgar J. Grande, receiver for UPL, appointed Britam Agencies, Inc. (Britam) sole agent in the U.S.A. and Canada for the sale of the recordings (twenty-four 78rpm records per set) to be imported from England. The recordings were sold to schools, colleges, and libraries.
In 1955, UPL and Grande arranged with Britam to purchase the LLRE free and clear. Britam re-engineered the recordings and converted them into 4 LPs, manufactured by Columbia Records and sold under the Alpha Records label.
In 1963, Clinton-Baddeley and Irwin Breslauer of Britam agreed to a plan to produce two additional LP records (Books V and VI). All six volumes were marketed as a package, and later, as a set of six cassette tapes. The LLRE then went dormant, with no effort being made towards sales, as the principals of Britam, Irwin Breslauer and Norman Breslauer were occupied with other business.
The collection was donated to the the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in 2010.
Shared Stewardship of Collections:
The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage acknowledges and respects the right of artists, performers, Folklife Festival participants, community-based scholars, and knowledge-keepers to collaboratively steward representations of themselves and their intangible cultural heritage in media produced, curated, and distributed by the Center. Making this collection accessible to the public is an ongoing process grounded in the Center's commitment to connecting living people and cultures to the materials this collection represents. To view the Center's full shared stewardship policy, which defines our protocols for addressing collections-related inquiries and concerns, please visit https://doi.org/10.25573/data.21771155.
This collection was donated in memory of Lewis R. Breslauer to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings/Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in January, 2010. The donation included all right, title, and interest in and to the recordings, papers, and historical materials, as well as all intellectual property rights.
Access to the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections is by appointment only. Visit our website for more information on scheduling a visit or making a digitization request. Researchers interested in accessing born-digital records or audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies.
Narrative poetry, English
English poetry -- 19th century
English poetry -- 17th century
English poetry -- 18th century
English poetry -- Early modern, 1500-1700
London Library of Recorded English records, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution.