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The Black Book

What is the Black Book?

Voysey's personal record of his architectural projects, written in his own hand in a plain black notebook and known as the Black Book, is held in the RIBA Archive at the Victoria & Albert Museum (reference VoC/1/1), as is a typescript copy. Together with the White Book (his record of project expenses), his address book and the Museum's extensive collection of drawings, it forms the principal source of information about Voysey's architectural career. The record commenced on 21st March 1890 but includes retrospective entries relating to earlier work from 1877 onwards.

Dr Wendy Hitchmough says that:

"This catalogue includes unexecuted and built works, and lists minor alterations and additions as well as decorations and crematory urns. It does not include decorative or metalwork designs, and it is by no means comprehensive in its inclusion of furniture designs. It can safely be assumed, however, that if a building is not listed in the black book then it was not designed by Voysey. There are many projects catalogued in the black book that were never built, and no differentiation is made between the projects which were executed and those which were not.

"The black book is invaluable for dating as well as validating projects. In general, the dates given for each project should be taken as the date of the commission, but the black book was probably not started until Voysey's practice was well established so that the dates for the earliest entries, written from memory, are less accurate. Some projects are listed twice, where a delay occurred between the design and execution of a building, or where alterations and additions were made at a later date."

CFA Voysey (Phaidon Press, 1995), p.230

A new version

The Society has prepared a new transcript so that researchers may consult the material without handling the original, which is now in a fragile state. This version is based upon the typed transcript (which was probably prepared in the 1950s), corrected by reference to the handwritten original, and includes the pencil annotations made by John Brandon-Jones (who was a business partner of Voysey’s son, Charles Cowles-Voysey).

The transcript reproduces the original with the following modifications:

  1. Each entry has been allocated a number which reflects its position in the original transcript. The entries in the original notebook are not in strict chronological order.
  2. Year : dates are given as in the original. Entries relating to work before 1890, and some entriesmade in Voysey’s old age, were made from memory and the dates attributed to them should be checked.
  3. Client : client names have been corrected and standardised where Voysey used a variety of forms. In a small number of cases the client was not recorded by Voysey but for some of these the project information allows us to add the relevant name.
  4. Building name : the names of buildings for which Voysey designed or completed significant work have been added or repeated here by the present transcribers. The name we have employed is that most widely used, where there have been changes over the years.
  5. Description : the text is shown as given in the original document, with the addition of occasional annotations. Annotations by Brandon-Jones are prefaced by the initials "JBJ".

Transcript of the Black Book

For members only.

Whilst we have taken care, we cannot be held responsible for errors and misunderstandings. Researchers may wish to check the original for certainty. We welcome comments and corrections: please contact us.

Page last amended 1st December 2018