Monday, December 26, 2011

Archives of British Publishers/Keith Fleming

Publishers' archives are valuable but underutilised sources of information about writers and their books, particularly writers who are little-known, or who worked under pseudonyms.

As far as I know, the largest archive of British publishers records is housed at the University of Reading, in the archive of publishers and printers.

An important set of archives that is more accessible than most is the Archives of British Publishers, which comprises the records of nine publishers copied to microfilm and microfiche, including George Rutledge, Elkin Mathews, Grant Richards, and Richard Bentley. It can be found in many major libraries.

A good example of how publishers' archives can be used is the case of the nineteenth century supernatural fiction writer, Keith Fleming. Fleming wrote three works of supernatural fiction published by George Routledge between 1889 and 1891, Can Such Things Be?, By the Night Express, and At the Eleventh Hour. The specialty publisher, Sarob, reprinted the first two in 2001 in a nice limited edition volume.

The George Rutledge papers in the Archives of British Publishers includes the contracts for the three Keith Fleming books. The signature on all three contracts is K.E. Fitzpatrick, indicating that ‘Keith Fleming’ was in fact a pseudonym. Two of the books also appear in Rutledge's book production ledgers. Can such things Be? was printed in a run of 4000 and 25 pounds was paid to “Miss Fitzpatrick”. At the Eleventh Hour was also printed in a run of 4000 and 25 pounds was paid for the copyright.

It turns out that "Keith Fleming" was in fact Kathleen Fitzpatrick, born in Ireland in 1858 or 1859, and who lived for much of her life with her widowed mother in Wales, not to be confused with the Kathleen Fitzpatrick who wrote The Weans of Rowallan.


  1. Fascinating. Wasn't this the method by which R R Ryan's identity was discovered?

  2. Hi Tim, yes that's right. In fact I was moved to write this entry because Random House has handed over some of its archives to Reading Uni. Random House owns the Herbert Jenkins contract registers, which includes the contracts for the R.R. Ryan books.

  3. Excellent detective work, James! And now we wonder if Kathleen Fitzpatrick wrote more, unpublished...

    Mark V

  4. Another unearthed pseudonym. Amazing! Something similar happened earlier this year with Paul Collins' research into the true identity of "Charles Felix" author of the Victorian detective novel The Notting Hill Mystery. Letters to publishers seem to be the key to unlocking these mysteries.