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Stephen Bann to Philip Steadman, 1968
Collection Description & Creator Information
The archives include correspondence, along with editorial and administrative files regarding the British magazine, Form, spanning its entire run from 1966 until 1969, and following the activities of its main editor for several years after the publication of the final issue. Edited by three Cambridge-educated academics Philip Steadman (1942-), Mike Weaver (1937-), and Stephen Bann (1942-), Form was an international magazine of the arts, focusing on concrete poetry, kinetic art, and avant-garde architecture, and known for its modernist content and striking design. The magazine's archives of well over a thousand items, formerly in the possession of principal editor Philip Steadman, provide a full picture of the magazine in all its aspects, with editorial and administrative material supplementing an extensive correspondence, not only from contributors and subscribers, but also from Steadman's two coeditors.
From the first issue of Form, Steadman was joined by Mike Weaver and Stephen Bann, both of whom had contributed to previous projects, including Image and Kinetic Art. Bann and Steadman had met as schoolboys at Winchester College, and later studied together as undergraduates at the University of Cambridge, where they met Mike Weaver, who was then working towards his doctorate. Weaver went on to serve as the magazine's American coeditor. While Bann and Weaver contributed to the editorial workload and helped maintain communications with contributors, the vast majority of the design, printing, and distribution responsibilities fell to Steadman. Editorial correspondence, drafts, and research files show Form's content and aesthetic, which focused primarily on concrete poetry and industrial design, with influences from contemporary Swiss and German graphic and industrial design, the Bauhaus, Russian Constructivism, and Black Mountain College, as reflected in the magazine's modern design, consisting of Helvetica typeface on an extensive field of white, alongside high-quality photography. Beginning with its first issue in summer 1966, Form published concrete poetry, scholarly essays, photographs, and artwork, along with Mike Weaver's "Great Little Magazines" series, which featured excerpts and studies of other international little magazines. Lively correspondence from frequent collaborators, such as Ian Hamilton Finlay and Simon Cutts, demonstrates the important role many members of the British avant-garde of the time attributed to the magazine.
Form's tumultuous finances are documented in bank statements, checks, deposit slips, accounting papers, receipts for expenses, and grant applications found in the administrative files. Despite receiving small amounts of funding from an Arts Council of Great Britain grant and through Reverend William Moelwyn Merchant at the University of Exeter, Form began to face serious financial struggles as early as 1967. The editors also began to express conflicting opinions about finding the right balance between operating Form as a contemporary arts magazine versus as a journal of academic research, which debate is reflected in the editorial correspondence. After only ten issues, the magazine ceased production in October 1969, due to financial troubles. The largest blow came from the withdrawal of the Arts Council of Great Britain grant on which the magazine had relied heavily in previous years.
While most materials date to the late 1960s, during the active run of the magazine, the collection also contains correspondence from disappointed contributors and subscribers, submissions, and financial documents from the several years following the demise of the magazine, as Steadman finished wrapping up operations, including settling on reprint agreements and distributing back issues in an attempt to cover costs.
- Archival Appraisal Information:
Nothing was removed from the collection during 2014 processing.
Access & Use
- Access Restrictions:
The collection is open for research.
- Conditions for Reproduction and Use:
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.
- Credit this material:
Stephen Bann to Philip Steadman; Archives of Form Magazine, C1489, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library
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