How much do you know about the Ford Collection?

The Ford Collection of British Official Publications

Those who venture to level 3 of the Hartley Library may spot signs leading to the Ford Collection.  Some of you may wonder what it is.  Some of you know what it is and some of you even love it.

 What is the Ford Collection?  It comprises an extensive collection of British ‘official publications’, i.e. documents produced by and for the UK parliament and government departments.  We have about 300 years’ worth, with some of our printed materials dating back to the 18th Century and we are still actively gathering according to certain criteria and also exploiting online sources.


Report of the Royal Commission on Motor Cars, 1906, Cd 3080

 We’ve got a doc for that

Want to know about the madness of King George?  We’ve got a doc(ument) for that, including the Report From The Committee Appointed To Examine the Physicians who have attended His Majesty, During His Illness, Touching the State of His Majesty’s Health, (ordered to be printed 17th January 1789).  (Members of the University of Southampton can read this online via House of Commons Parliamentary Papers,

Want to know something about the previous Referendum on European membership?  We’ve got many docs for that, but here is an interesting University of Southampton link.  One of our academics, Professor Dennis McQuail, submitted a research paper to the Royal Commission on the Press, which included  a note on the balance of content favourable to, or unfavourable to, Britain’s continuing membership of the EEC, for which daily national newspapers were surveyed during May 1975.

Royal Commission on the Press.  Analysis of newspaper content, 1977, Cmnd. 6810-4 (Members of the University of Southampton can read this online via House of Commons Parliamentary Papers,

Want to find all the stages from ministerial policy announcement to Act of Parliament?  We’ve got docs for that and advice on following what can be a meandering path!

Why is it called the Ford Collection?  It’s nothing to do with the motor company, so we don’t get any external funding!  It’s named after the late Professor Percy Ford, who, with his wife Dr Grace Ford, brought the collection to Southampton and conducted research based on the collection.

Surely it’s all online now?  Yes, much of it is, but not all.  In some instances the online versions lose clarity, especially where photographs, plans and statistical tables are included.


Detail from plan of the ground floor of the gaol at Newgate, from Plans of Newgate, Giltspur-street and Preston Prisons.  HC 579 (1819), 1821.  Image produced courtesy of LDU

Our LibGuide includes a ‘roughly chronological guide to online sources’

What’s in it for me? Government touches every aspect of our lives, so be it animal culls, press freedom, treatment of refugees, food safety, engineering disasters , public health – we will have docs for that and you will probably find that the same issues arise over and over again.  So we couldn’t resist finding a library quote to end this piece.  Lord Quinton, in a debate on the Public Library System, commented that, “The acquisition of a book by a library is like marriage; a certain amount of initial expenditure is involved in bringing it off but that pales into insignificance in comparison to the haemorrhage of money that occurs after the marriage has taken place —or after the book is installed in the library.”   Great Britain.  HL Deb. (1991-92) 535, col 1314, or freely available via the Historic Hansard service:

 Find out more.  See our LibGuide at or contact Joy Caisley, the Law and Official Publications Librarian,


2 responses to “How much do you know about the Ford Collection?

  1. Writing a history of Irish book publishing I came across numerous letters in the Irish University Press file (relating to IUP’s 1,000 volume set of British 19th century Parliamentary Papers for which the Fords were advisors) signed Peter (not Percy) Ford.
    I notice you use Percy I have seen the same elsewhere — did he just prefer Peter? Or perhaps you can suggest where does the difference arise?
    I look forward to you input on this admittedly small point
    Tony Farmar

    • Hello Tony,
      our Law librarian, Joy Caisley, commented that his name was officially Percy (so our library catalogue, for example, uses Percy) but he seems to have preferred and used Peter in person.

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