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Postcard from Chadwick to Ventris

The Mycenaean Epigraphy Room holds a unique collection of correspondence, books, offprints, scholia, photographs, squeezes, and other material of essential importance for research on Linear B and other Aegean and Cypriot Bronze Age scripts.

The Ventris-Chadwick archives contain the original letters written by Ventris and Chadwick, from the moment of their first being put in touch with each other by Sir John Myres, to just weeks before Ventris’s death. The letters are crucial for understanding the history of the decipherment, and contain a great wealth of information which is still of great value and has never been published. A selection of these letters can be viewed here. The files also contain letters from many of the major scholars of the world, plus numerous original drawings by Ventris, including the originals for Documents in Mycenaean Greek. In addition, the Chadwick collection contains material covering Chadwick’s entire academic career (a 50-year period), including extensive correspondence with academics around the world as well as teaching and research notes.

(Note: Much of Ventris’s personal correspondence and other material was given by his widow, Lois (Betty) Ventris, to the Institute of Classical Studies, home of the London Mycenaean Seminar. A catalogue of this material is available. Other Ventris material is held by the Program for Aegean Scripts and Prehistory, University of Texas at Austin; this correspondence is available online.)

The photographs were made in the 1950s and 1960s and were the first complete set ever assembled. The images are of excellent quality, and some preserve details no longer observable on the original tablets, so that the photographic collection now constitutes in some cases a primary record. Following a project to digitise the photographs of tablets from Pylos, these are now available online

The library books represent one of the most complete collections of relevant publications in the world. Many were the bequest of John Chadwick and were his own personal copies; his annotations in these are often of interest. Scholars at Cambridge also have access to the outstanding holdings of the library of the Faculty of Classics. 

The offprints collection is unique, since John Chadwick received contributions from virtually every scholar in the world writing on the subject for some five decades; it now comprises around 80 boxes of articles on Linear B and related subjects. (We encourage scholars to continue contributing in this way to the collection—offprints are still gratefully received.)

Material held by the Mycenaean Epigraphy Group has so far formed the basis for two museum exhibitions. In 2003, an exhibition was organised at the Fitzwilliam Museum to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ventris and Chadwick’s publication of the decipherment, and in 2012, a conference was held in the Faculty of Classics in celebration of “60 Years of Mycenaean Studies”; as part of this an exhibition of the Mycenaean Epigraphy Group’s collection was displayed in the Cast Gallery.

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