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John Adamson (born 1949) is a British publisher, translator and writer. He specialises in illustrated books in the fine and decorative arts.

John Adamson
Devon, England
ResidenceCambridge, England
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh and University of Geneva
Occupationpublisher, translator and writer



John Adamson was born in Devon, the younger son of George Worsley Adamson, illustrator and cartoonist and Mary Marguerita Renée (née Diamond). After studying at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Geneva,[1] he joined Cambridge University Press in 1974.

He held various functions within the marketing department of the Press: first as European sales representative (1975); then publicity manager (1977);[2] becoming export sales director in 1980.[3] During the period of his directorship, Cambridge University Press won for the first time the Queen's Award for Export Achievement.[4]

While at Cambridge University Press he helped mount two exhibitions of humorous art in his spare time. For the first of these, "L’Humour Actuel franco-britannique. 200 dessins" [Franco-British Humour Today: 200 drawings], hosted by the Galerie M.L.R. Génot in the Marais, Paris in 1974, he "organized the British contribution",[5] commissioning Quentin Blake to design the poster. The second exhibition "Famous British Cartoonists" was held the following year at the London Gallery, N. La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, and featured only the cartoons of artists working in the British Isles. "Many [cartoons] such as those by George Adamson almost leave the field of illustrations to become technically speaking fine art," wrote Betje Howell in her review of the show in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.[6]

In 1987 he was appointed Head of Publications and Retailing at the National Portrait Gallery,[7] London, where in the course of his five-year tenure he and his team were involved in the publication of exhibition catalogues and books ranging from Franz Xaver Winterhalter[8] to T.E. Lawrence,[9] from The Raj[10] to a pictorial volume on the NPG's permanent collection.[11]

In 1992 he set himself up as a publishing and picture-library consultant.[12] He advised private collectors as well as museums such as the Wallace Collection, providing them with a full editorial and production service.[13] Soon, however, he began working as an independent publisher making available an ongoing range of illustrated books and catalogues for museums, dealers and private collectors under his own imprint, as well as translating books and exhibition catalogues on behalf of French publishers such as the Réunion des musées nationaux (RMN), Éditions Gallimard, Éditions Diane de Selliers and Éditions Faton.

Select bibliographyEdit

As publisherEdit

  • Margaret de Flahaut (1788–1867): A Scotswoman at the French Court, Diana Scarisbrick ISBN 978-1-898565-16-1[14]
  • English Silver before the Civil War: The David Little Collection, Timothy Schroder ISBN 978-1-898565-15-4[15]
  • Art in Industry: The Silver of Paul Storr, Christopher Hartop ISBN 978-1-898565-14-7
  • Masterpieces in the Digital Age, Koopman Rare Art with photographs by Karen Bengall ISBN 978-1-898565-13-0
  • Gilt-edged Splendour: Masterpieces of Silver Gilt, Koopman Rare Art with photographs by Guy Hills ISBN 978-1-898565-12-3
  • A Handsome Cupboard of Plate: Early American Silver in the Cahn Collection, Deborah Dependahl Waters with foreword by Kaywin Feldman. In association with Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA), Minneapolis, MA, exh. cat. ISBN 978-1-898565-11-6
  • In Good Hands: 250 Years of Craftsmanship at Swaine Adeney Brigg, Katherine Prior ISBN 978-1-898565-09-3
  • Regency Silver, Koopman Rare Art with photographs by Guy Hills ISBN 978-1-898565-10-9
  • Norfolk Summer: Making The Go-Between, Christopher Hartop ISBN 978-1-898565-07-9
  • Rococo Silver, Koopman Rare Art with photographs by Guy Hills ISBN 978-1-898565-06-2
  • The Classical Ideal: English Silver, 1760–1840, Christopher Hartop with foreword by Tim Knox, exh. cat. ISBN 978-0-9524322-9-6
  • Antique Woodworking Tools: Their Craftsmanship from the Earliest Times to the Twentieth Century, David R. Russell with foreword by David Linley and photographs by James Austin. In association with Bernard J. Shapero ISBN 978-1-898565-05-5
  • The French Hospital in England: Its Huguenot History and Collections, Tessa Murdoch and Randolph Vigne with foreword by Jacob Pleydell-Bouverie, 8th Earl of Radnor ISBN 978-0-9524322-7-2
  • Geometry and the Silversmith: The Domcha Collection, Christopher Hartop with foreword by Jonathan Norton ISBN 978-0-9524322-8-9
  • Noble Households: Eighteenth-Century Inventories of Great English Houses: A tribute to John Cornforth, edited by Tessa Murdoch, inventories transcribed by Candace Briggs and Laurie Lindey ISBN 978-0-9524322-5-8[16]
  • Beyond the Maker's Mark: Paul de Lamerie Silver in the Cahn Collection, Ellenor Alcorn with foreword by Tessa Murdoch and preface by Kaywin Feldman. In association with Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN, exh. cat. ISBN 978-0-9524322-6-5
  • The German Ambassador's Residence in London, Regine Aldington with photographs by Fritz von der Schulenburg and Marianne Majerus ISBN 978-0-9524322-1-0
  • Royal Goldsmiths: The Art of Rundell & Bridge 1797–1843, Christopher Hartop et al., with foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales, introduction by Philippa Glanville; essays by Diana Scarisbrick, Charles Truman, David Watkin and Matthew Winterbottom,exh. cat. ISBN 978-0-9524322-3-4
  • East Anglian Silver: 1550–1750, edited by Christopher Hartop with foreword by Robert Shirley, 13th Earl Ferrers, exh. cat. ISBN 978-0-9524322-2-7

As editor and producer for other publishersEdit

As translatorEdit

  • Schmuck, Kinetik, Objekte (Friedrich Becker), Stuttgart: Arnoldsche (1997) (Beatriz Chadour-Sampson's essay: "The finger rings of Friedrich Becker: towards a new vision", pp. 152–67) ISBN 978-3-925369-76-6
  • The Louvre Collections, Paris: Réunion des Musées nationaux (1999) ISBN 978-2-7118-3871-4
  • De bronze, d’or et d’argent: arts somptuaires de la Chine (Catherine Delacour), Paris: Réunion des Musées nationaux for Musée Guimet (2001), exh. cat. ISBN 978-2-7118-4108-0 (bilingual text throughout)
  • National Museum Arts asiatiques Guimet, Paris: Réunion des Musées nationaux (2001) ISBN 978-2-7118-3897-4
  • Gold of the Scythian Kings: translation of Le Petit Journal des grandes expositions, no. 332, for exhibition at the Grand Palais, 27 September–31 December 2001
  • Hair: The Long and the Short of It, coll. "Découvertes Gallimard" (nº 405). Paris: Gallimard (2001) (with Heidi Ellison). Published on behalf of L'Oréal
  • Skin: A Living Envelope, coll. "Découvertes Gallimard" (nº 420). Paris: Gallimard (2002) (editing with Alexandra Keens; translating of essays). Published on behalf of L'Oréal
  • Les Choix d'Henri Cartier-Bresson, exh. cat. Paris: Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson (2003) (translation of Robert Delpire's foreword)
  • "Confucius, or the Extraordinary Destiny of an Ordinary Man", Orientations, vol. 34, no. 9, November 2003, pp. 47–51 (translation of magazine article by Catherine Delacour at time of Musée Guimet's exhibition on Confucius)
  • The Musée de l'Orangerie (Pierre Georgel), Paris: Gallimard in association with Réunion des Musées nationaux, coll. “Découvertes Gallimard Hors série” (2006) ISBN 978-2-07-078167-6 (Gallimard); ISBN 978-2-7118-5230-7 (RMN)
  • The Golden Age of Classical India: The Gupta Empire, exh. cat. Grand Palais, Paris: Réunion des Musées nationaux (2007) ISBN 978-2-7118-5321-2 (three French essays translated into English)
  • The Studio of Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat. Centre Pompidou, Paris: Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti/Centre Pompidou (2007) ISBN 978-2-84426-352-0 (translation into English of Hélène Pinet's essay: "The Studio of Alberto Giacometti in the Photographer's Eye: Coming Full Circle", pp. 53–74)
  • A Taste for China: Paris 1730–1930, exh. cat. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Museum of Art (2008) ISBN 978-962-215-213-7 (French essays translated into English)
  • Art of the Ganges delta: Masterpieces from Bangladeshi museums, exh. cat. Paris: Réunion des Musées nationaux (2008) ISBN 978-2-7118-5540-7
  • La Cathédrale de Reims (Auguste Rodin and Gérard Rondeau), published to coincide with Gérard Rondeau's exhibition ‘La cathédrale et son bestiaire’, Palais du Tau, exh. cat. Paris: Réunion des Musées nationaux (2011) ISBN 978-2-7118-5800-2 (translation into English of Rodin's and Rondeau's essays)
  • Canticle of the Birds (Attar), Paris: Éditions Diane de Selliers (2013) ISBN 978-2-36437-031-9 (translation into English of Leili Anvar's Introduction; Attar's poem is published in Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis's unabridged verse translation from the Persian)
  • Fabulous Fabergé, exh. cat. Dijon: Éditions Faton in association with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (2014) ISBN 978-2-89192-379-8 (translation into English of French texts)
  • Rodin: The Laboratory of Creation, Hélène Maraud and Hélène Pinet, foreword by Catherine Chevillot, exh. cat. Dijon: Éditions Faton in association with the Musée Rodin (2014) ISBN 978-2-87844-200-7 (translation from the French into English)
  • The Carracci Gallery: Its History and Restoration, Elvira Cajano and Emanuela Settimi (eds.) Dijon: Éditions Faton (2015) ISBN 978-2-87844-211-3 (translation into English of French texts)
  • The new Musée de Pont-Aven: A treasure-house for Gauguin and the Pont-Aven School, Estelle Guille des Buttes-Fresneau et al., exh. cat. Dijon: Éditions Faton in association with the Musée de Pont-Aven (2016, 2nd edition 2018) ISSN 0998-8041 (translation from the French into English)
  • Lalique and the art of travel, Véronique Brumm et al., exh. cat. Dijon: Éditions Faton in association with the Lalique Museum, Wingen-sur Moder, Alsace (2016) ISSN 0998-8041
  • Ramayana, Paris: Éditions Diane de Selliers (forthcoming) (translation into English of Amina Okada's iconographic descriptions of the Indian miniatures)[18]

Articles publishedEdit

  • "Thorfinn the Puffin", illustrated by Sheridan Williams, Puffin Post, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 16–17 (Penguin)
  • "Les publications à la rescousse des musées au Royaume-Uni", ICOM France, Lettre du comité national français, no. 13, March 1993 (lecture given in Marseilles, 6 December 1991, at a colloquium entitled Publications, éditions, musées, Centre de la Vieille Charité, Marseilles, on the occasion of the Assemblée générale du Comité français de l'ICOM)
  • "Accounts Made Easy", review of Wendy McKenzie's book The Financial Times Guide to Using and Interpreting Company Accounts, African Business, March 1996, no. 208, p. 36
  • "Computer King", review of Bill Gates's book The Road Ahead, African Business, April 1996, no. 209, pp. 36–7
  • "The Real Richard Branson", review of Tim Jackson's book Virgin King, African Business, May 1996, no. 210, pp. 40–1
  • "Measurement in the French Idiom", Salisbury Review, Spring 2004, vol. 22 No. 3, 2004, p. 2 (ifc)
  • "Dining with a Despot?" Salisbury Review, Spring 2005, vol. 23 No. 3, 2005, pp. 33–5
  • "American Tools Sold Abroad", Maine Antique Digest, December 2012, p. 35-B
  • "Homecoming for Top American Tools Sold Abroad", Maine Antique Digest, August 2013, p. 74-C
  • "Under the hammer: Antique woodworking tools: the missing link", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 210, October 2013, pp. 60–1
  • "Under the hammer: Fine tools by the chest load", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 213, Winter 2013, pp. 46–7
  • "More American Tools Sold Abroad", Maine Antique Digest, January 2014, p. 18-B
  • "A tool to sell tools – the gavel strikes home", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 220, July 2014, pp. 44–5
  • "American tools ply the Atlantic", Maine Antique Digest, July 2014, p. 39-C
  • "The great plane-makers: The history behind T. Norris & Son", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 221, August 2014, pp. 58–62
  • "The great tool-makers: The history behind the Holtzapffel dynasty", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 222, September 2014, pp. 58–62
  • "Two great Scottish tool-makers: Alexander Mathieson & Son(s) and Spiers of Ayr", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 223, October 2014, pp. 58–62
  • "The insatiable in full pursuit of the collectable", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 227, January 2015, pp. 58–60
  • "Planes and the Plain-speaking American", Maine Antique Digest, January 2015, p. 35-B
  • "Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum – Japan", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 234, August 2015, pp. 16–20
  • "Precision engineering meets craftsmanship", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 235, September 2015, pp. 56–8
  • "Plain dealing", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 241, February 2016, pp. 67–9
  • "Under the hammer: bench-marks of quality", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 246, July 2016, pp. 50–2
  • "Twice upon a time: reviving the vintage hand tool", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 252, Winter 2016, pp. 52–4
  • "Vintage tools: gathering ideas for a collection", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 257, May 2017, pp. 58–61
  • "Edward Preston", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 258, June 2017, pp. 58–61
  • "Spokeshaves: planing without a straight face", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 260, August 2017, pp. 54–7
  • "The Ultimatum brace: a feat of engineering", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 264, December 2017, pp. 52–5
  • "Gimlets galore!", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 265, Winter 2017, pp. 50–3
  • "David Stanley Sale", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 266, January 2018, pp. 56–8
  • "The plane and the ornate: the making of a European tradition", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 267, February 2018, pp. 52–6
  • "The making of the mitre plane", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 270, May 2018, pp. 44–9
  • "'There's magic in the web': auctioning woodworking tools in the digital age", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 272, July 2018, pp. 58–60
  • "The collector's guide to bow saws", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 274, September 2018, pp. 58–60
  • "Rooting out router planes", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 277, December 2018, pp. 56–60
  • "A symphony in three movements: selling tools at a David Stanley auction", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 279, January 2019, pp. 47–9
  • "Keeping within compass: a history of dividers", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 281, March 2019, pp. 56–60
  • "Happy recurrences – cyclical sales at a David Stanley auction", Furniture & Cabinetmaking, issue 283, May 2019, pp. 56–60


  1. ^ Dust-wrapper for Katherine Prior and John Adamson Maharajas' Jewels, Paris: Éditions Assouline (2000).
  2. ^ "Trade Notes", Bookseller, no. 3747, 15 October 1977, p. 2475; the announcement states that Adamson had been "Cambridge's representative in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland for the last two years".
  3. ^ "Trade Notes", Bookseller, no. 3886, 4 June 1980, p. 2467; Cambridge University Reporter, Michaelmas, 7 October 1980. See also Saito, Sumio, The Foreign Book Trade: A Memoir from Japan, Tokyo (2005) ISBN 978-4-901617-01-7, p. 78.
  4. ^ London Gazette, Supplement 50896, 20 April 1987. At the time of the award, Geoffrey Cass, CUP's chief executive commented: "This export award is the result of teamwork – and the award authorities emphasize that the award is granted to the press as a whole as an acknowledgement of outstanding achievement by management and staff working as a team." Cambridge Evening News, 17 July 1987. In his Short History of Cambridge University Press (Cambridge: CUP [2000] ISBN 978-0521-77572-4), Michael Black stated that the award was bestowed on the Press in 1987 "on account of its remarkable export record: two-thirds of its then annual output of 1,000 new academic and educational books were exported worldwide to over 150 countries annually, around double the export ratio of British publishing generally" (p. 58).
  5. ^ "Smile for the cartoonist", Atticus (by Alan Hall) Sunday Times, 24 November 1974, no. 7902, p. 32. The exhibition ran from 20 November 1974 to 10 December 1974, but was extended. See George Adamson Selected exhibitions. There was no catalogue.
  6. ^ Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 15 July 1975.
  7. ^ "Trade Notes", Bookseller, 28 August 1987; The Times, 23 April 1988, no. 63063; see also National Portrait Gallery Triennial Report,1987–90, London: National Portrait Gallery Publications (1990) ISBN 1-85514-064-0, pp. 107 and 108.
  8. ^ Ormond, Richard, Caroline Blackett-Ord, Franz Xaver Winterhalter and the Courts of Europe, 1830–70, exh. cat. London: National Portrait Gallery Publications (1987) ISBN 0-8109-3964-9; French edition: Franz Xaver Winterhalter et les cours d'Europe de 1830 à 1870, exh. cat. Paris: Musée du Petit Palais (1988) ISBN 978-2-905028-20-4.
  9. ^ Wilson, Jeremy, T.E. Lawrence, exh. cat. London: National Portrait Gallery Publications (1988) ISBN 0-904017-85-0.
  10. ^ Bayly, C.A. (ed.), The Raj: India and the British 1600–1947, exh. cat. London: National Portrait Gallery Publications (1990) ISBN 1-85514-026-8; also co-published in India with Oxford University Press.
  11. ^ Foister, Susan; Robin Gibson, Malcolm Rogers, Jacob Simon, The National Portrait Gallery Collection, London: National Portrait Gallery Publications (1988) ISBN 0-904017-89-3; US cloth edition (New York: Cambridge University Press) ISBN 978-0-521-37392-0.
  12. ^ "Trade Notes", Bookseller, 2 October 1992, no. 4528, p. 994.
  13. ^ The Wallace Collection Triennial Report 1992–1995, London: Wallace Collection (1995) ISBN 978-0-900785-50-4, p. 16: "The Staff of the Wallace Collection: Consultant advisers", p. 36; The Wallace Collection Triennial Report 1995–1998, London: Wallace Collection (1999) ISBN 978-0-900785-63-4, "Marketing for a wider audience", pp. 29–30 and list of advisers p. 38.
  14. ^ Website of the Fondation Napoléon, Paris.
  15. ^ John Adamson website.
  16. ^ In his review of the book Noble Households in the Art Newspaper (no. 178, March 2007, p. 47), John Harris wrote: "John Adamson in Cambridge has produced and printed a handsome volume".
  17. ^ A French-language edition was also published (Bijoux de Maharadjas, Paris: Éditions Assouline ISBN 978-2-84323-216-9) as well as US and Indian editions (New York: Vendome Press ISBN 978-0-86565-218-7; Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing ISBN 978-81-85822-79-2).
  18. ^ Éditions Diane de Selliers' Ramayana site; translation page of John Adamson's official site.

External linksEdit