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Harpers archive heads for California

Published:  07 February, 2024

One hundred and forty-five years of trade history is soon to cross The Pond, as the Harpers archive moves to a new home at UC Davis.

California’s world-leading agricultural and wine college has agreed to host and digitise the collection, building on its already impressive library of wine resources, which aims to be the leading such collection in the world.

The bound volumes, which contain an almost unbroken run of Harpers issues back to 1880, represent a remarkable catalogue of, and insight into, the wine and spirit trade since the publication’s inaugural issue as The Wine Trade Creditors Association - Weekly Gazette.

Published by E. Norton Harpers & Sons, this evolved into Harpers Weekly Gazette in 1885, complete with editorial coverage of the trade that readers of Harpers Wine & Spirit are familiar with today.

Advertising, which back then dominated the front cover, also included familiar names, such as Bollinger (sole agent: Mentzendorff), rivals Mercier and Clicquot, plus the likes of Burgoyne’s ‘gold medal’ Australian wines.

The then Wine & Spirit Association featured too, offering from its Philpot Lane HQ that, ‘All Holders of a Ten Guinea Licence, and Brokers, Foreign Shippers, Growers or their Agents, are admissible as Members on payment of an Annual Subscription of ONE GUINEA’.

Harpers has undergone several changes of ownership down the years, now for the past nine years sitting in the Agile Media stable of drinks trade titles. And for many years the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) was the custodian of the Harpers archive, with the editions stored in the basement of its Bermondsey HQ in London.

“We feel privileged to have been custodians of the Harpers’ archive for the last 20 years. Unfortunately, we no longer have the space to house it, so we are very happy that UC Davis are stepping in to provide a home for this impressive collection,” said Michelle Brampton, WSET CEO.

“By digitising the archive, they are keeping this fantastic record of the UK’s wine and spirits industry alive and making it accessible to everyone. Special thanks to the chairman of our Board of Trustees Simon McMurtrie and to Hugh Johnson OBE for their help in making this happen.”

The Harpers team made a final (UK) visit to the physical archive late in January, with the collection soon to be shipped to its new home. We are delighted, however, that this means that this fascinating history of our collective trade will be made available to a wider audience than has been possible as print editions in its recent home.

Harpers would like to add its thanks to all above, and to Audrey Russek, food and wine archivist at UC Davis Library, who will be overseeing the archive when it arrives in California. And we will, of course, bring you details in due course of when and how the archive can be accessed.

An excerpt from the January 1924 editorial leader will appear on our February print and digital editions of Harpers.