Archivist Craig Fees writes:
Going through elements of the library of the late Robert Laslett, which came to us in several different stages, I open his copy of Donald Winnicott's "Collected Papers: Through Paediatrics to Psycho-Analysis", published in 1958 by Tavistock.
Apart from being a leading figure in the field of therapeutic child care, Robert was one of those magical people who write in their books. He has inscribed the flyleaf of this one:
Robin Laslett / December 1963 / Ealing.
So - he acquired the book when he was head of Aston Day School, which he had opened in 1959: "That was the day school," he explained in an interview recorded in 1990 - "that was the first day school for maladjusted children in Middlesex, and it was the seventh in England and Wales." (CF0003, Robert and Pam Laslett, interviewed by Craig Fees, 10/7/90).
Opposite this, in a different pen, is
"Did I hit him..." Pg 200. (On page 200 Winnicott writes "Did I hit him? The answer is no, I never hit. But I should have had to have done so if I had not known all about my hate and if I had not let him know about it too..." )
The Contents Page has more such notes.
The real surprise, however, unfolds as we move into the book proper, and come across Robert's bookmarks.
Here is his bookmark for pages 132-133. The book opens at a section called "Characteristics of the Manic Defence", beginning on p. 132:
The bookmark holding his place at pages 180-181, within Chapter XIV, "Birth Memories, Birth Trauma, and Anxiety ", is this note:
There are three other bookmarks in the volume: At the first page of Chapter XIV, the chapter in which we find the note above, is a British Airways ticket stub for Robert, travelling from Birmingham International to Charles DeGaulle Airport in Paris. No year is given, but it's for a non-smoking seat on BA flight 1807, departing 1700 on the third of September. Earlier in the book, between pages 58-59, there is a photograph of Donald Winncott, perhaps cut from the dust jacket. Slipped into the Index at the end of the book, between pages 338-339, there is a hand-drawn card from Phoebe dated 14/6/88.
What is the story behind that first note, written to David Wills by Donald Winnicott on the death of Davids' wife Ruth - in 1956, before the book was even published, and well before Robert acquired it. What was its journey? How did it come to be there?
And what about the second note, giving Winnicott's regrets for missing a meeting of the AWMC? Was that to David Wills, or to Robert? Both were founders of the Association of Workers for Maladjusted Children.
(For a bit on Winnicott's relationship with Wills, see "A Fearless Frankness". For a bit on David, Ruth, Bodenham and Ministries, see "Bodenham, David Wills, and 'Administrative hostility'". For Robert and the AWMC, see PP/RL Robert Laslett).