• Title
    Philip Osborne Collier Photographic Collection
  • Reference
    P DX323
  • Production date
  • Creator
  • Creator History
    Phillip Osborne Collier (1881-1979) was born in Windsor in 1881, moving to Reading with his parents in the late 1890s. He began work as a trainee electrician at the Royal County Theatre in Friar Street, but his business instinct soon attracted him to the booming market for real photographic picture postcards. The years from the turn of the century to the First World War were the heyday of this cheap, undemanding and high collectable form of personal communication, and by 1905 Collier had begun to publish his own postcards and greetings cards. From about 1906, he was able to supplement an income from his postcard business by work for the local newspapers, which be this time were using an increasing number of photographs to illustrate their pages. Ill health prevented Collier from being conscripted for service in the Great War until late 1916, when he joined the Royal Flying Corps where he spent two years in service as a cook. After demobilisation, Collier returned to his photographic business. This soon outgrew the cramped darkroom at his Thames Side home, and in partnership with Eric Guy, a photographer based at Basingstoke, Collier moved into premises in Waylen Street, Reading. Later the partners moved again to Oxford Road in the town. Their work still appeared regularly in the local press, and also began to feature in magazines such as Picture Post and Farmers Weekly. The partnership broke up before the Second World War, but Collier continued to produce postcards and a range of other products until his death in 1979. Source: Cooper, M. [1984]. 'Collier's Berkshire, 1905-1935'. Reading : University of Reading, Institute of Agricultural History and Museum of English Rural Life Cooper, M. (1984). 'The Collier Collection'. Reading : University of Reading, Institute of Agricultural History and Museum of English Rural Life
  • Scope and Content
    The negatives are arranged into three main series. The "early series" of half plates date from 1905 until the mid 1930s and are arranged by location (E1-226). The "late series" of quarter plates date from the mid 1930s until the 1960s and are also arranged by location (L1-87). Miscellaneous (non-topographical) items are arranged by subject (M1-34). Collier's original numbers, where available, are given in the scope and content of records and have been used to date items in many cases and have been used to date items in many cases. The system of dating was devised by David Collins by comparing Collier's serial numbers with postmark dates on surviving postcards. There are no original prints or postcards in this collection, but items are printed systematically to form an archive set (P1). A number of duplicate or receipt books survive (P2-): these record sales of calendars and other goods by Collier. All the negatives within the collection have been digitised and attached to the catalogue as part of the Reading Connections Project funded by Arts Council England (ACE), April 2013-April 2014.
  • Extent
    c.6360 photographic negatives
  • Level of description
  • Content Subject
  • Conditions governing reproduction
    The University of Reading holds the copyright in this archive. The making of single copies for private study and non-commercial research purposes may be permitted in accordance with our usual rules ( Enquiries regarding commercial reproduction should be directed to MERL in the first instance (
  • Archival history
    In the 1980s Collier's family were traced by a keen amateur social historian and postcard collector who discovered that Collier’s daughter was still living at the Thames Side address in Reading, and that she had kept much of her father’s photographic equipment and had saved about 7000 negatives from destruction. The remaining negatives, possible as many as 20000, were lost during the demolition of a garden shed. In July 1983 this important body of material was purchased by the Institute of Agricultural History, with the help of a grant-aid from the Science Museum, London.
  • System of arrangment
    P DX323/E1-226 Negatives (half plate glass / paper) P DX323/L1-87 Negatives (quarter plate glass) P DX323/M1-34 Negatives (half and quarter plate glass and paper) P DX323/P1 Copy prints P DX323/P2 Receipt books