John Furnival papers

Biographical and Historical Notes

John Furnival (born 1933) is a British visual artist whose work is associated with the Concrete Poetry, Mail Art, and Fluxus movements, as well as with the American Beats. Furnival studied at the Royal College of Art from 1957-1960. In the 1960s and 1970s, he taught at Gloucestershire College of Art and at the Bath Academy of Art, Corsham. In 1964, Furnival and Dom Sylvester Houédard began the seminal concrete poetry press, Openings, which published Augusto de Campos, Richard Kostelanetz, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Tom Phillips, Edwin Morgan, Houédard, and Furnival, among many others.


"John Furnival: Somewhere between Poetry and Painting" England & Co Gallery. 2015. Accessed December 13, 2016.

"The Openings Press." The Openings Press. Accessed December 13, 2016.

Other biographical information derived from collection.

Content Description

The John Furnival papers encompass nearly fifty years of the artist’s personal and professional activity and document his involvement with the International Concrete Poetry and Mail Art movements through correspondence, publications, broadsides, and posters.

The collection comprises Furnival’s personal archive, created and collected by the artist during a nearly a fifty-year span (roughly 1970-2016). The materials were sent by Furnival over a two year period to Steve Clay, publisher of Granary Books in New York City. The mailings were accompanied by more than fifty handwritten cards and letters to Clay filled with descriptions, anecdotes, and elaborations regarding the items sent. These descriptions form an integral part of the collection and provide a first-person guided tour of Furnival's papers. The collection is arranged in five series: I. Correspondence; II. Publications; III. Openings Press; IV. Exhibition announcements; and V. Ephemera.

Series I., Correspondence, contains letters, postcards, mail art, concrete poetry, posters, books, and printed ephemera sent to John Furnival and his wife, Astrid, between 1970-2015, by friends and colleagues. Many of his correspondents are also notable visual artists, printers, and poets, and the series contains a sampling of their various original mail art, concrete poems, illustrations, collages, rubber-stampings, and letterpress prints. Various art magazines, artists’ books, and poetry chapbooks sent to Furnival are also included. The series is arranged alphabetically by correspondent, with assorted correspondence by unknown authors arranged by country of origin.

Series II., Publications, is a small series containing books, magazines, and newspapers of interest to Furnival including three books by Italian musicologist Ornella Volta.

Series III., Openings Press, contains postcards, exhibition announcements, publications, and ephemera created by John Furnival under the press imprint.

Series IV., Exhibition invitations and announcements contains flyers and printed promotional items for art events held predominantly in Europe and indirectly related to Openings Press or Furnival’s own work.

Series V., Ephemera contains various postcards, prints, illustrations, and other materials collected by Furnival but bearing no relation to correspondents in the collection. This series also contains three small boxes elaborately collaged as mail art (from unknown sender).