Photographing History (and having great clients)!

Paston Stitch Complete

I’m pretty lucky with a lot of my clients. They’re lovely people, appreciate what I do, and I’ve been able to assist them in realising a small part of their own visions for their businesses. It’s all I can ask really.


One of my luckier breaks was receiving a call from Bridget at Arca Preservation more than 10 years ago. Bridget designs and constructs preservation and display solutions for complex books and manuscripts. These include bespoke book and manuscript preservation solutions and book boxes and book display cradles, and she is the designer and supplier of the Book Shelter. There’s more about Bridget’s services on her website at


What is amply evident in how she works and how she interacts with her clients and her suppliers (including me) is her passion for the, often, unique objects she works with. And, equally, the love she has for the processes she undertakes, and the skill with which she does so. She’s a motivated (and motivating) person and runs her business in an inspiring manner.


Which makes it all the more of a pleasure to have been working with her regularly now for over a decade, during which time I’ve been fortunate to be able to appreciate at close hand some of the wonderful objects she has worked on. 


The best bit about working with Bridget has been seeing and photographing over the years some amazing manuscripts and documents, many a few hundred years old, and at least one – a Bactrian manuscript from 705AD which I photographed recently – which was well over 1,300 years old. I might return to this and a particularly gorgeous early twentieth century Freedom of the City of Moscow scroll, which I photographed last year, in a future post.


In 2018, I was commissioned to photograph the Paston Heraldic Roll, created in 1573. Currently owned by Sir Henry Paston-Bedingfield at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk, it’s a huge object (almost 2.5m tall and 63cm wide) showing the descent of the Paston family, and their rise from ‘peasant elite’ to one of the most prominent gentry families in sixteenth century East Anglia and leading Norfolk landowners.


As the object needed to remain in Bridget’s studio where it was being preserved, it took a ladder, some acrobatics, and some stitching together of images but, in the end, we got a fabulous set of images of this unique document.


The photography commission arose from the fact that Yale Center for British Art required imagery of the Paston Heraldic Roll for the richly illustrated and comprehensive catalogue which accompanied their 2018 exhibition titled The Paston Treasure (check it out here on Amazon). This was held both at the Center in New Haven and at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery. My images appear on the frontispiece of the catalogue, and on pp 445-7 of the catalogue in the section devoted to the Roll. It’s been a real highlight for me to have imagery published in such a prestigious volume. Here are some of my favourite images, all originally painted in ink and bodycolour on the vellum by Elizabethan herald Robert Cooke, including the images that Yale selected for the catalogue.