Graham Rees, 1944-2009

September 3, 2009

Graham Rees, a world authority on Jacobean printing and the works of Francis Bacon, has died.

He was born in Salisbury on 31 December 1944 and educated at St Albans School and the University of Birmingham.

He started his working life at Shenstone New College but spent the bulk of his career at Wolverhampton Polytechnic, which became the University of Wolverhampton, where he once shared an office with the novelist Howard Jacobson.

He worked as lecturer in English at Wolverhampton from 1972 to 1974, then as senior lecturer from 1974 to 1998, as well as being a part-time tutor at The Open University from 1971 to 1981. In 1998, he was appointed professor of English at Queen Mary, University of London.

Professor Rees established his credentials as a rigorous scholar and expert on the statesman, historian and essayist Francis Bacon early on, when he published, with the assistance of Christopher Upton, a transcription, translation and commentary on one of Bacon's unpublished manuscripts under the title Francis Bacon's Natural Philosophy (1984). He was appointed director of the monumental Oxford Francis Bacon Project, funded by what is now the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which will eventually result in a 15-volume critical edition of the complete works.

Of the six volumes published so far by Oxford University Press, four were edited or co-edited by Professor Rees.

Alongside this, he and his wife, Maria Wakely, worked on another major project funded by the AHRC and the Leverhulme Trust, based on extensive archival research, about the King's Printing House under James I, one of the central institutions of Jacobean political and cultural life. Their book, Publishing, Politics, and Culture: The King's Printers in the Reign of James I and VI, which Professor Rees indexed from his hospital bed, is due out later this year.

David Colclough, senior lecturer in English at Queen Mary, remembers "a man of immense learning, and equally immense generosity and spirit, who was committed not only to the minutiae of textual scholarship, but to showing why it matters. No one who was there will forget his inspiring inaugural lecture, in which he held a room spellbound as he explicated, with wit and energy, the intricate dances of the skeleton formes used to print Francis Bacon's Novum Organum. He could win over anyone in a room within five minutes of meeting them."

Professor Rees was appointed a fellow of the British Academy in 2005 and OBE in 2009. He died of cancer on 23 July, and is survived by Dr Wakely, a daughter from an earlier marriage and two stepchildren.

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