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Olive Cook

Olive Cook – a brief biography

Olive Cook by Edwin Smith (1946-47)It is apt, and perhaps inevitable, that Olive Cook's first book was Cambridgeshire: Aspects of a County, for she was born, brought up and educated in Cambridge.  In Cambridgeshire she wrote, 'It is not easy to give an impression of a place to which one has never been a stranger'; and 'Every native of the town and all the men and women who have spent three years of their lives among those images of splendour and repose must forever cherish memories of Cambridge.'  Olive's parents and grandparents were Cambridge people too.


Arthur Hugh Cook, born in 1886, was the sixth of the seven children of George and Sarah Cook.  In 1901 George Cook is described as a plasterer living at 35 Montague Road, a solid bay fronted semi-detached house in the fashionable Defreville Estate that was developed in the 1890s.  He was probably a small speculative builder of the sort more common then; and plastering, including creating fashionable decorative molding, was a considerable craft skill.  Arthur, 15 in 1901 appears still to have been at school; he started work at the University Library in 1903.

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The Olive Cook Archive

The 1964 National Trust calendar, with photographs by Edwin SmithI suppose we should let Edwin Smith’s photographs speak for themselves and speak for him; they are his legacy and life’s work. But anyone reading the articles on this site will soon realise that we are not content to let it rest there. We believe that to understand the work you also need to understand the artist, what drove him, what influenced him and how he worked. To take one example, Edwin’s architectural photography is more than just that; his cottages, churches and great houses embody his romantic view of the world,.They capture a world that he feared was passing in his lifetime and they must be understood as both art and propaganda.

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Olive Cook Obituary - The Independent, 2002

This obituary appeared in The Independent, May 8, 2002 as is written by a long-time friend of Olive's, Norman Scarfe.

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Ardna Gashel

The gold-embossed cover of Ardna Gashel, designed by Edwin Smith.This short allegorical tale, written by Olive Cook, was published in a limited edition of 300 copies in 1970 by Golden Head Press, Cambridge. Each copy was signed and numbered by the author and her husband, Edwin Smith, who provided the few illustrations and decorations. My copy is number 168.

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Olive Cook Bibliography

This is an attempt to catalogue all of the books which featured Olive Cook either as primary author or contributor, or which contain information about her and her work. It is doubtless incomplete, but goes some way to illustrate the enormous output she achieved during her lifetime.

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