Frank Cundall

Frank Cundall
Born(1858-01-17)17 January 1858
London, England
Died15 November 1937(1937-11-15) (aged 79)
Occupation(s)Art historian, author, librarian
Known forFounded the West India Reference Library
ParentJoseph Cundall

Frank Cundall OBE FSA FRHS (17 January 1858 – 15 November 1937) was an English art historian, editor and author, the son of the writer and publisher Joseph Cundall. He was closely involved in the administration of and produced the reports for a series of international exhibitions held in London in the 1880s, and catalogued the art library at the South Kensington Museum, later the Victoria and Albert Museum.

In 1891, he became the secretary and librarian to the Institute of Jamaica in Kingston, writing extensively on the history of the island. He created the West India Reference Library in 1894, which became the nucleus of the National Library of Jamaica when it was formed in 1979.

Early life and family

Frank Cundall was born in London on 17 January 1858,[1] the son of the writer, photographer, and publisher Joseph Cundall (1818–1895) and his wife Sarah.[2][3]

After attending private schools, he gained admission to King's College London, leaving in 1875.[4]

He married twice and had a son and a daughter. His son was Joseph Leslie Cundall, who became the Attorney General of Jamaica, and his daughter Frances married Guy Weihen of Munro College, Saint Elizabeth Parish.[1]

Early career

From 1876 to 1882, Cundall was the assistant editor for the revised edition of Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers (London, George Bell). At the same time from 1877 to 1890 he was the joint editor with his father of the Illustrated Biographies of the Great Artists in 38 volumes (London: Sampson Low) and from 1879 to 1885 wrote anonymously The Great Historic Galleries of England under the editorship of Ronald Gower.[2]

Joseph Cundall was associated with Henry Cole,[3] the first director of the South Kensington Museum, later the Victoria and Albert Museum, and in 1880–82, Frank Cundall was engaged in cataloguing the works of the National Art Library there.[2]

In 1883 he was assistant secretary to the International Fisheries Exhibition, in 1884 to the International Health Exhibition, and in 1885 to the International Inventions Exhibition, and was assistant editor for their catalogues and handbooks.[1][2] His father had been closely involved in the 1862 International Exhibition.[3] In 1886 he was the editor with Sir Philip Cunliffe-Owen of the report of the Royal Commission of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition. In 1889 he prepared the catalogue, report, and award lists for the British section of the Paris Exposition Universelle, and in 1890 the catalogue and guide for the Royal Military Exhibition.[2]


In 1890 Cundall was appointed secretary and librarian to the Institute of Jamaica. He was able to solicit testimonials in support of his application from a number of people that he came across while working on the exhibitions including Cunliffe-Owen, who had known Cundell from early childhood, Sir Frederick Abel, Sir James Paget and Sir Colville Barclay.[2] He arrived in Kingston in February 1891. He created the West India Reference Library, founded 1894, which formed the nucleus of the National Library of Jamaica when it was created in 1979.[1][5] Using his knowledge of art and his exhibition experience, he created an art gallery at the Institute for which he published a catalogue of the portraits in 1914.[1]

He was a prolific writer on the history of Jamaica, producing important bibliographies of Jamaica and the wider West Indies. He was joint editor of the Handbook of Jamaica from 1907 and became sole editor from 1920. His masterwork was to be his history of the governors of the colony, however, only the first two volumes were published before his death.[4]

Honours and later life

Cundall was appointed a member of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1929 and was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London (FSA) and of the Royal Historical Society (FRHS).[1]

He died on 15 November 1937.[1]

Selected publications

Cundall's publications include:[1]








  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Frank Cundall (1858 – 1937). National Library of Jamaica. Retrieved 26 April 2019. Archived 12 May 2019 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c d e f Testimonials (In favour of Mr. Frank Cundall) (PDF). Collection of National Library of Jamaica. 1890.
  3. ^ a b c Ruari McLean, "Cundall, Joseph", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Frank Cundall, O.B.E., F.S.A., F.R.Hist.S. 1858- 1937 Ob. November 15th, 1937". Via National Library of Jamaica. Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  5. ^ "History - The National Library of Jamaica". Retrieved 18 May 2019.

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