John Adamson
Born1949 (age 74–75)
Devon, England
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
University of Geneva
Occupation(s)publisher, translator and writer

John Adamson FSA (born 1949) is a British publisher, translator and writer. He specialises in illustrated books in the fine and decorative arts.


John Adamson was born in Devon, the younger son of George Worsley Adamson, illustrator and cartoonist and Mary Marguerita Renée (née Diamond). After studying at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Geneva,[1] he joined Cambridge University Press in 1974.

He held various functions within the marketing department of the Press: first as European sales representative (1975); then publicity manager (1977);[2] becoming export sales director in 1980.[3] During the period of his directorship, Cambridge University Press won for the first time the Queen's Award for Export Achievement.[4]

While at Cambridge University Press he helped mount two exhibitions of humorous art in his spare time. For the first of these, "L’Humour Actuel franco-britannique. 200 dessins" [Franco-British Humour Today: 200 drawings], hosted by the Galerie M.L.R. Genot in the Marais, Paris in 1974,[5] he "organized the British contribution",[6] commissioning Quentin Blake to design the poster. The second exhibition "Famous British Cartoonists" was held the following year at the London Gallery, N. La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, and featured only the cartoons of artists working in the British Isles. "Many [cartoons] such as those by George Adamson almost leave the field of illustrations to become technically speaking fine art," wrote Betje Howell in her review of the show in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.[7]

In 1987 he was appointed Head of Publications and Retailing at the National Portrait Gallery,[8] London, where in the course of his five-year tenure he and his team were involved in the publication of exhibition catalogues and books ranging from Franz Xaver Winterhalter[9] to T. E. Lawrence,[10] from The Raj[11] to a pictorial volume on the NPG's permanent collection.[12]

In 1992 he set himself up as a publishing and picture-library consultant.[13] He advised private collectors as well as museums such as the Wallace Collection, providing them with a full editorial and production service.[14] Soon, however, he began working as an independent publisher making available an ongoing range of illustrated books and catalogues for museums, dealers and private collectors under his own imprint, as well as translating books and exhibition catalogues on behalf of French publishers such as the Réunion des musées nationaux (RMN), Éditions Gallimard, Éditions Diane de Selliers and Éditions Faton.


Select bibliography

As publisher

As editor and producer for other publishers

As translator

Articles published


  1. ^ Dust-wrapper for Katherine Prior and John Adamson Maharajas' Jewels, Paris: Éditions Assouline (2000).
  2. ^ "Trade Notes", Bookseller, no. 3747, 15 October 1977, p. 2475; the announcement states that Adamson had been "Cambridge's representative in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland for the last two years".
  3. ^ "Trade Notes", Bookseller, no. 3886, 4 June 1980, p. 2467; Cambridge University Reporter, Michaelmas, 7 October 1980. See also Saito, Sumio, The Foreign Book Trade: A Memoir from Japan, Tokyo (2005) ISBN 978-4-901617-01-7, p. 78.
  4. ^ London Gazette, Supplement 50896, 20 April 1987. At the time of the award, Geoffrey Cass, CUP's chief executive commented: "This export award is the result of teamwork – and the award authorities emphasize that the award is granted to the press as a whole as an acknowledgement of outstanding achievement by management and staff working as a team." Cambridge Evening News, 17 July 1987. In his Short History of Cambridge University Press (Cambridge: CUP [2000] ISBN 978-0521-77572-4), Michael Black stated that the award was bestowed on the Press in 1987 "on account of its remarkable export record: two-thirds of its then annual output of 1,000 new academic and educational books were exported worldwide to over 150 countries annually, around double the export ratio of British publishing generally" (p. 58).
  5. ^ Advertisement in Le Monde, 5 December 1974, p. 18.
  6. ^ "Smile for the cartoonist", Atticus (by Alan Hall) Sunday Times, 24 November 1974, no. 7902, p. 32. The exhibition ran from 20 November 1974 to 10 December 1974, but was extended. See George Adamson Selected exhibitions. There was no catalogue. See John Adamson, "John's private view" in Adamson and Jackson, Footloose in France, Cambridge: John Adamson, 2023, pp. 206–8.
  7. ^ Los Angeles Herald Examiner, 15 July 1975.
  8. ^ "Trade Notes", Bookseller, 28 August 1987; The Times, 23 April 1988, no. 63063; see also National Portrait Gallery Triennial Report, 1987–90, London: National Portrait Gallery Publications (1990) ISBN 1-85514-064-0, pp. 107 and 108.
  9. ^ Ormond, Richard, Caroline Blackett-Ord, Franz Xaver Winterhalter and the Courts of Europe, 1830–70, exh. cat. London: National Portrait Gallery Publications (1987) ISBN 0-8109-3964-9; French edition: Franz Xaver Winterhalter et les cours d'Europe de 1830 à 1870, exh. cat. Paris: Musée du Petit Palais (1988) ISBN 978-2-905028-20-4.
  10. ^ Wilson, Jeremy, T.E. Lawrence, exh. cat. London: National Portrait Gallery Publications (1988) ISBN 0-904017-85-0.
  11. ^ Bayly, C.A. (ed.), The Raj: India and the British 1600–1947, exh. cat. London: National Portrait Gallery Publications (1990) ISBN 1-85514-026-8; also co-published in India with Oxford University Press.
  12. ^ Foister, Susan; Robin Gibson, Malcolm Rogers, Jacob Simon, The National Portrait Gallery Collection, London: National Portrait Gallery Publications (1988) ISBN 0-904017-89-3; US cloth edition (New York: Cambridge University Press) ISBN 978-0-521-37392-0.
  13. ^ "Trade Notes", Bookseller, 2 October 1992, no. 4528, p. 994.
  14. ^ The Wallace Collection Triennial Report 1992–1995, London: Wallace Collection (1995) ISBN 978-0-900785-50-4, p. 16: "The Staff of the Wallace Collection: Consultant advisers", p. 36; The Wallace Collection Triennial Report 1995–1998, London: Wallace Collection (1999) ISBN 978-0-900785-63-4, "Marketing for a wider audience", pp. 29–30 and list of advisers p. 38.
  15. ^ "John Adamson". Fellows Directory. Society of Antiquaries of London. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  16. ^ John Adamson website.
  17. ^ The Irish Times [1], 17 September 2022 (retrieved 19 October 2022) and [2], 5 November 2022 (retrieved 10 November 2022).
  18. ^ Website of the Fondation Napoléon, Paris.
  19. ^ John Adamson website.
  20. ^ In his review of the book Noble Households in the Art Newspaper (no. 178, March 2007, p. 47), John Harris wrote: "John Adamson in Cambridge has produced and printed a handsome volume".
  21. ^ A French-language edition was also published (Bijoux de Maharadjas, Paris: Éditions Assouline ISBN 978-2-84323-216-9) as well as US and Indian editions (New York: Vendome Press ISBN 978-0-86565-218-7; Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing ISBN 978-81-85822-79-2).
  22. ^ Éditions Diane de Selliers' Ramayana site; translation page of John Adamson's official site.