Mass Observation and Unwritten Books


"The Archive results from the work of the social research organisation, Mass-Observation. This organisation was founded in 1937
by three young men, who aimed to create an ‘anthropology of ourselves’. They recruited a team of observers and a panel of volunteer writers to study the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain. This original work continued until the early 1950s. The Archive came to the University of Sussex in 1970.

A team of paid investigators went into a variety of public situations: meetings, religious occasions, sporting and leisure activities, in the street and at work, and recorded people’s behaviour and conversation in as much detail as possible. The material they produced is a varied documentary account of life in Britain."

The Mass Observation Archives

"un mas" says Joy:


"Library of Unwritten Books is a
collection of possible books. Short interviews are recorded with people
about a book they dream of writing or making.

Limited edition mini-books are published
from transcripts of the interviews, which are made available to readers at
exhibitions and special events.

Artists Caroline Jupp and Sam Brown
collect the books through random encounters in shopping centres, parks, and city
streets, and by invitations to visit hospitals, public libraries, and community
centres. People are prompted to spontaneously record their unrealised ideas,
fictional tales, and personal histories. A small mobile recording unit is used
to interview the potential authors. There is no selection procedure and all
contributors to the library receive a free copy of their own unwritten

Library of Unwritten Books

2 thoughts on “Mass Observation and Unwritten Books

  1. There’s something so sad about these Unwritten Books. They’re like ghosts, waiting to be seen, dreams, waiting to be realized, empty pockets in the soul.
    I too have several unwritten books. I don’t know if they’re ever going to be written, but the thought of them depresses me deeply.

  2. I’m fascinated with the Unwritten Books… As Sandra said, there’s something ghost-like and sad about them…but there’s also some fascinating and charming. The Unwritten Books are dreams people have, stories they tell themselves, signs of the need to create. Even if they’re never realized in print, the Unwritten Books are worlds people have taken the time to create and dream about.

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