Between the mid-1950s and a few years before her death in April 2005, Miss Joan Kersey Corder built up a library of books and manuscripts to assist her study and the writing of four important works on Suffolk heraldry and Suffolk families.
She was born in 1921, into an old Suffolk family and moved to Felixstowe in 1937 where her father died six months later. After four years service in the WAAF, she returned to Felixstowe to keep house for her semi-invalid mother. From about 1957 to 1965 she toured the churches of Suffolk photographing every monument with effigies of those commemorated and every surviving hatchment. These photographs are items HD2418/96/7-9.
In 1957 she started work on a Dictionary of Suffolk Arms. It was hailed ‘the first substantial English work in ordinary form since Papworth’s Ordinary of 1878′ and ‘within its territorial limits… a great improvement on Papworth’. In 1967 Joan Corder was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.
She then worked on an edition of William Hervey’s Visitation of Suffolk 1561 for the Harleian Society. When published an eminent reviewer wrote ‘the impeccable scholarship of Miss Joan Corder has produced… perhaps the best ever transcript of a Visitation’ praising ‘the wealth of genealogical and heraldic detail drawn not only from wills and parish registers but from a great miscellany of printed works and manuscript sources’. In 1988 work began on a Dictionary of Suffolk Crests which appeared ten years later. Thanks to her, Suffolk is better served for heraldic reference than any other county in the British Isles, and she has established standards and methods of working for larger surveys, notably the great Dictionary of British Arms.
The Corder collection of eighty-seven East Anglian manuscripts and nineteen additional items was purchased for the county in 2006 for the use of current and future local and family historians and topographers. This was made possible by the generosity of local people, trusts and societies, as well as grants from national bodies such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, Friends of the National Libraries and the Heritage Lottery Fund.