Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hans Tisdall - Some Jackets

The work of Hans Tisdall (1910-1977) has appeared on this blog before.  He had a long relationship with Jonathan Cape in particular when it came to designing jackets. It doesn't take much to see the connection between this style and the 'look' of The Festival of Britain in 1951, for which Tisdall was one of the designers. Two typefaces, Tisdall Script and Blesk were modelled on his style in the twenty-first century and with the continued interest in mid-twentieth century design his work on both books and textiles are becoming better known and more appreciated.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Vintage Swimming (and other sports)

I spent a long but very happy day in Brighton today and so it was inevitable really that there would be a vintage photo post on the blog tonight as I always find something while I am there. Cricket isn't really my sport I have to say, but I know it is very much front and centre for a number of people who read this blog so you have a special treat tonight.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Angel of Mons Pamphlet

The story of the Angel of Mons is one of the enduring myths of WW1 and it has been analysed countless times so I really don't need to rehearse the development of this story here, the Wiki page is a very good introduction. Suffice it to say it is widely thought to be an example of fiction into fact: a fictitious story by Arthur Machen about an apparition of bowmen from the Battle of Agincourt appearing at Mons and offering aid to the British troops, seems to have taken on a life of it own, morphed and changed very quickly until it was being very widely reported as true. I can remember as a child reading books about ghosts and strange happenings and reading this story reported even then as if the reports had actually come from the battlefield. A friend of mine tells me she read the story reported in this way in a magazine just a few months ago.

One of the key points in the translation of the story from fiction into.. well, 'metafiction' was its being taken up by local church groups and published in church magazines and in pamphlets. So I was delighted to find this. Admittedly undated, but I think fairly contemporary this ephemeral little tracts is probably a scarce item now. A quick glance through the text will show just how 'ephemeral' the story had become even by this point with reports from relatives of friends of nurses... etc. etc.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

William Mayne's Choir School Series and C Walter Hodges

I have been reading and collecting the first editions of a twentieth century children's author called William Mayne. Among over a hundred books he wrote a quartet of stories about a Choir School. The school is fictional but Mayne was a pupil at Canterbury Choir School himself and the books are clearly based in a similar building and ethos. Mayne's great gift was for observation, his ability to recreate the mannerisms, intellect, emotional resonances and social life of children on the page is quite uncanny. Within the ambiance of a choir school we have all the schoolboy traditions and neologisms that such a place creates. He tells a great story too, but his stories are of the gentler, slightly more oblique type, that you could still publish for children in those days. The four books are A Swarm in May (1955), Choristers' Cake (1956), Cathedral Wednesday (1960) and Words and Music (1963). The first three are published by Oxford and illustrated by C. Walter Lodge. The last is published by Hamish Hamilton and illustrated by Lynton Lamb.

All the books are quite scarce in their first editions, particularly if, like me, you don't like to have ex library copies in a collection. With the Mayne collection in general I am being as picky as I can about condition and so the condition of these copies illustrated will give you an idea of how difficult it is to find nice minty copies (I will trade up as and when I can). The only copy of the last book I have seen for sale at all is online at a ridiculous price and is an ex library copy: another thing about making a commitment to a large collection like this is that sometimes you just have to accept that you are going to have to wait for a copy to show up that you want to make your own. It's a shame though, because I have so enjoyed these first three books, I would like very much to read the last.

For those who would like to simply read the stories (and I can highly recommend them) all the first three books are available as paperbacks, reasonably cheaply, on the second hand market.

C Walter Hodges is, of course, an extremely respected name in the world of illustration from the last century and all the illustrations below are from the first book.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Alfred E Kerr illustrates Stories of the Irish Saints

One of my 'minor collections' is a shelf or so of 19th and early 20th century books about British Saints. I am enchanted by the stories and there is also something quite satisfying about the books, particularly those devoted to only one saint, usually a labour of antiquarian love on the part of the author. I don't normally buy books about Saints written for children but Knights of God. Stories of the Irish Saints (Hollis & Carter, 1945) by Patricia Lynch won a place on the shelf for two reasons. The first, that she has added some rather well crafted poems to the head of each story about the various saints she covers. The second reason: the illustrations.  I had never heard of Alfred E Kerr (1901-1980), which is sad not only because he has produced some really skilled and charming work for this book but also because, according to this website, for the last twenty years of his life he lived just down the road from where I grew up on the Isle of Wight.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Pierre Joubert and Suchard Scoutisme Cards

The French chocolate manufacturer Suchard was quite concerned to make sure that its health giving products were targeted at those who might best benefit from them in the 1950s and, among other things, was quite the supporter of Scoutisme in France. This is a 'collect the cards' book from 1951 with full page spreads concerned with different aspects of "La Vie.. des Scouts". The illustrator isn't credited but just a few of the cards have the expected signature P. Joubert or 'JP' and I think we can assume they were in fact all drawn by Pierre Joubert, the man who did more than any other to create a 'look' for continental European scouting in the twentieth century. Each of the images below is a sample half of a page as they whole spread it too large for my scanner.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Miracle of Man...

 I couldn't resist this rather battered copy of The Miracle of Man from the 1940s in a charity shop the other day. The impressive illustration on the jacket (above) reproduced again in fuller form on the endpapers (below) give an idea of the tone of this book. Optimism. This is a book about how wonderful humanity is and about its achievements are amazing. It would be hard to imagine a book being published with such a message today of course, but is it not equally remarkable that this book contains plenty of references to the Nazi Party "setting Europe alight" and yet still, promulgates that upbeat, optimistic, progress-is-everything view of the world that we have come to love from the the 1920s and 30s?

The last scan below is from a chapter titled, "Science - Miracle of Menace?" (the answer to which not being that much in question), and the caption that went with it captures the tone nicely "The ugliness associated with factories is gradually disappearing. Serious attempts are made not only to erect places entirely convenient for their main purpose - 'Functionalism' is the word coined for this - but to render them attractive to the operatives. The above representation of Power, in stainless steel, is on the building of an electric light company, and typifies the function of the structure. Art has found its way into the modern factory"

Needless to say, if anyone can supply a photograph of that statue and/or a location, it would be gratefully received.

UPDATE: Thank you to the ever resourceful J who, in the comments identifies this building as the Niagra Mohawk Power building in Syracuse NY. This photo below is from the buildings Wiki page but there are better ones at this link provided by J:

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