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Slip it in

Puffin Story Books vintage advertisement

Whilst I try not to collect Penguin and Puffin books, the paper things that advertised them creep on to the shelves with no aforethought. And little regret.

This is a perfect piece of 9 x 12 cm paper and a lovely example of the genre. It is advertising a book price. More to the point a lovely Puffin story book price. Those books are almost always worth a gander in my opinion. Rich in pretty covers, interesting in written things and steeped in ‘I want that’ ness. I have given in to the picture book series and have plenty of them. Only a very few of the story books so far.

This scrap is printed in a sharp navy and a perky red ink. It seems to be letterpress printed, such care over such a nothing. It is on nice thin paper and feels delicate and slip-in-able to a book. I think this must surely be an advertising slip or flyer, for tucking in to another book purchase at the sales desk.

And it bears the famous (among bibliophiles) Puffin books logo. A happy, fat Puffin. I think this is the 1938 Puffin logo designed by their lettering and graphic hero Jan Tschichold. Although designed primarily for putting on the books, the Puffin holds his own as the star of this tasteful, minimal layout.

Certainly this looks like a lot of 30s and 40s things I have frottaged. It also looks like a lot of Curwen Press things I have seen, too, and perhaps they made this. The Puffin picture books were many of them lithographed at Curwen, so perhaps it’s not a perhaps but a probably?

NB I hear tell (from a reader of note and information) that Jan Tschichold did not join until after the war, that twas Cowells and not Curwen for the printing and that the books themselves are post 1940. So the facts I got wrong, whilst the sentiment of paper worship still stands. And anyway I hope most of you just look at the nice picture and don’t get as far as this errata.

Casually Italian

P&B woman's 1950s knitting pattern

Shelf Appeal doesn’t knit much but likes lots of knitting-associated bits and pieces. This pattern has long been hanging around because of the niceness of it. Also because it seemed it would be possible to identify the textile or wallpaper in the background.

Yet despite the onerous task of going through lots of different textile books on my shelves I can’t identify it. It looks like some of Henry Moore’s textiles. It looks like some of Ashley Havinden’s textiles. Then again it is probably a wallpaper, not a textile. And my days of having access to wallpaper books from the 1950s are sadly no more. So this remains simply a pretty thing.

The jumper to knit is also a pretty thing. Here in red, worn with a great red lipstick, black trousers and heavy bits of costume jewelry. It is, says the text: ‘Casually Italian – this easy-fitting sweater betrays its continental origin in the neckline, the new shapings and the deep hemline.’

This is rather apposite to the opening of the Italian Fashion exhibition at the V&A. Mind you, those big V&A exhibitions make me tired before I even go in. Two huge rooms of things as far as the eye can see and further than the feet can manage. Never mind the brain ache of trying to read and take it all in. I call this phenomenon ‘museum fatigue.’

I do, in my dotage, suffer more and more from museum fatigue. I prefer a smaller exhibition and a smaller museum. Just enough to raise a twinkle in the eye and an intrigue in the brain. Leaving enough energy to buy a postcard, a cup of tea and mayhap a slice of cake.

And also (to complete the chunter) those V&A exhibitions have a no photography, no nose scratching policy. Where is the fun in that?

Fish Corks

Woman's Magazine April 1949

As March drips down in to April, Shelf Appeal looks for pictures of lambs frolicking. Of course.

Woman’s Magazine, April 1949 gave good lambs (and a kitten) with this cover, from a painting by Sheila Dunn – artist, cartoonist at Punch and commercial illustrator at Vogue and on products by Quality Street, Cadbury’s and Morley Stockings.

This small magazine is new to me. It is a similar size to contemporary magazines like Lilliput and London Opinion. Similar too in it’s illustrated covers. However there are no sneaky pornographic (or ethnographic, or health and efficiency) pictures in this magazine, unlike those others. Woman’s Magazine had a decidedly nice and advisorial tone.

WikiP tells me the story. The Girl’s Own Paper started in 1880, in 1929 the title became Girl’s Own Paper and Woman’s Magazine but in 1930 the Woman’s Magazine became a separate publication. This magazine was published by Lutterworth Periodicals Ltd. who also published Boys Own Paper, Heiress, Girl’s Own Paper and The Child’s Companion. There is a Lutterworth Press still going in Cambridge, presumably the same company, I am not sure. Their output looks mainly religious in theme – if not tract in nature – so that fits this.

There is a devotional feature in this April issue called ‘Avoiding the Worm’s Eye View’ but the rest is the usual feminine interest copy on parentcraft, beauty, fashion and cooking – in the form of a recipe for, erm, Fish Corks.

Plants aloud

Hvass and Hannibal Herbarium  fabric textile Heal's

Shelf Appeal doesn’t usually preview things. This is mostly all about the old, tatty, and well used.

But Shelf Appeal has seen the new textiles coming from the venerable old brand Heal’s. Heal’s has, of course, appeared here several times. Shelf Appeal likes old Heal’s things. A lot. Seems Shelf Appeal gets to like new Heal’s things now, too.

Heal’s is amidst a change around. It all got a bit embarrassing and cluttered in there for a while. You wanted to buy things. But you ended up scuttling out annoyed that things had got so bad with a brand once so good.

Amongst the new stuff and nonsense will be textiles (and things made of textiles) in really rather super patterns. At the moment Marimekko is where one goes to get modern textile loveliness. There isn’t a lot of competition in the UK fabric market.

Heal’s has a grand tradition of textiles. They were where textiles were ‘at’ throughout most of the 20th century. Happily their new textiles zing a lot. The design pictured by Hvass and Hannibal Herbarium (a collection of preserved plant specimens dontcha know) is my favourite. They are new to me, these Danish designer-illustrators. But have done some grand things.

Rollup for the rollout on March 1.

Costume Books

Costume Books from Adam & Charles Black

Typical Shelf Appeal, this. Have the paper ‘list’ catalogue but not the books listed. Although I have, over the years, had a few books from the handsome hardback Adam & Charles Black costume series, the illustration style of them usually doesn’t really grab me. But the historical interest of the series does and so a leaflet advertising the series certainly does. I haven’t seen one before for these sorts of books. It has a big stamp on it declaring it was sent out from the bookshop J & E Bumpus Ltd. Grand name.

The illustration on this cover is from Black’s series English Costume from the 10th to the 20th Centuries by Iris Brooke. Presumably the 17th century one. Most in the series were also written by Brooke, but some brought in the inimitable costume prince himself: James Laver.

A review quoted in the leaflet tells us all the books: ‘are inexpensive and they are very complete. The text is adequate without being needlessly elaborate. The reproductions are excellent, and the drawings, without being needlessly stiff or tight, give an excellent idea of dressmaking construction.’

Not much is out there to be found on Brooke herself. Just some 13 books and a (self?) reference to her being an authority on the history of costume. She obviously knew Laver and presumably the other frocks fetishists of the 1920s and 1930s. The prettier Black costume books are the ones illustrated by Kathleen Mann, more camp, more attractive.

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