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Tie one on

Heal's London shop 1920s paper gift tag

An expression that is nice is ‘rarer than hen’s teeth.’ It brings to mind so many interesting images. This little (8 x 5cm) smidgen of paper probably deserves that appellation. How it survived. How someone who found it thought someone else would be daft enough to buy it. How I found it in amongst the many folds of eBay. How it cost very little. How nobody else appeared to want it.

That last is the most puzzling. This is a very lovely little thing, I think. Redolent of all things nice: shopping, design, illustration, ephemera, branding, toys, gifts. It might have been tied to a gift chosen from this Heal’s catalogue.

This may be a small find but interestingly the illustration has been credited to an artist. It would be nice to know who sits behind that ‘DH’.

Heal’s was ever self-conscious of its artistic leanings. They used graphic artists and illustrators and named them. They commissioned poster and textile designs and named the artists. They had a small area marked off for exhibitions called ‘The Mansard Gallery.’ For a good while in the 1920s and 1930s Heal’s were all that was considered commercial and attractive in product in a most knowing way.

I haven’t seen the Heal’s logo as a bird before. How very Twitter that bird is.

Heal's London shop 1920s paper gift tag back

Oh Silly Billy

Silly Billy book cover illustrated by Ferelith Eccles-Williams 1963

Shelf Appeal loves to find a new illustrator or designer. The super feeling of excitement looking them up on Google to see what else they have done is akin to opening a big box of presents.

This book Silly Billy came to me by way of a favour done for a Twitter friend. How nice this book is. The size is right. The full bleed of the illustration across the cover is right. Something labeled ‘easy to read’ is right. The title is funny and right. And the illustration is just right.

Published in 1963 it is part of a series of Billy books by Betty Coombs. He also went shopping and had a birthday. I looked up the illustrator Ferelith Eccles Williams.

And I spent a lovely couple of hours following leads and posts on other blogs and piecing together a little bit of a story about the artist. The propinquity of blogging is a constant joy. Often when you look up a name someone else has done a little bit of research on them too and if you are lucky they have blogged about it. And if you are very lucky, their blog will have lots more things you might like. And so the road taken leads to another road taken and another.


Lion Tamer vintage handkerchief

Such a prosaic item a handkerchief. Somewhat out of fashion now. There are some very lovely vintage handkerchief designs. There are also some nice new ones but I can’t help feeling they more often sit in a suit jacket pocket than ever see a decent nose up close.

This is a small child’s handkerchief. It would make any cold more bearable. I have two other handkerchiefs in my non-collection (three doesn’t a collection make, I am very certain). One of which has been featured here.

This illustration has all sorts going on in it. The mouse watches. The lion and the mouse both laugh at the Lion Tamer as if to say ‘go on, impress us then’. The tamer is a proud possessor of a big checked coat and impressive top hat. And a brow and moustache that are in themselves quite scary and mane-like.

I particularly like the tamer’s shoe and lace – very nicely drawn, I feel.


Science Museum London 1940s image Transport Through the Ages

The museum diorama is an acquired taste. Shelf Appeal has acquired it. Models small and large, playing with perspective, history and sometimes even realism. Working for a good while at the Science Museum in London means I walk past some super historical examples of the genre each time I go there.

Shelf Appeal posted about such models a while ago. That pedalo model, from the Shipping Gallery, has now been removed to make way for new shinier things. But some super dioramas remain in the Agriculture Gallery there and diorama models from both can be seen here.

Some few Science Museum dioramas left quite a grand legacy, in the form of a set of grand, murky postcards covering Transport Through the Ages. From what I can gather this was an exhibition – or display – of transport related dioramas put up at the Science Museum in 1932. There is a prosaic poster to announce the fact. And this photo shows children soaking in the dioramas in the early 1940s. You can see the diorama of the man carrying a dead horse, below, in the photograph above.

The display seems to have remained in situ, as part of The Children’s Gallery until the early 1990s. Unfortunately Shelf Appeal missed seeing it in all its dusty glory.

These postcards make up an impressive set covering an impressive piece of work by (relatively) famous model-maker-sculptors. And what’s more interesting is that the model makers are credited on these cards. There was a model making workshop in the basement of the museum for a long time. If only time travel could take me there.

How odd it sounds today – an exhibition of dioramas. In terms of exhibiting big transport things it makes sense to go small. In terms of early museum display it makes sense too, they once really liked a diorama. Alas, they’re considered old fashioned (and not in a good way) now.

Science Museum Transport Through the Ages postcard

Hoard it

Vintage WHSmith 1960s wrapping paper

This week Shelf Appeal was referred to as someone who ‘likes paper bags and cake’. There is no defense against this definition. It is true. Herewith, then, some paper of old and dusty appearance. Shelf Appeal would not want to disappoint fans.

WHSmith have been present on the British high street since 1828. They sold books and stationery then, they sell them today. Photographs of the early shops are fairly easy to find. And very smart they were too. Some few beautiful Carter tiles are left on facades, occasionally you trip over an example on travels and have to whip out a camera and partake of the loveliness. WHSmith opened their first railway booth in Euston station in 1848 which is such a nice thing to read as they have one there still.

The paper used to wrap their stationery purchases is, funnily enough, less well documented. Shelf Appeal has a couple of bits of WHSmith paper. This one is particularly pretty. And probably of mid-late 1960s vintage. The abstract roundels reveal, if you look carefully: a sad looking bear, an ink quill, ink bottle and parchment (I like to think it is parchment, not simply thick wannabe parchment paper), a book with generous looking eraser (remember those blue and cream erasers?) and a decorative arabesque which, if you have had too much coffee, looks a bit like one of Braque’s birds.

The logo here is simply ‘smith’s’, lowercase and lovely. WHSmith look to have played quite a lot with their logo over the years. Probably each time someone new took over the governing board and wanted to update their look to appeal to those young folk. Happily the ‘WH’, which stood for William Henry, is back with it’s Smith these days.

It can be confidently asserted that these sorts of scraps of paper were taken off purchases at the time, folded and stored in a drawer somewhere. Probably piles and piles of them. To ‘come in useful’ one day. The same was and is – by relatives of a certain vintage – done with plastic carrier bags. It is an ephemerist’s propinquitous dream, this storing of packaging. For if odd sorts didn’t hoard, other odd sorts would not be able to handle, collect and write about these things.

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