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Clever and amusing

William Bullock’s Egyptian Hall, 1815

I have become a little obsessed with this image. Mind you, I have been obsessed long time with museums and the history of museum-like spaces and collections. This sort of historic museological catnip makes me extremely happy.

Shown is Interior of the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly by William Benjamin Sarsfield, 1815. What a crammed room and what a wonderful room. The giraffe holds pride of place on his central podium, flanked by a couple of unhappy looking sharks, with a perkier kangaroo perched in the fireplace. There seem to be oodles of cases of things, undoubtedly wonders of the natural world-type things, keeping the many punters happy.

And the punters do look happy. Families, militia, ladies resplendent in their later Georgian frocks and shawls and bonnets, oddly old-looking children and a chap, presumably a scholar or in the church, bottom left and sober in black with a matching tassled hat. There is even an example of that ubiquitous museum visitor – the one lecturing his friends, loudly – in front of the cabinet on the left. And what pray tell is the chap bottom right in green examining with his large eye glass? A mermaid mayhap?

The Egyptian Hall opened in 1812, in a grand Egyptian looking building that bought a little bit of exotic to the neighbourhood of Piccadilly. So when this bustling image was etched and tinted the whole Hall was still fresh and dusted. Originally the Hall had been built to house one William Bullock’s ethnographic and natural history collection. But by 1825 all that tat had been auctioned off. The Hall became a venue for art exhibitions, panoramas, séances and spectaculars. The latter including, of course, people floating out over the hall.

‘The whole forming the most Clever and Amusing Entertainment ever presented to the public.’

Together again

Porsgrund woman and child condiment set

Back in 2010 Shelf Appeal posted about a favourite piece on the shelf. A lovely ceramic salt pot, shaped and patterned to please. I was looking a long time for the other half to this condiment set, a smaller pot and representing a son, probably. I finally got both pieces. They seem very correct sitting together. It would be cruel to separate them. Ever again.

Yet the mystery of their manufacture remained. I posted on the rather excellent 20th Century Forum. But the conclusions were inconclusive. Arabia? Figgjo Flint?

Last week a lovely reader left a comment on this blog and sent me this image. This picture makes me happy. It not only solves a years old search for provenance (you can take the woman out of Design History..) it also presents these super ceramics in their original and very nice cardboard packaging glory.

That very smart P&P anchor logo represents Porsgrund Porselen, a Norwegian ceramic company still going strong today. Isn’t the name ‘Madame condiment set’ great too?

No need to speculate on how much I would now like to find one of the boxes.

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.

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