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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.

The famous 51 socks

1 Jaeger socks vintage booklet cover

I will spare you the empty protest that I don’t collect Jaeger things. It’s obvious – even to me – that I do.

This tiny (6.5 x 11.5cm) booklet is a really effortful piece of promotional material. Nice illustration, witty copy, design and delivery. The slightly mad cover illustration of legs with faces opens to interchangeable flaps depicting men wearing socks. I have always loved those multiple choice flap books. Books whose pages do things are pleasing. If you have to promote a sock, this is no bad way to do it.

The Jaeger 51 sock was no ordinary sock but the ‘sock of socks’ (take a breath): ‘Available in pure botany wool in six and three rib, 11 plain, but interesting, colours, 9 flecked colours, in ankle length, and in knee length. All extraordinarily hard-wearing (nylon reinforcements at heel and toe take care of that) and non-shrink, due to the famous Jaeger shrink-resisting finish.’

The fabulous cover legend ‘Are all men’s legs alike?’ is answered: ‘Yes, all over the world men’s legs (with – let’s face it – individual variations as to size and shape) look good and feel comfy in a pair of Jaeger’s famous 51 socks.’

This is great copy. Each illustration (of a costumed man of the world) is accompanied by a comment. The boozy British cricket chap says ‘ Cheers to 51!’, the Scottish chap “Och Aye, how I treasure ma monny’. The rest are beyond my language skills, but you get the drift.

How did they pack so much into so little? I’d imagine this was a Colman, Prentis and Varley production. They made some of the great advertising stuff of mid last century. And had copywriters like poet Peter Quennell and Fay Weldon.

Just one of the ideas in this little sweetie would make a client happy these days. How perky then Jaeger must have felt when they were offered this.

Jaeger 51 socks vintage booklet spread

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.

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