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The stationer’s shop


Illustrations of shops and shopping pull me in like a magnet. Historical ones. New ones. I like them in a book especially.

The Ladybird book Shopping with Mother was opened here previously. It was one of my favorite books as a child. It still is. And other books have since followed like the cheap (and questionably reproduced) version of High Street by Ravilious, as well as more learned tomes on the history of shops and shopping. And those local history gems, full of snapshots and postcards someone has collected up of local shops and street scenes. Like Going up Town: Shopping in Oldham.

My Book of Shops is a mathematics book, dressed up as a picture book, disguised as a book on shops. I love the cover. It shows Tom and Betty and Mack the dog arriving on the shopping scene. On their right a most intriguing looking toyshop offers up its wares, over there a teashop beckons. And everyone has a basket. But the more exciting page is The Stationer’s Shop with everything from satchels, purses and pencils to Gloy glue, best rubbers and paper labels similar to the ones I just wrote about on this very blog. And a rather handsome stationer behind the counter.

The book is written by the duo Hume, E.G. & Wheeler, E.C and has illustrations by Cicely Steed – who has a respectable back catalogue but on whom no information can be found by me. This is, apparently the 4th book in the Kingsway picture arithmetics series, authored by the two initial-loving authors. There was a My Book of Sums, My picture Book of Sums and a Second Book of Sums. Presumably by the 4th they had decided pictures and a story might liven up interest. It looks to be a 1950s book, perhaps a reprint. The book is quite specific in its instructions: ‘You must have a box of cardboard money to help you work out the bills. If you haven’t any cardboard money, you could easily make some out of brown paper, thin cardboard and silver paint.’

There is no doubt in my mind The Stationer’s Shop stocked all three.

Friends in high (book) places have helped to date this book a little better. In the above stationery shop image, to the left of the proprietor, is a distinctively-coloured set of books for 6d. Apparently these are likely to be Penguin books: fiction in orange, biographies in dark blue, drama in red and Pelicans in light blue. This dates the imagery (and at a push the book too) to between 1937 and 1942 when the price of said Pelicans crept up to 9d.

My book of Shops 1950s arithmetic book

Friends in Denmark

Denmark travel leaflet 1957

As Shelf Appeal contemplates yet another trip to Copenhagen, travel research becomes important. Most pre-trip research is undertaken online these days. But in 1957 they were explaining how to ‘Meet four million friends in Denmark’, and how could you refuse an offer like that?

This leaflet cover uses the fuzzy-felt school of graphics. One I am very fond of. It is even signed: Jyt Jerslev. But, and this is no surprise, there is nothing much to be found online about the artist or the history of felt picture making or even the history of felt. And it is such a nice fabric, felt. The Scandinavian felt clog or slipper might be a common sighting in interiors magazines these days but the provenance of the stuff is pretty much a cold trail.

The tone of this leaflet, like the smiling cover stars, is decidedly upbeat. It quotes the Daily Telegraph on Denmark: ‘Comfort and good food at low cost. You will have abundant fun in Denmark and oh! The Danes are so overwhelmingly kind and friendly’. It’s all about the flowers, stripy clothes (early Marimekko, surely?), arguments over small dogs. And a big old welcome.

The centre spread of the leaflet consists of photographs of suitably bucolic scenery, ye olde buildings and lots more smiling children and youth. Presumably some of your four million new friends?

All clear

All Clear vintage cardboard luggage tags

We really don’t make enough use of cardboard luggage tags. They’re such nice things for luggage to travel with.

I always struggle with leather and pleather luggage tags. I had a nice Muji one but it was almost impossible to reopen, never mind change the address in it. I have a Moleskine one that is yet to come out of its packaging, bought in a rush of excitement that ‘Moleskine are making luggage tags!’ in a small, funny little stationery shop in Paris. I had an erudite freebie space research institute luggage tag, a free gift to an erstwhile colleague at the Science Museum. He didn’t see any worth in it. I got bored of that one.

Part of the curse of the design fiend is to look for one’s perfect version of a thing. Sometimes version testing things, if they are cheap enough, until satisfaction is arrived at. Sometimes living without the thing altogether, if it is a more significant purchase, until what seems like perfection is spotted. It is a game I enjoy playing. I like researching things. I like approaching and then retreating from something, judging it, inhaling its properties to see if it fits. Then. Maybe. Buying it.

But I wonder if a cardboard luggage tag may be the best sort of luggage tag to have? Untied and disposed of in that moment of unpacking and relaxing back to home.

These All Clear tag are, as it says on the wrapper, blank. No lines to aid writing. Completed with a nice nude hole reinforcement sticker (both sides) and just enough string. They have a Lion Brand logo on the reverse. The logo belonged to the John Dickinson Stationery Company, who are now trading under the slightly less grand, more generic name of Hamelin.

Hamelin own the Basildon Bond brand, among others. It’s still going but packaged in an ugly way. That was the go-to stationery in my house when I was growing up. The paper always matched the envelopes, of course. Always.

The play’s the thing

The Spanish Galleon book by John Brandane, 1932

Shelf Appeal likes a dramatic book cover. This is a great and certainly dramatic one despite its small size (10 x 15cm). It came my way from one of those funny cardboard (often shoe) boxes of 50p cheapies found in old book shops of quality. This box was in Tunbridge Wells, if memory serves.

This book is a script for a play, a repertory play. No 102, in fact. The Spanish Galleon by John Brandane & A. W. Yuill. It was published by Gowans & Gray, Ltd in Glasgow in 1932. The University of Edinburgh has more from this series and very handsome they all look to be. My copy is inscribed to a Donald R  Macharen (or something like) from John Brandane, 3 April 1939.

The cover artist is Stephen Bone, son of the Scottish artist Muirhead Bone. The cover design has his name, nice and big, on it. Bone (junior) was a wood engraver, muralist (he undertook a fine looking mural in the Picaddilly Circus tube station in 1929) and war artist. Interestingly his father was also a war artist covering both the First and the Second World Wars. The Imperial War Museum seems to have most of Bone’s war work and very interesting it is too. But without that zing of finish found in Ravilious’ or Bawden’s war work.

After the war, finding his style out of fashion (according to Wikipedia) Bone became an art critic for the Manchester Guardian and BBC radio and illustrated children’s books in collaboration with his wife, artist Mary Adshead. Best of all, he wrote travel pieces for the Glasgow Herald under the pen name ‘Luggage McLuggage’.

I had thought this cover might be a McKnight Kauffer when I first saw it. It’s very like. But instead another name took me on another information hunt, my favourite thing. The cover is printed on glassine paper that is wrapped around a plain book. All the books in the series were made so. It is thoroughly browned now. Indeed it looks like the fire on the galleon has singed the very book itself.

London in your pocket

London Craftsman by Marjorie Quennell 1939

This little book London Craftsman is a common thing. Not in its looks or content, you understand. But it is easy to find and cheap to acquire.

Written by Marjorie Quennell as ‘a guide to museums having relics of old trades’ it is perhaps the 1939 equivalent of #MuseumWeek. It was published by the London Passenger Transport Board. They lived at 55 Broadway, London, Charles Holden’s epic 1920s home for the Underground Electric Railways Company. Decorated, here and there, with Eric Gill and Jacob Epstein pretties.

This book was ‘One of the London-in-your-pocket books, 6d’. Apart from the lovely idea of having London in your pocket it offered: ‘Many guides in one and 24 photographs as well.’

Quennell was, at the time this was published, a curator at the Geffrye Museum, where (Wikipedia tells us) she installed those period rooms that never really seem to have changed. Naturally there is a nice fat entry on the Geffrye in the book. She had been married to architect Charles Quennell and together they  researched and wrote on social history and archaeology.

The tone of the book is nice. Quennell goes through each museum looking for examples of early trades. For someone interested in the history of museums it provides nice snippets.  The Science Museum (where I worked out a good few years) has: ‘..under Sir Henry Lyons’ charge become human. It has stooped to its public, and in simple language explains to the schoolboy and the the man in the street as much of the marvels of science and industry as it is possible for them to understand.’

The look of this book is neat and tidy. The paper wrap cover is a lovely bit of typographic design. I normally like a pattern or a picture on a cover. But this book succeeds despite the lack.

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