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The modern hostess

Herry Perry illustration from Entertaining with Elizabeth Craig

Entertaining with Elizabeth Craig was published by Collins in 1933 aimed at The Modern Hostess. You foodies will perk at the name Elizabeth Craig, writer of many cookery books. But Shelf Appeal perked at the name of the illustrator of this book, known as Herry-Perry but called Heather Perry.

I first came across Perry whilst working at the London Transport Museum. She designed some of the prettiest underground posters of the 1930s. Perry also gave good map – several of her underground posters were maps and she drew them for other books. And she produced an extremely frothy greetings telegram. There is, as with so many commercial artists of this period, nothing much more to be found out about Ms Perry.

I still wanted a Perry of mine own. The transport museum shop is quite indefatigable in slapping historic graphics on anything small and consumable – sometimes they do it well, sometimes they do it in a really cringey manner – but a set of cropped images on coasters wasn’t going to do it for me.

Entertaining with Elizabeth Craig is a big fat book, ripped throughout with Perry’s bright and humorous illustrations. The Picnic Party seen here, came with copious instructions for packing and what to pack it in: ‘Your basket may be the latest model from Bond Street, or just a long wicker hamper, neatly packed with all the appliances you need for an enjoyable meal. It may be only a tea basket for two, fitted with a stove, stand and kettle with a screw lid for carrying water, a spirit tin, provision box, tea and sugar box, cream flask, butter or preserve jar, and china cups and saucers and polished spoons.’

Polished spoons..all that before you even started to plan the actual food.

Strike a pose

Pierre Imans mannequin 1956

Shelf Appeal has long had a bit of a thing for shop mannequins. An undergrad dissertation on the things way back when didn’t finish off the obsession. Neither did an MPhil on inter-war shop display. Shop windows are still a trip hazard.

All along, whilst trying not collect an archive for a future museum of mannequins – a few things have remained on the shelf. Including a small set of B&W press photos, of which this is one. They’re from an old shop fitters up north, found in a plastic carrier bag of bits going into a skip.

The Parisian firm of Pierre Imans was one of the mannequin manufacturers. If you didn’t buy Siegel Stockman Mannequins then you certainly should have bought Imans. No others were remotely up to shop window snuff.

Imans’ ladies (Stockman’s too) were all tied up (sometimes literally) in the surrealist obsession for mannequins. They came in all sorts of different finishes and poses for solo effect or tableau settings. Lush catalogues presented them in couture dresses, often named, always elegant. The designers who knew how to model mannequins worked for Imans or Stockmans. External commercial artists were sometimes bought in to add excitement. Fashion illustrator Erte dabbled to effect at Imans.

This sparky swimwear model is from 1956. She is a more sophisticated manufacture than many of her contemporaries – no joints visible and probably quite difficult to dress and pose. She would have come with a face painted a la mode. And this was the year of Funny Face after all.

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.

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