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Right, there is no way on earth that I am going to be able to do today’s auction justice.  This is partly because I am tired (I had to get up at 5.45 am to go to Stonehenge, don’t ask) and partly because it is tomorrow, but mainly because it is just such a vast, sprawling and wonderful beast that it would be impossible to cover all the highlights in one blog post.  So this is just a taster, and you really do have to go and look at the catalogue yourself.

The auction in question is the posthumous sale of the collection of Bob Date, who was a dealer in books and ephemera, and clearly blessed with exceptional taste.  Along with the collecting gene, clearly, as there is tons of the stuff.

How do I know he had good taste?  Well he liked Barnett Freedman, to start with.

FREEDMAN (Barnett): 'Modern Furniture & Design by Bowmans,,'; London, 1930; together with 'Bowman's Furniture, Ring Up The Curtain..', same publisher, 1936, both square 4to; photographic trade catalogues of 'Unit' furniture with fine cover designs by Barnett Freedman printed in various colours
Lot 219, est. £150-200

But there’s so much  more than just catalogues.  How about an accordion folded, peepshow diorama?

FREEDMAN (Barnett): 'In Winter & In Summer You Can Be Sure of Shell..'; rare accordian-folding peepshow diorama from a design by Freedman, comprising eight colour litho card sections with paper sides, reading 'Be Up to Date Shellubricate',
Lot 217, est £300-500

Or perhaps an entire archive of more than a hundred items of almost limitless Freedman glory?

Barnett Freedman archive items

 

Chromoworks publicity Barnett Freedman
Lot 221, est. £2,000-3,000

And there are also posters too, and not just by Freedman either, although he is of course represented.

Barnett Freedman, 'Circus, Go By Underground', printed by Curwen Press, two colour lithographs London Transport poster
Lot 846, est. £500-700 (two posters)

And not just by the known posters either.  This – which I assume is for the Festival of Britain – is fantastic.  If somewhat large.

After Barnett Freedman, an extremely rare Shell advertising billboard poster, in four parts Festival of Britain poster 1951 Shell
Lot 911, £1,000-2,000

And there’s plenty of posters by other artists too, scattered throughout the tail end of the auction.

After Sybil Andrews and Cyril Power, 'Football', a rare 1933 London Transport poster, printed by The Baynard Press
Andrew Power, 1933, lot 864, est. £500-800

Paxton Chadwick, 'The South Gets More Sun', a 1930s Southern Railway Poster
Paxton Chadwick, 1933, lot 933, est. £100-150

After Dame Laura Knight, 'Victory Delayed' poster, printed by J. Weiner Ltd, colour lithograph World War Two poster
Dame Laura Knight, lot 927, est. £50-70

And not just posters, but books about posters too, whole lots of them.  And books about canals, and trains, and architecture, and books of designs for the Curwen Press.  And then there’s the ephemera, which is here in industrial quantities.  You could probably start up as a dealer just by buying one lot like this.

A collection of approx. five hundred and forty items, to include: labels; advertising; book plates; packaging; a few postcards; etc., 19th century to modern, largely in fine condition. (Approx. 540)

That’s lot 98, if you’re interested, estimated at £200-300.  Although I have no idea how the values will work out tomorrow, it really could go either way.  Possibly these are wild under-estimates and there will be a crazed frenzy of buying the like of which I have not seen for a while.  Equally, it could go the way of Morphets, and people will be so boggled by the sheer volume of stuff for sale that some things will slip by for almost nothing.

I am, obviously, hoping for the latter as there are one or two things we’ve got our eye on, but I have to say I think it’s a pipe dream.  Over the last few days, the estimate on one item I’ve been looking at – a Paul Nash lithograph since you ask – has risen from £150-200, to £500-700.  Which means we won’t be getting that, or much else either I should think.  But watch this space.

 

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Hoarded

I’ve posted about the Empire Marketing Board posters before, both the ideological problem that they present, and their rather special hoardings.

I can’t even remember why I was searching for them again the other day, but in doing so, I turned up something I’ve never seen before, which is this.

Empire Marketing Board Hoarding with posters by McKNight Kauffer in place

It looks like some kind of contemporaneous photograph of an Empire Marketing Board billboard, with posters in place.  (This isn’t an ideal format for the blog, so do click on the image to enlarge it a bit).  But I have no real idea where it came from as it was on a forum with no provenance at all.

I can tell you however that the posters on there are by McKnight Kauffer and date from 1926.  The one on the right was sold at the last Onslows auction.

Kauffer Bananas Empire Marketing Board poster 1926

It went for £800, which is quite a lot of money, especially for something which is quite arguably racist.

And thanks to the Canadian archives that I mentioned in my previous post, I can also show you not just the other pictorial poster.

McKnight Kauffer Bananas Empire Marketing Board poster 1926 Cocoa image

But also the two text posters as well.

McKnight Kauffer Bananas Empire Marketing Board poster 1926 text poster

McKnight Kauffer Bananas Empire Marketing Board poster 1926 cocoa text

All that’s missing is the banner along the top, so you’ll just have to imagine that.

My searches also uncovered this Kauffer, which I have never seen before.

McKnight Kauffer gold mines Empire Marketing Board poster

And perhaps that’s not a surprise, because it not simply racist but imperialist and exploitative to a degree that is really quite shocking today.  All the more reason to look at it really.  Perhaps it needs to be in a few more books.

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Special purchase

My initial thought when I first looked at the new Onslow’s catalogue a few weeks ago was that someone had better ring the BPMA, because they’ve been burgled.  Then I read the auction blurb more closely, and of course it says

including duplicates from the British Postal Museum & Archive
Collection

Panic over.

What they actually mean, it turns out, is duplicates from the BPMA collection, mostly featuring the work of Stan Krol.  You can buy single posters like this.

Stan Krol (born 1910) Round the clock service, printed for HMSO GPO PRD 683 1952 Round the clock service
Stan Krol, 1952, est. £100-150

Or indeed this one, which I love for drawing my attention to a problem that I was hitherto utterly unaware of.

Stan Krol (born 1910) To loosen frozen covers, printed for HMSO GPO PRD 535 1949 to loosen frozen covers use salt and hot water
Stan Krol, 1949, est. £100-150.

Both of these come with a bonus set of small size Post Office ‘art’ posters as well.

Art posters job lot John Minton etc

They must have hundreds of them, but even so it’s a funny way of getting rid of John Mintons if you ask me.  But no one did.

Anyway, back to the Krols.  If you want more than just a single poster (and have no desire for a John Minton), you can buy job lots of six.

Stan Krol (born 1910) A group of six 1950's GPO posters including Use Block Letters, Stick Correct Stamps, One red stamp book and Round the clock services, each - 37 x 24 cm; and one other Spencer Market Place Norwich GPO
Stan Krol, est. £150-200

And this lot is repeated three times.  Although there’s no escaping those art posters here either, you get a bonus Norwich Market Place (as shown above) whether you want it or not.  I’m guessing people mostly don’t if they are having to give it away like this.

That’s not the end of it either, there’s also another job lot of Krols, this time for the Post Office Savings Bank, also available twice over.

Stan Krol (born 1910) Post Office Savings Bank, five different designs, printed for HMSO, each 37 x 24 cm; and one othe
Stan Krol, est. £60-80

No Norwich Market Place in sight here either, which is a bonus.

Now I have two thoughts about this.  One is that it massively increases my knowledge of the work of Stan Krol, which can only be a good thing.  While the GPO posters are all on the BPMA website, the majority of the Post Office Savings Bank ones haven’t been digitised yet so some are entirely new to me.

But the other is that this is no way to sell off an archive.  Flooding the market with duplicates like this surely isn’t going to get the best value for the museum.  The result is going to be something like the final Morphets sale, when people were so boggled by the sheer volume of stuff on offer than poster after poster went really cheaply.  (Morphets have taken the online catalogue down from their server now, but I used to regularly go back and look at the fantastic posters that went for £40 or so and wish we’d bought everything).   But that was an estate sale, after Malcolm Guest’s death, so they had no choice.  Given that they had choices, I can’t help feeling that the BPMA aren’t handling this very well, and will not be getting the maximum value from their holdings. An instructive contrast is with the recent London Transport Museum sale, where there were no duplicates at all.*

This is particularly true of some of the more expensive posters in the sale, like these McKnight Kauffers.

E McKnight Kauffer (Edward 1890-1954) Outposts of Britain Posting Box at Lands End, GPO poster PRD 200 1937
McKnight Kauffer, 1937, est. £500-700

The description says very firmly that these are the much rarer large format posters (they are a slightly odd 30″ x 36″).  So then why sell them as individual posters, but then also as two pairs, and finally a set of four.  They’re a lot less rarer as the result of that.  Surely four would have been enough for one sale, with another batch next year, and so on.

But the sale isn’t entirely duplicates, there are also some single posters too, including a small handful of the van side posters that I love so much.

Andre Franion (dates not known) 2 1/2d for Inland Postcards, GPO poster PRD 1083 1960 For Inland Postcards
Andre Franion, 1960, est. £70-100

Guess what, you get a free John Minton with that too.  But I’m still tempted, even though I have no idea how I, or anyone else, would display something that’s almost a metre long.

Other delights include this Alick Knight.

Alick Knight Remember Inland Post Cards need a 2d Stamp, GPO PRD 785
Alick Knight, 1955, est. £100-150

I’m also very pleased to see the estimate on this Zero too.

Zero (Hans Schleger 1898-1976) Address your letters plainly, printed for PRD 260 GPO by W R Royle 1942
Hans Schleger (Zero), 1942, est. £400-600

This is because we’ve got one, and as a general rule anything I buy tends to lose rather than gain value so it’s nice to see something bucking the trend.

This is of course just a small selection of the GPO posters available, so it does pay to go and look at the catalogue yourself.  In the meantime, this can stand as an example of the vast number of this type of poster that are on offer.

Peter Edwards (dates not known) Old Compton Street, Soho, original GPO poster PRD 1078 1960
Peter Edwards, 1960, est. £70-100

There are also a whole range of other posters included as well, including the usual Shell educational posters.

Rowland Hilder (1905-1983) Shell Guide to Warwickshire, original poster printed by C Nicholls 1963
Rowland Hilder, 1963, est. £50-100 (with four others)

The 1914 centenary effect is also still holding strong, so there’s a set of World War One posters, including another Alfred Leete Lord Kitchener at a vast estimate.

Alfred Leete (1882-1933) Britons (Kitchener) "Wants You" Join Your Country's Army ! God Save the King !, an original but trimmed copy of the recruiting poster printed by the Victoria House Printing Company Co. Ltd. September 1914
Alfred Leete, 1914, ezt. £1,000-1,500

This is turning into the Keep Calm of World War One, as the rarity and high auction values brings yet more examples out of the woodwork with every new auction.

Speaking of which, for a change there isn’t a Keep Calm and Carry On poster in this sale, although you can have one of either of the others from these series should you wish.

Description	Your Courage Your Cheerfulness Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory, original WW2 poster with red background and white lettering and Crown, printed 1939
Anonymous, 1939, est. £300-400

Mostly, the WW2 offerings are more of historic than visual interest, the exception being a pair of Abram Games.

Abram Games (1914-1996) Talk Kills, explicit WW2 propaganda poster depicting soldier wearing helmet in the sea, PR 76 printed for HMSO c.1942
Abram Games, 1942, est. £400-500

What with all of this, it’s perhaps not surprising that there aren’t that many railways or London Transport posters this time round, although this circular Tom Eckersley is a delight.

Eckersley (Tom 1914 - 1997) Exact Fare Helps the Conductor, circle poster published by LT 1945 Exact Fare helps the conductor
Tom Eckersley, 1945, est. £100-150

A number of the London Transport posters – although not the Eckersley – are listed has having come from another London Transport Museum Sale, run by Sotheby’s in 1993.  I’d have loved to see how the values had changed between then and now, but sadly this date is just a bit too early for me to find the answers online.  So if anyone does have a copy of the catalogue and can run the comparison, I’d be very grateful.

And finally, there is this.

lounge-suit-ons-109
Anonymous, £20-40

A simple poster, doing its job.  Can’t argue with that.

 

*Underneath all the debate about how to sell off museum archives lurks a bigger question, which is whether museums should be selling off their collections at all.  Generally I tend to think no, because what people might discard as ‘worthless’ now could well turn out to be highly prized in later times, and also because museums have histories themselves, and these histories need to be recorded.  And because then people won’t give stuff to museums if they think it might be sold in the future, and the reasons go on and on and on.  But I do think posters are a slightly different case, precisely because they aren’t unique, and therefore it is possible to have too many.  As long as the museum has enough to cover losses, and damage and loans, then I can’t really see a good reason why they should keep 12, or 20 Stan Krols, just because they have them.  But I’d be interested in other people’s thoughts on this too.

 

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Inequalities

I know that it’s been said before on here, but it’s a thought that’s worth repeating.  Not all old posters are nice.  Not all of them are examples of great graphic design either.  Some of them are, quite frankly, mediocre.

Book Early and Go northwestern

I’ve been reminded of this truth by a lot of coach posters which has just come up in an auction (the auction itself was today, but I’m not suggesting that you’d want to buy them).  They are described as:

Approx. 20 various posters, mainly for coach tours to UK seaside and city destinations (Blackpool, London, Glasgow). All with wear – staining, torn edges and corners, to varying degrees. Approx. average size 29” x 20 ½”

But none of them are the usual suspects.  There’s no Daphne Paddens here, nor anything by Harry Stevens or Studio Seven either.

London coach poster north western midland red

In part I think that this is because a good number of these posters are actually pre-war.

Kendal poster archer ribble coaches

Southport Coach poster North Western Coaches 1930s

But even the ones that might date to post 1945 aren’t the same as the ones we are used to seeing.

Bridlington Coach poster North Western Coaches

They’re produced by northern coach companies to start with.

Yellow coaches map poster

Almost all the posters that I like and which get sold at auction and on eBay are, it’s worth noting, for more southerly companies.

Harry Stevens vintage east anglia coach poster 1950s

Now I have a theory about this – which has to remain a theory for the moment because I can’t face the prospect of researching the histories of various bus companies and their takeovers.  I think that the good quality coach posters are an aberration rather than the norm, because they were all the work of one bus company, and that’s Tillings.

They were a huge conglomerate, who ran a vast number of local bus and coach companies in the years before and after the Second World War.  (Can I just say that I’ve had to look up several bus history pages in order to make that statement, including one which invited me to listen to a man singing a song about Eastern Counties buses, so I’m already well out of my comfort zone here).  The posters I like – so the Paddens and the Stevens and so on – are, I am pretty sure, all produced for Tillings companies.

Lovely Royal Blue Daphne Padden coach poster

So it’s not that coach posters tend to be good design.  It’s Tillings’ coach posters that were good.  I like to imagine them being commissioned by some unknown coach guru, equivalent to Frank Pick at LT, or Jack Beddington at Shell, but who has, sadly, disappeared from history.

Meanwhile, in other, Northern, coach companies, the same standards of taste were not being applied.

594

All of which proves, once again, that we have to apply a lot of critical thought to the posters that we’re presented with in archives (and, frankly, by blogs like this).  They are sifted and sifted again: by what happens to survive, by what people decide is worth keeping, by what gets photographed and digitised, and by what ‘curators’ like me decide to show.  But that isn’t the whole picture, by quite a long chalk, and whenever something marginalised like this comes up, we should pay close attention.

Oh, and while I’ve been writing this blog post today, the auction has been and gone.  So I can now tell you that the posters fetched, £320, well over the estimate of £150-200.  Which also goes to show that taste is a very variable thing.

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You can be sure of Australia

I learned something new the other day.  Which is that the Shell Educational Posters – which I mention on here so often that I can’t be doing with chasing up all the links – aren’t just a British phenomenon.

The University of Melbourne have just digitised their Shell archive and a lot of the most visual artefacts are viewable online.  That includes these.

Shell Australia educational poster R Malcolm Warner 1959 Ayers Rock

And what they turn out to be are Shell posters about Australia.

They’re not exactly like the UK ones, because the dimensions are rather different (to me they look more like magazine ads than posters, but they are catalogued as posters so posters they must be).  But the layout, the typeface and the whole organising principles are the same.

Shell South Australia Wildflowers Poster R Malcolm Warner 1959

They aren’t just confined to wildflowers, either.  There are also a set of Australian birds.

Shell Educational poster birds of Western Australia R Malcolm Warner

Along with, naturally, shells and other such underwater things.

Shell Educational Poster R Malcolm Warner 1959 shells

They’re all by R. Malcolm Warner, about whom I know very little except that he was an Australian war artist.  But stylistically, his work sits very well with the British pictures from similar series.

What’s particularly nice about the archive is that some of the ancillary material has been collected as well.  So we know that some of the illustrations were used on Shell road maps.

Shell Road Maps australia 1950s

As well as some kind of collectible cards.

Collect Shell Australia cards wildflowers

And that’s about all I have to say about them really; this post is mostly to express my amazement and surprise that these examples from the other side of the world exist at all.

You can look at the full selection on the University of Melbourne’s website, although be warned, the interface is a bit idiosyncratic.

And many thanks to Kiara King, who pointed me via Twitter to the University’s blog, and hence on to the whole collection.

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Too small

The next Van Sabben auction is tomorrow, but we are only going to pay it a very brief visit.  This is partly because it is, as ever, vast and with few British posters tucked away in there.  But also because they’ve changed the format of their website, and the pictures are tiny.  How can I persuade you to care about a poster when the image is this small?

GPO poster Buy your postage stamps in books
Anonymous, est. €90-150

Actually it looks better there than it does on their website, but even so, I’m not sure I’d want to buy a poster on the basis of that few pixels.  I can also tell you that it dates from 1948,  but they are abroad so it’s not fair to expect them to know that.

There are a few other posters of interest out there too, like this Lewitt Him.

Lewitt Him AOA poster airlines poster
Lewitt-Him, est. €120-200

There are also a tiny set of British railway posters, like this example of Frank Newbould doing Tom Purvis impersonations for the LNER.

Frank Newbould Cleethorpes LNER railway poster
Frank Newbould, 1932, est. €1200-2500

Although that is preferable to Frank Newbould doing Frank Newbould, at least in the case of this poster.

Frank Newbould Plymouth GWR poster 1945
Frank Newbould, 1945, est. €280-450

And both of those images really are too small to be any use at all.

But my favourite has to be this one; yet another classic from the Orient Line department of tasteful modernism.

De Holden Stone orient line cruises to the mediterranean poster
De Holden Stone, est € 220-450

This is still the only poster I have ever seen by James de Holden Stone, and all I know about him is contained in a short paragraph here, so any further info would be much appreciated.

 

 

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