Last of the summer wine

I was thinking about elderberry cordial, and so dug this out of a drawer.  Then I was so struck by what a beautiful image it is that I forgot all about recipes and went off on the trail of its design instead.

WI wine book front cover

The book is the Womens Institute Book of Home Made Wines Syrups and Cordials.  Curiously, it has an introduction by our old friend Sir Stephen Tallents of GPO and Empire Marketing Board fame (who says that country wine is a good thing and so is the W.I.), but it’s the illustrations that are the real star here.

They’re by Roger Nicholson, who did what I think is an even more lovely job of the back cover.

WI wine book back cover

As well as a series of very attractive line drawings for the inside too.

WI wine book illustration equipment

This is for Equipment, while below is Herb Wines.

Herb wine illustration

The first edition was 1954, which I’m guessing must be when the drawings date from, but it was published in exactly the same form until at least 1967.  I should know, for some reason I have three copies.

3 copies of the same book

Still, it is very useful.

Something about the style reminds me of this book, the wonderful Plats du Jour, illustrated by David Gentleman, which happened to be on the shelves above.

Plats du Jour front cover David Gentleman

And which also has a similarly appealing back cover.

Plats du jour back cover

This too has lovely black and white illustrations heading each chapter.

The Store Cupboard from Plats du jour

I could quite happily scan each and every one of them, except that I’m afraid I would break the spine.

vin ordinaires from plats du jour

Plats du Jour was published in 1957, so together these books are a reminder that there was a lot more going on in post-war Britain than just modernism.  I’m thinking about this a lot at the moment, partly because of Paul Rennie’s book, and will write some more on it in a week or two.  But for now, I wanted to celebrate Roger Nicholson.

He turns out to be the sort of person who ought to be better known.  He painted and did graphic design as well as these illustrations, but his main work was in fabrics and the like – he was Professor of Textile Design at the Royal College of Art in the late 50s and 60s and produced some very well-known wallpaper designs as well.

But I can’t turn up a lot of his stuff.  Here’s a poster he designed for the Festival of Britain (thanks to the Museum of London archive that I’ve mentioned before).

Nicholson Festival of Britain poster Living Traditions

And here is one of his textile designs from 1951.

Roger Nicholson textile design

But that, I am afraid, is it.  It’s a real shame, I would have loved to see more and to know more.

I did managed to find one short biography as well, which offered an intriguing quote about his work.

It was Roger Nicholson’s gift and curse as an artist that he was incapable of making an ugly mark on a piece of paper.

There are far worse ways to be remembered, but I think he deserves a bit more than just this.

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