I have to face the fact that I do not know where most of the collectables in this house have come from. I can account for almost every table and teaspoon, but not it seems the ephemera, the posters and the books. Especially not the books. I came across two Hans Schleger exhibition catalogues while looking for something else the other day. “You’re going to say that you’ve never seen those before,” said Mr Crownfolio, and he was right. But I’m sure I haven’t.
Still, those are for another day; today’s post is a different unaccountable book instead. We’ve had it for a while, that’s all I can tell you. It’s The World in 2030 by the Earl of Birkenhead, illustrated by Edward McKnight Kauffer.
Having been thinking about McKnight Kauffer on here recently, I got this down from the shelf. And then when Shelf Appeal in turn posted another of his illustrations, it only seemed fair to continue the conversation.
But what a great subject for Kauffer this is: how better to express the future than in the modernist style? Reaching its apotheosis in the final illustration, the future as seen in 2030, a double layer of a future so exciting that it can’t quite be expressed. Although looking, in the end, quite a lot like a London Transport poster.
But, as is the way of prophecies, the book is less revealing about the future than about the time in which it was written. The first, long, chapter for example is all about the future of war.
While this illustration is for ‘The Amenities of 2030’
Amenities isn’t a word that sings the future to us any more, is it? Local amenity societies, town planning, public conveniences. It’s a word which wears a cardigan and slippers these days. But it was young and futuristic once too.
As so often with these books, I can recommend the illustrations more than the text. Birkenhead was an M.P., Lord Chancellor, great friend of Churchill and sensible enough to commission Kauffer, but his views haven’t aged as well as the illustrations.
An average woman is more valuable to the state than the average man: but the most gifted woman is less valuable to the state than an exceptional man.
She doesn’t look very pleased with her proposed lot either.
It seems to be fairly expensive on Abebooks at the moment, although I’m sure we didn’t pay such monies for it. Then again, what do I know?