When I began writing this blog, there really weren’t many books around about the posters and graphics of the period. But since then, the situation has improved a lot. Although the bias is still towards railway posters and the pre-war period, and there are now a reasonable selection of books available. Some of the most useful and pleasurable are listed below, with Amazon links in case you take a shine to them.
Paul Rennie’s overview of posters in Britain, based on their own collection. As a survey, it has to fit a lot into not quite enough space, but as the only book to remotely cover the area, it has no competition.
A thorough book with quite a few interesting essays, although the story of London Transport and their posters is pretty well-known, so it’s unlikely to spring you any surprises. A good set of illustrations, though, which aren’t just of the usual suspects.
Another comprehensive survey, and a fairly good read, although it goes from the World War One to the Cold War, so covers quite a bit of ground.
From an exhibition held in the U.S and France, but so much more than an exhibition catalogue – I learnt a lot from the essays in here.
Paul Rennie again, and one in the series of small guides published by the Antique Collectors’ Club (more are listed below). Slight, but nonetheless the only thing available on the subject and so both useful and welcome.
Really, a wonderful book. A fascinating survey of the work of one of the truly great post-war graphic designers, it’s also full of images of designs - for clients ranging from Libertys to MacFisheries – that you simply won’t see anywhere else.
Another essential read; the only reason that I don’t like it quite as much as the Schleger book is that the majority of Games’s work is more familiar. But even so, still plenty of delights.
Another one by the prodigious Ruth Artmonsky, and another of the Antique Collectors’ Club Design series like GPO Design. A short guide, but once again fills a gaping gap. Books on McKnight Kauffer and David Gentleman are also available in the series, along with many others.
Otherd which are a bit more specialist or a bit less relevant include:
Another tour through some earlier London Underground posters.
The definitive survey but ends just when things start to get interesting…
An interesting and unusual guide to Abram Games’ work for London Transport including initial briefs and design sketches.
This was the definitive guide to London Transport posters until the one above supplanted it. Still worth a look.
And a special booby prize mention for this. GPO Posters: Post Early. Despite being sponsored by the (publicly owned) Royal Mail, this was issued in an edition of just 100. The last one I’ve seen anywhere went for £320 at Bloomsbury Auctions. So I’ll probably never get to read it ever. Grrrr.
There are also a wealth of out-of-print books on the subject – both Abram Games and Tom Eckersley, for example, wrote books about their designs and practice. But these don’t tend to come up very often, so there’s no point my linking to a search on Abebooks which won’t deliver the goods nine times out of ten. When they do stick their heads above the parapet, I’ll mention it in the main blog.
And this is just a rather biased starting point. The National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum also has a very useful general poster bibliography if you want to go into the subject more widely.