Books

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.

Posters

Modern British Posters: Art, Design & Communication

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.

London Transport Posters: A Century of Art and Design

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.

War Posters: Weapons of Mass Communication

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.

Art for All: British Posters for Transport

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.

GPO (Design)

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.

Designers

Zero: Hans Schleger – a Life of Design

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.

Abram Games, Graphic Designer: Maximum Meaning, Minimum Means

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.

Jan Le Witt and George Him: Design

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.

Further reading

Otherd which are a bit more specialist or a bit less relevant include:

Pleasure Trips by Underground

Another tour through some earlier London Underground posters.

Railway Posters, 1923-1947

The definitive survey but ends just when things start to get interesting…

.Poster Journeys

An interesting and unusual guide to Abram Games’ work for London Transport including initial briefs and design sketches.

Underground Art: London Transport Posters, 1908 to the Present

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.