The combination of house renovation and school holiday means that the blog has been a bit neglected recently.  By way of apology, here’s a very lovely bit of Abram Games, very much on an appropriate theme for the holidays.

Abram Games Sightseeing coach tours leaflet London Transport

Some closely related posters were on here the other day, but this isn’t it, rather it’s the leaflet which must have been part of the same campaign.  West End or City, do you think?  Or how about a trip out of town to Windsor, tea included in the fare?

What always strikes me about these kind of leaflets is how different the bulk of the typesetting is from the cover – the British Railways Holiday Haunts guides are another good example.  Outside we are in a modern and exciting world; inside it’s business as usual.

Abram Games sightseeing coaches leaflet london transport inside

I can only imagine that it was the covers and posters which got sent out to designers, while the rest was always done by the in-house design team.

In the end, though, I’m not sure that I mind that much – the mismatch is part of the period charm.  Nowadays everything would match, and every element of the design would chime with every other.  But would it be better as a result?  Perhaps not, just different.


Say it with a poster

This week really isn’t going according to plan, and as a result I have not had much time to write.  Apologies for this.  I would like to say that the service will get better next week, but it’s the school holidays and I have a pub to rebuild.  Hey ho.

Not all of this unexpectedness is bad, however.  One good thing is that Quad Royal has been noticed.  To be precise we’re one of the Top 50 Blogs of 2012 in BBC Homes and Antiques Magazine, sandwiched between All Things Considered and Spitalfields Life, which is illustrious company indeed, and I am very grateful.

Christopher Greaves Say It With A Poster London Transport Poster 1933

Shall I tell you what they said too (just in case you can’t be bothered to click on the link)?

 The authors of this informative, thought-provoking blog are two avid poster collectors, ‘Mr & Mrs Crownfolio’, with quite particular tastes – namely British posters and graphics from the Forties, Fifties and Sixties. Read it for the content (you’ll learn a lot), the images (fabulous) or the details of upcoming auctions.

You may consider me very chuffed indeed.

Chelsea Flower Show, by T V Y, 1938 London Transport poster

The other surprise was advance notice of the Christies October Poster sale.  Yes, October, really; I was a bit hornswoggled too.  But this is not your average Poster Auction, oh no, this is a London Transport Museum Poster Auction.  Once again, I’ll let someone else do the talking.

The Museum manages one of the greatest poster collections in the world, thanks to the vision and legacy of one man: Frank Pick. When Pick became manager of the then failing Underground Electric Railway in the 1900s he initiated a modern, colourful, poster campaign which has been continued ever since. […] Fortunately, London Transport (as the Underground became known from 1933) kept duplicate copies of most of the posters it produced, and it is from this collection of spares that the selection offered for sale is drawn.

Although that doesn’t really give you a sense of the scale of the auction at all.  You really need to imagine that they are selling all the London Transport posters you have ever seen, in museum condition, and then adding a few more on for good measure too.  And then a couple more after that, just in case.

South Kensington Museums, by Edward Wadsworth, 1936 London Transport poster

Taking individual posters out of context doesn’t really do the sale justice though, the e-catalogue, with its thematic arrangement, is much more impressive.

Kew Gardens pages from Christies London Transport sale catalogue

Normally I find these page-flicking simulacra rather annoying, but in this case it’s well worth the effort.


This is not only because of the scale of what is up for sale, although that is impressive enough.  But they’ve also included pictures of the posters out in the wild, at Tube stations.

Like this poster.

To the theatres, by Cecil Walter Bacon, 1934 London Transport poster

Seen here at Osterley Station.

Bacon theatres poster 1934 at Osterley Station display

There is also a photograph of poster nirvana, the London Transport Advertising Store in 1933.

London Transport Advertising Store 1933

Another strong case for inventing time travel if you ask me.

There are 153 pages to go through, so all I am going to do in this post is scrape the surface of what is on offer.  I’ll go back nearer the time and look more closely at prices and individual posters.  I may even have to, heaven forfend, pay Christies for an actual copy of the catalogue just so that I can take it all in.

Smoke abatement, by Beath, 1936 London Transport poster

But one thing does strike me on a general level.  In the nicest possible way, these are not my posters.  There is the odd exception, like this Edward Bawden.

Edward Bawden City pair poster London Transport 1952

We sold a copy of the pictorial side of that pair poster a few years ago.  And as is the case with almost every single half-decent poster that we have ever sold, I now wonder what on earth we were up to.  But never mind.

I also like this one too.

Earls Court, by Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1936 London Transport poster

And this one.

London Transport poster Misha Black and Kraber 1947 At London's Service

Not that I can afford any one of them, but never mind.

But these are almost entirely pre-1950s London Transport posters.  I can pick out the modernist ones, but there is also acres and acres of Deco and decorative to wade through in the catalogue.  But not a scent of very much at all post-war, bar the odd Bawden and this Abram Games.

London Transport at London's service, by Abram Games, 1947 London Transport poster

Now this isn’t an accidental choice, I don’t think.  The museum has made an interesting decision here, about what to sell and why – at least assuming that they have similar duplicates of the later posters too, which I am sure they do.  The Transport Museum, along with Christies,  may be guessing that the pre-war Deco-style posters have reached the top of their value.  Whereas the later posters are worth hanging on to because their worth may yet go up further.

Now no one is ever going to admit this out loud, so it can only ever remain guesswork on my part.  And of course all the Museum are doing are trying to be canny investors in their stock, which in this case is posters.  They’re hoping that they are getting out at the peak of the market – but they might be wrong and the market might yet go up further.  No one knows for sure, not even this owl.

London Transport poster Heath, owl, by Clifford Ellis and Rosemary Ellis, 1933

But if they are right, then would you want to buy a poster from this sale? Well you would if it was one you’d been after for ages and wanted to hang on your wall, that would be very sensible.  But if you are buying it as an investment?  Particularly considering the, um, quite optimistic valuations on what’s on offer (or, if I am more cynical, the decision to put every poster at £1200+ apart from the really expensive ones).

Anyway, we’ve got plenty of time to consider this between now and October.  But there is method in Christies’ madness; the announcement is now because 60 of the best posters are going to go on show at their King Street salerooms from now – I think – until 24 August.    This might just be worth a visit.  Because I don’t think I am going to be buying anything.

[And yes, the names of the poster artists aren’t on there yet because I have run out of time – this will be fixed at the weekend I promise!]

Thinking in numbers

For anyone who thought the infographic is a modern phenomenon, the London Transport Museum is here to set you right.

They’ve just created a new display of graphics about numbers, which I am mainly drawing your attention to because this Schleger is both fantastic and not often seen.

Hans Schleger vintage London Transport poster 1938.

Interestingly, it’s from 1938.  These kind of explanatory posters with factual graphics are sometimes ascribed to the war, with its accompanying need to explain to the people, but clearly the trend had begun before the conflict started. This design by Theyre Lee Elliot is even earlier, from 1936.

Theyre Lee Elliott 1936

(I’m guessing from the press release that this is in the exhibition from the description, apologies if you go there and it isn’t…)

In fact a fair chunk of the exhibition seems to be dedicated to proving that the infographic goes back quite a long way further than we might think.

Irene Fawkes 1924 vintage London Transport infographic poster

The design above, by Irene Fawkes, dates from 1924 and there are plenty more of that ilk in the exhibition, although they are mostly in a pre-war style that I can’t get too excited about.

Charles Shephard 1923 Vintage London Transport poster

But what this makes me think, perhaps even more than how far these kind of explanation goes back, is that what seems to be missing are their modern equivalents.  I know there are exceptions to this – a few years ago London Transport produced a set of posters explaining why escalators needed to be replaced, which were placed on the hoardings around the work which weren’t graphically exceptional but were interesting and informative.  In the main, though, it doesn’t feel as though public bodies feel the need to explain to us what they are doing any more. Or am I missing something?

Heinz Zinram vintage London Transport poster 1960s

The above is by Heinz Zinram (at least he took the photographs) and dates from 1965.  Just as true today though.

And thanks to Macca, who pointed me at this exhibition in the first place, for which I am very grateful.

Swiss eye

I’ve mentioned Poster-Auctioneer before in passing – they’re a specialist poster auction house in Switzerland.  And until now I thought they only sold Swiss posters (for Swiss people, etc).  But either I hadn’t looked at their website properly, or they’ve expanded it, because now they have a poster shop with plenty of things for immediate sale.

There are still lots of posters of mountains, skiing and cheese, naturally, but a rather useful search function lets you filter out posters by subject.  And should you select Public Suburban Traffic, you’ll come across something rather interesting, a set of more than forty pre-war London Transport posters.

Hampton Court vintage london transport photographic poster 1938 Kew Gardens vintage London Transport poster photographic 1938
Anonymous, 1938, €120 each

What makes them interesting is that what’s on offer here isn’t a collection of  the usual suspects.  Instead, these look like the pre-war output of London Transport selected with what I can only describe as a Swiss eye, one which is much more interested in photography and type than illustration or whimsy.

It's a pleasure vintage london Transport photographic poster 1938
Anonymous, 1938, €120

The result is a very different version of London Transport’s output.  There are plenty of posters here I’ve never seen before, even though each and every one of them is represented in the London Transport Museum Collection.

Summer Chicken vintage London Transport photographic poster 1938
Anonymous, 1938, €90

While others only crop up very rarely.

Maurice Beck Staff Insurance vintage London Transport poster 1931
Maurice Beck, 1931, €120

The Petrol Tax poster from this set did come up for sale at the Swann Galleries earlier this year, but Poster-Auctioneer have all three on offer.

There are also some interesting designers represented, like Richard Beck, with both halves of this pair poster up for sale.

Richard Beck vintage London Transport poster Richard Beck vintage London transport poster
Richard Beck, 1938, €230 each

Even better are these two posters by Milner Gray.  These seem to be the only two posters he ever designed for London Transport, and both are being offered by Poster Auctioneer.

Milner Gray shopping hours vintage London Transport Poster, 1938 Shop Early vintage London Transport poster 1938 Milner Gray
Milner Gray, 1938, €120 each

Now the sharp-eyed of you will have noticed that the vast majority of these posters date from 1938.  I can’t actually explain this, but I do have a vision of a Swiss designer coming over to Britain just before the war, and spending quite a lot of money at the London Transport Shop before he returned home.

Beath Timber exhibition vintage London Transport poster 1937
Beath, 1937, €180

But however this collection came together, it’s an interesting proof of the fact that you find what you are looking for.  A British designer or design historian would argue that, even in London Transport, British modernism never quite happened.  But to a Swiss eye, out and about in the capital in 1938, it was very much there, and he carried the proof back with him.

Eckersley Lombers Geolological museum 1938 vintage London Transport poster
Eckersley Lombers, 1938, €120

This also makes the date even more intriguing.  Perhaps a form of continental modernism was about to flower in Britain, only to be cut short by the war?  It’s unprovable, but these posters certainly make the idea seem possible.

Of course, the collection is also not quite as didactic and tidy as I am making it seem.  In addition to the photographic and typographical posters, there are also some pair posters from after the war, which are much more romantic.  I particularly like this John Wood pair poster from 1950.

John Wood Vintage London Transport Pair poster churches 1950
John Wood, 1950, €250

There’s more flamboyance than that too if you want it.

Denys Nichols vintage London transport pair poster 1950
Denys Nichols, 1950, €240

Another shopping trip perhaps, a recognition that the world had changed after the war.  Or perhaps the modernism had all but disappeared from the walls of the Underground.  We’ll never know.  But I’m very grateful to whoever did put together this collection of posters, because it’s allowed me to see British design in the late 1930s from the outside – and from a very different point of view.

On the buses (and bus stops too)

One of the real joys of writing this blog is getting a response on a subject from People Who Really Know.  So after my post about long thin posters, it was very good to hear from Michael Wickham who gave me a lot more information about where these kind of posters were displayed.  Along with illustrations, and permission to share it with everyone here.  I don’t really need to say much more, do I?

Posters were/still are produced for the timetable panels on bus stops. These are very close to A4 size (or double that or treble that, vertically) and have been produced since the late 1920s. Until quite recently, they were produced with two punch holes in the top cormers and hung on screws inside the frame. Nowadays, they are laminated. The 1974 Harry Stevens you mentioned on 9/3 is one of these, as you suggested.

Of course, the vast majority of these posters were timetables, in tabular form without any artistic element whatsoever. However, LT filled unused spaces in the frames with other material, eg exhortations not to drop litter, to avoid rush hours, queue properly etc and, occasionally to advertise attractions which could be reached by bus. For some of these, an established artist would be employed.  Here area couple from my collection, both by Clifford Wilkinson – London’s Country Houses  from 1953 (triple A4 vertical)

Clifford Wilkinson vintage bus stop poster London's Country Houses 1953

and Windsor Castle from 1951 (double A4 vertical).

Clifford Wilkins vintage bus stop poster Windsor Castle 1953

The timetables have survived in reasonable numbers because bus enthusiasts have collected them but the “artistic” posters are quite rare survivors.

Other posters have been produced for interior use inside buses (above the seats). There are two standard sizes of these: 25″ x 8″ used from the 1930s until the present and a larger size (25″ x 11″) used on more modern types of buses. Below are a 1944 issue of the first type, by Midge,

Midge vintage bus poster 1944 help the conductor

and a 1976 issue of the second, by Harry Stevens.

Harry Stevens 1976 bus poster travel information

In addition, there were sundry-size posters for the buses in the 1950s-70s for specific panels, eg on the front bulkhead, above the front windows on the upper deck and on the staircase panel. Some examples of these:

Vintage Galbraith bus poster 1960 Please Help The conductor

A 1960 Galbraith – “Please help the Conductor” – 20″ x 9″

Vintage London Transport poster Galbraith bus Avoid Rush Hour Travel

A 1959 Galbraith – “Avoid Rush Hour Travel”  – 24″ x 5″

Anna Zinkeisen 1934 Aldershot Tattoo vintage London transport poster

A 1934 Zinkeisen – “Aldershot Tattoo by private bus” – 12″ x 10″

The 12″ x 10″ size was also used on the Underground from the 1930s until the 1970s. The Underground ones had a non-see-through backing, usually dark grey, because these posters were affixed to the glass vestibules by the train doors.

There are two other common sizes on the Underground: the cards which go in the carriages above the windows and the portrait type used on the escalators. I don’t have any “artistic” ones of either of these as they are largely used for commercial advertising.

All of which is comprehensive, brilliant and very much appreciated.  What’s more, he’s also very happy to answer any questions if you have any.  So thank you very much, Michael Wickham.


I found these while looking for something else altogether on the LT museum poster site. And I’ve never seen them before.

Vintage Eckersley Lombers Lonndon Transport poster Museum 1938

They’re a rather surprising departure by Eckersley-Lombers and date from 1938.

Vintage Eckersley Lombers Lonndon Transport poster Museum 1938

The design reminds me more of book covers of the period than posters.  But it’s great.

While we’re in the domain of London Transport design, there’s also this post-war Unger.

Hans Unger vintage London Transport poster fish Southend wonderfullness

It came up on eBay, and so Mr Crownfolio and I thought we’d invest some of our selling proceeds in it.  But then who could resist a poster which, as well as showing a fabulous and only marginally relevant fish, also manages to rhyme Dorking and torking?  Not us, that’s for sure.

Next time, unbelievable quantities of posters for sale on eBay and elsewhere.  So many in fact that I don’t have enough time to fit them into a post today.  See you then.