A perfect charity shop find today.  Three of my favourite things – County Shows, 1950s graphics and old cookery books – all together in one small leaflet.

1950s stork cookery leaflet

That picture on the front is apparently the Stork Demonstration Van introducing people to a lot of new and interesting recipes on its visits to the country’s agricultural shows.  The big supermarkets still do exactly the same thing at County Shows today.

If you spread out the whole cover, the real business of the agricultural show is going on at the back; marquees, stock judging and shiny new tractors and mowing machines.

Stork leaflet county shows full

I think that is a really wonderful piece of work.  Sadly, there is not a lot more inside, only one small depiction of the Demonstration Van itself.

Stork Demonstration Van

The rest is the usual food photography of the 1950s, with the colour saturation turned up to 11.  Oh it must have been good to have colour printing back after the war.  So good that they were prepared to overlook the fact that it didn’t really make the food look tasty.

Stork cakes in glaring technicolour

The booklet is anonymous, with no one taking any credit for that wonderful cover.  In a way, I find that quite pleasing, because this booklet is a great example of a particular type of British food advertising. There are line drawings, usually in black and white, more often than not there’s a sense of humour about it too (just go back and look at Mr Stork in his tweeds on that front cover).  It often spills over into recipe books and pamphlets from the newspaper and magazine advertisements where it really belongs.  I suspect that a great deal of it springs from the relentless Ministry of Food campaigns during World War Two.

Ministry of Food Dinners for Beginners Leaflets

40 million of their advertisements were printed every week throughout the war, and it was one of the most successful Home Front campaigns.  So no wonder it set the style for more than a whole decade afterwards.

I did get another Stork booklet at the same time; sadly it’s not quite so exuberant.

Stork quick cooking

But its little graphic inside is even more of a direct link to those wartime illustrations.

Inside graphic from second stork leaflet

This kind of work isn’t glamorous or valuable.  It probably isn’t even noticed  very often (the fact that these kind of designs were produced for women, and for the home, probably doesn’t help their case either).  But it is important.  These graphics were everywhere for at least fifteen years, quite probably much longer than that (I have a whole heap of this kind of ephemera, but sadly it’s all in storage so I can’t dig it out for an answer).  They were everyday graphic design, not something that people stepped back and pointed at, but part of the warp and weft of daily life, creating the sense of place and time even if they mostly went unsung.

Not all graphics are produced by heroic designers, and not all design has to stop you in your tracks.  Everyday design can be just as important.  And more often than you expect it can be as good as well.


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Responses

Novel and Inexpensive

Today I want to show you an archive, but it isn’t one which is chock full of images, or bringing us rare images of gorgeous graphics.  It wins a post of its own, though, simply by existing.

Holiday Haunts cover 1929 From Birmingham City Railway Collection

May I introduce you to the City of Birmingham’s Railway Collection.  They came to my attention when I was researching Holiday Haunts a few weeks ago, because they’ve put together a small online exhibition of the same name, from which all of these images come.

Winter Resorts 1930s poster

Now I’m not only pointing at them because they clearly have a rather enviable collection, which looks as if it might include posters as well as brochures and ephemera.

Plymouth Hoe Bathers from Birmingham City Railway Collection

Or because they haven’t always gone for the obvious choices in putting their exhibition together.

Camp Coaches from Birmingham

Or even because I had no idea that surfing was such a craze in 1932.

1932 surfing

I just love the fact that the collection exists at all.  5,000 books and periodicals, 20,000 pictures of trains and stations.  And, clearly, a large quantity of posters and lovely brochures too, but all owned by the City of Birmingham, and proudly displayed with their shelving numbers on the website.

What could be more brilliant or unlikely than a municipal railwayana collection?  We should campaign until every town and city in the country has one.  Until then, hurrah for the City of Birmingham and their archives.

Posted in archives | Tagged | 3 Responses

Selective Vision

As I mentioned at the time, the two Paignton posters in the forthcoming Christies Sale got me thinking.  To be precise they’ve made me wonder why these two posters keep coming up for auction when the rest of Reginald Lander’s vast and varied output doesn’t.

Lander Paignton vintage railway poster

There’s a simple answer, which is that these particular posters are a bit reminiscent of Abram Games, and so are seen to be good and therefore get sold by Christies. Lander did some more in this vein, such as this Jersey design: these come up too, just not as often as Paignton.

LAnder Jersey British Railways poster 1959

Which is fair enough, but it’s a thought worth unpicking a bit further, mainly as a reminder that the market does not equal design history which in turn does not equal what was produced at the time.

Let’s start at the far end of that.  Lots and lots of posters were designed in 1958 when Lander’s designs were first produced – I can find over 120 on the National Railway Museum catalogue alone.  So in part the Paignton posters must keep appearing because quite a few of them were saved when they were produced (there is a chance, of course, that there are just four or five of them, endlessly doing the rounds of auctions, but I’ll discount that for now).  In the case of railway posters this probably means that people bought them for themselves because they particularly liked them.

Another Lander Paignton railway poster

Now this may be people choosing an excellent piece of contemporary design as decoration, but may also be because, depicting such holiday sundries as a deckchair and a bucket and spade as they do, the images make rather good holiday souvenirs.  Perhaps also more people went to Paignton; or it may even be that Paignton Town Council spent more than anyone else on its publicity and so printed loads more posters.  Even at the moment of production there are a mindboggling set of reasons why some posters might survive in greater numbers than others.

But that’s only the beginning of it.  Because then, from all of the railway posters which do survive, Christies and collectors together do a kind of negotiation about what is ‘interesting’.  Interesting, in this sense, is pretty much interchangeable with ‘valuable’.

For whatever reason – perhaps, as I mentioned above a resemblance to the work of Abram Games, a perception that they are ‘good design’ or even just because people still like a cheery picture of a deckchair or a bucket and spade – these posters are now seen as having greater worth than many others.  More worth, for example, than those newsagents advertising posters which I posted on here the other day (and then as a result ended up getting the one below on eBay for a tenner).

Woman magazine advertising poster

But there’s nothing definitive about these decisions; while I don’t think the Woman magazine poster is as good as the Lander, is the Paignton poster really sixty or even eighty times better?  That’s what the Christies’ estimates would like you to believe, but I don’t think so. And will the relative values be the same in five or ten years time?  Who knows.

But Christies are not only making relative judgements, they are also performing a kind of selection.  They’d never sell our Woman poster, because it wouldn’t reach anything near their minimum lot value.  So some posters are on the inside, others are excluded.  Some are seen, some are unseen, and it is thus much harder for the unseen ones to be part of the argument, or indeed the history.

But even that is not the end of it.  Because here I am, sifting through what’s on Christies – and elsewhere – to point at the things that I like.  There’s a personal opinion in there, for certain; I mostly ignore posters like the one below, even though Christies value it at £800-1,000, over the Lander, because I don’t have anything to say about them.

Devon.  From Christies.  Pretty but dull

And don’t even get me started on Terence Cuneo.

But that kind of selection is what happens on the surface.  What I’m also doing as I wander about the internet looking for posters, is filling my mind with images, each and every one of which have a small effect on what I think, and write, about their history and design.  The same is true for every single person who’s thinking about them too.   But what I get to see – however hard I try – is such a tiny segment of the whole, which has been pre-selected by everything from the marketplace to 1950s holidaying habits.  Such a partial view, in fact, that it’s hard not to conclude that my opinions are in the end, not really much use at all.

Clearly you can’t take a word I have to say on the subject seriously.  Which is a shame, because I also wanted to tell you that the rest of Lander’s output is seriously under-rated.  I did blog about this last year (please do take a look, you will enjoy him) so I will content myself by saying that he did a good line in sharp colours as well as the more tasteful stuff.

Lander Plymouth artwork British Railways 1961

We have both of these posters (in a tatty state, so the above image is of the original artwork from NMSI instead).  Plymouth does come up now and then, but I’ve never seen the Morecambe one anywhere else at all.  For whatever reasons.

Morecambe poster Lander 1950s

Although while I was double-checking that just now, I did find this.  Which is now definitely on the wanted list.

Lander another Morecambe poster


Posted in auctions, designers | Tagged | 2 Responses

Auction fever (or not)

The next Christies poster sale is upon us; the lots are online, the printed catalogue is sitting on my desk.  But I’ve been avoiding writing about it for the last few days, mainly because I can’t work up much enthusiasm for what’s on offer.

This, if I am pushed, is probably the best of the bunch.  But it’s American, so it doesn’t really count, even if it is by Herbert Bayer.

Herbert Bayer Eggs vintage American wartime poster
Herbert Bayer, c.1940, est £700-900

The next best offerings are also American, a selection of TWA travel posters by David Klein.

David Klein travel poster Christies Auction
David Klein, c.1958, est. £1,000-1,500

David Klein vintage TWA travel poster
David Klein, c.1960, £1,500-2,000

I’ve pondered the excellence of these before, because they have a quality which no British poster of that era really manages, an intense optimism about modernity, not simply as an ideal to be aimed for (which is much more the British mindset) but as something experienced in the present moment.  They are glad to be alive in this modern world and the joy is infectious.

David Klein vintage TWA poster
David Klein, c.1960, est. £700-900

In the realms of things which I really should be contemplating, there is a Fougasse I haven’t seen before.

Fougasse vintage WW2 propaganda poster salvage
Fougasse, 1942, est. £600-800

Along with an interesting and early McKnight Kauffer.

McKnight Kauffer Cornwall vintage Great Western poster
McKnight Kauffer, 1933, est. £800-1,200

And then two Landers which are not new but now come with quite eyewatering estimates.

Lander Paignton vintage railway poster
R M Lander, 1956, est. £600-800

Another Lander Paignton railway poster
R M Lander, 1956, est. £600-800
I’m intrigued by these posters; they’re not necessarily the best of his work but they come up time and again at auction, unlike anything else he did.  It could be that there are just more of them about, or it may be a self-perpetuating phenomenon: because people have seen them fetch good prices before, that brings more out of the woodwork.  But he did do more interesting stuff, and I’ll post a few of our (rather battered) examples one of these days.

Then there is also this.

Daphne Padden vintage railway poster Hastings and St Leonards
Daphne Padden, £1,00-1,500

Now it is by Daphne Padden, because it’s signed Daphne Padden, even if at first glance it looks much like her father’s style of work.  Judging by  the style of clothing, it must be from the very start of 1950s, so is probably one of her very earliest posters.  Which makes it interesting, but I can’t say I particularly like it.  Although the estimate suggests that Christies think that a large number of people will be expensively intersted in it.

There are other mildly interesting lots; a few from London Transport, of which my favourite is this Bawden.

Edward Bawden 1936 Vintage London transport poster Kew Gardens
Edward Bawden, 1936, est. £600-800

As ever, there are also the usual slew of railway posters including lots of pretty landscapes and detailed pictures of trains.  This one does at least get a prize for being, er, different.

Flying Scotsman Greiwurth poster 1928
Greiwurth, 1928, est. £3,000-5,000

Oh to live in the simpler age before Freud thought of phallic symbolism.

Overall, though, the excitement just isn’t there.  Really I think that – with the odd exception when a great collection comes up for sale – Christies’ sales just aren’t for me any more.  The higher minimum lot value means that so much of what I’m interested in – the Royston Coopers and Tom Eckersleys – just don’t appear there any more.  But these posters also not turning up anywhere else instead.  So where have they gone?  Are you sitting on a heap of these things and don’t know what to do with them these days?  In which case, I might be able to help.

While I’m on about auctions, I should for the sake of completeness tell you that Poster Auctioneer have a new auction coming up tomorrow, but again with very little British interest in there, so you’ll have to make do with this Donald Brun instead.

Donald Brun

Most of their posters are Swiss, which isn’t unreasonable for an auction house in Switzerland.  What’s more puzzling is that Poster Connection, who are in the States, also have an auction stuffed with Swiss posters this time round.  You can choose between an ample selection of Swiss graphics.

Hans Neuburg Zurich artists poster 1966
Hans Neuburg, 1966, est. $360

Or simply posters for Switzerland.

Herbert Leupin Pontresina vintage travel poster 1949
Herbert Leupin, 1949, est. $500

There are a very few British posters in amongst all the snow and sans serif, of which the most interesting is this Norman Weaver.

Norman Weaver vintage 1948 travel poster BOAC
Norman Weaver, 1948, est. $500

With a rarely-seen Abram Games coming up a close second.

Abram Games Vintage BOAC poster 1947
Abram Games, 1947, est. $600

But all is not lost.  Swann Galleries have promised me that there are some lovely London Transport pieces in their forthcoming auction.  I’ll let you know as soon as it appears online.

Posted in auctions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Response

Show Card

The designs here may at least be familiar to careful readers and/or shoppers.

Tom Eckersley Holiday Haunts showcard

Because both of these appeared in the final Morphets sale last year.  The blue bird above is by Tom Eckersley, the happy beach kit below by Abram Games.

Abram Games Holiday Haunts showcard

But these particular examples aren’t posters, instead they are rather wonderful display cards, presumably for use in ticket offices and travel agents.

two British Railways showcards on our mantelpiece

This might seem like an extravagant piece of publicity, but Holiday Haunts was a major production for British Railways, with over 200,000 copies printed at its peak.  (If you want to know more, I’ve gone on about it at some length before.)

The design alone was quite enough reason to get these (from eBay, for a reasonably small sum), but actually the format is fantastic.  They’re small and have their own stands.  We don’t need to frame them or find some wall space and they look very fetching on the mantlepiece. I’m starting to think all posters should look like this.

Posted in eBay, railway posters | 2 Responses

Refined Lard

Today something alarming but also brilliant, the Sainsbury’s Own Label book by Jonny Trunk.

Sainsburys Own Label cover

It’s alarming because I’m now old enough for people to be digging up forgotten bits of my past and selling it as retro.  In this case, supermarket packaging.

Sainsburys Lemon pie mix


We always shopped at Sainsbury’s when I was small, so these designs do have a Proustian whiff of being six years old for me.

Lard Packaging sainsburys own label book

As for brilliance, the design speaks for itself, even if I wouldn’t fancy eating too many of the contents.  But in a way, that’s a further compliment to the vision of the design.  Who would feel today that a lard wrapper was worth spending good design time on?  Not many people I suspect.  (If you want to follow this thought further, there’s an interesting Creative Review article which compares the designs in the book to what’s on offer today, even if it does wimp out of the conclusion that most design now isn’t half as good.)

dried peas

Sainsburys dog food label

The book is also an interesting portal into a moment in design which doesn’t get spoken about as much as it ought to, particularly in terms of graphic design.

I’ve always thought of the period between about 1962 and 1967 as the brief moment when ‘proper’ modernism was finally taken on board by British designers, even if it was only an interlude between Scandewegian light wood and psychedelic curliques.  This book is a reminder that while it might not have lasted for long, the takeover was total.  What’s more, it wasn’t just high end manufacturers and poncey magazines embracing the style; instead it was part of the design of everyday life, just as good modernism should be.

cod packaging sainsburys

Imagine a whole supermarket full of design of this force and ambition.  It’s something I will probably never see again, and never properly appreciated when it was in front of me either.

Pale Ale

The Sainsbury’s designs in the book start in 1962 but go all the way through to 1977, although I imagine that the most striking designs here date from the earlier period of the studio’s work (somewhere I have an early 1970s Party Dip package which is definitely more psychedelic than anything on show here). But I haven’t read the book yet, so will doubtless have more to say when it does arrive.  Here’s a preview of just a few of the delights inside.

book spread


I thought I’d mention it in advance though because it is a limited edition print run.  A few copies are available from the designers, Fuel, or you can wait until Amazon get their copies in.  But once they’re gone, they’re gone.

While you wait for your copy to arrive, it’s also worth reading Jonny Trunk’s account of how the book came to be.  I tend to believe that the most interesting ideas come out of people following their own eccentric enthusiasms rather than making a calculated decision about what other people are interested in, and this is a classic example of that happening.  Well done that man.

Posted in designers, other | 8 Responses