Shop Now

Right, there is no way on earth that I am going to be able to do today’s auction justice.  This is partly because I am tired (I had to get up at 5.45 am to go to Stonehenge, don’t ask) and partly because it is tomorrow, but mainly because it is just such a vast, sprawling and wonderful beast that it would be impossible to cover all the highlights in one blog post.  So this is just a taster, and you really do have to go and look at the catalogue yourself.

The auction in question is the posthumous sale of the collection of Bob Date, who was a dealer in books and ephemera, and clearly blessed with exceptional taste.  Along with the collecting gene, clearly, as there is tons of the stuff.

How do I know he had good taste?  Well he liked Barnett Freedman, to start with.

FREEDMAN (Barnett): 'Modern Furniture & Design by Bowmans,,'; London, 1930; together with 'Bowman's Furniture, Ring Up The Curtain..', same publisher, 1936, both square 4to; photographic trade catalogues of 'Unit' furniture with fine cover designs by Barnett Freedman printed in various colours
Lot 219, est. £150-200

But there’s so much  more than just catalogues.  How about an accordion folded, peepshow diorama?

FREEDMAN (Barnett): 'In Winter & In Summer You Can Be Sure of Shell..'; rare accordian-folding peepshow diorama from a design by Freedman, comprising eight colour litho card sections with paper sides, reading 'Be Up to Date Shellubricate',
Lot 217, est £300-500

Or perhaps an entire archive of more than a hundred items of almost limitless Freedman glory?

Barnett Freedman archive items


Chromoworks publicity Barnett Freedman
Lot 221, est. £2,000-3,000

And there are also posters too, and not just by Freedman either, although he is of course represented.

Barnett Freedman, 'Circus, Go By Underground', printed by Curwen Press, two colour lithographs London Transport poster
Lot 846, est. £500-700 (two posters)

And not just by the known posters either.  This – which I assume is for the Festival of Britain – is fantastic.  If somewhat large.

After Barnett Freedman, an extremely rare Shell advertising billboard poster, in four parts Festival of Britain poster 1951 Shell
Lot 911, £1,000-2,000

And there’s plenty of posters by other artists too, scattered throughout the tail end of the auction.

After Sybil Andrews and Cyril Power, 'Football', a rare 1933 London Transport poster, printed by The Baynard Press
Andrew Power, 1933, lot 864, est. £500-800

Paxton Chadwick, 'The South Gets More Sun', a 1930s Southern Railway Poster
Paxton Chadwick, 1933, lot 933, est. £100-150

After Dame Laura Knight, 'Victory Delayed' poster, printed by J. Weiner Ltd, colour lithograph World War Two poster
Dame Laura Knight, lot 927, est. £50-70

And not just posters, but books about posters too, whole lots of them.  And books about canals, and trains, and architecture, and books of designs for the Curwen Press.  And then there’s the ephemera, which is here in industrial quantities.  You could probably start up as a dealer just by buying one lot like this.

A collection of approx. five hundred and forty items, to include: labels; advertising; book plates; packaging; a few postcards; etc., 19th century to modern, largely in fine condition. (Approx. 540)

That’s lot 98, if you’re interested, estimated at £200-300.  Although I have no idea how the values will work out tomorrow, it really could go either way.  Possibly these are wild under-estimates and there will be a crazed frenzy of buying the like of which I have not seen for a while.  Equally, it could go the way of Morphets, and people will be so boggled by the sheer volume of stuff for sale that some things will slip by for almost nothing.

I am, obviously, hoping for the latter as there are one or two things we’ve got our eye on, but I have to say I think it’s a pipe dream.  Over the last few days, the estimate on one item I’ve been looking at – a Paul Nash lithograph since you ask – has risen from £150-200, to £500-700.  Which means we won’t be getting that, or much else either I should think.  But watch this space.


Mammoth sale

Right, in my attempt to keep on top of things, a quick scamper through the forthcoming Swann Galleries auction.  Which is tomorrow, so you’d better be quick if you actually want to buy any of them.  Me, I’m just window-shopping, especially at these prices.

All the prices are high, but then that’s a posh auction in America for you, but the one I slightly take exception to is this.

McKnight Kauffer, 1924, est. $1,500 – 2000

But that’s only because we sold one at the last Onslows sale, and it went for £230, which seemed quite reasonable at the time.  And it was backed on linen too.

Kauffer is also represented by this rather magnificent Art Deco mammoth (now there’s a phrase I never thought I’d have recourse to).

McKnight Kauffer, 1924, est. $2,000 – 3,000

There are a few other London Transport posters in there, like this rather splendid Zero.

Zero, 1935, est $800 – 1,200

Although I do end up wondering whether I’d ever put that up on the wall.  Maybe if I were a museum.

There is this rather lovely pair of Barnett Freedmans too.


Barnett Freedman, 1936, est. $700 – 1,000 the pair

Of more interest to me are these two Orient line posters, mainly because I wrote about the first one a while back.

Richard Beck, 1937, est $600 – 900

Reimann Studios and Kraber, 1937, est. $600 – 900

The second one is at least partly by Kraber, whose work I keep discovering and each time I say that I will find out more about him.  I must make good on this promise one of these days, because every single design I come across by him is great.  This is no exception, and I would happily put that poster on the wall if someone would like to buy it for me.

This, being an early airline map by Moholy Nagy, ought to be interesting.

Moholy-Nagy, 1936, est. $10,000 – 15,000

But it just isn’t, is it.  The price suggests that other people might not agree with me though.

And finally, as is customary with these sales where there are just a handful of British posters, a dip into the furrin.  This is a Savignac rough design that I just like.

RAYMOND SAVIGNAC (1907-2002) MA COLLE. Gouache maquette. Circa 1951
Savignac, 1951, est $3,000 – 4,000

But this is much more interesting.

RAYMOND SAVIGNAC (1907-2002) TASTEE BREAD / BAKED WHILE YOU SLEEP. Group of 39 gouache studies. Circa 1950s.


RAYMOND SAVIGNAC (1907-2002) TASTEE BREAD / BAKED WHILE YOU SLEEP. Group of 39 gouache studies. Circa 1950s.


Savignac, 1950s, est. $800 – 1,200

These are two designs from a set of 39 roughs, which Savignac clearly did for a British firm.  Now I did know that he and Colin, amongst others, had worked over here, but evidence of it doesn’t come up often enough if you ask me.

Is it really efficient?

On we must go with the endless stream of auctions.  Today it is Onslows, which takes place on Friday.  What can I tell you about it?

Well the first thing that will strike you as you browse through the catalogue is precisely what a tonnage of Shell posters they have – and there are more too, tucked away at the end.

Keith Grant Somerset Shell Educational poster Wiltshire
Keith Grant, est. £100-150

I really must take a look at what these actually sell for, because the higher estimates of £100-150 do always strike me as slightly fanciful, but then a few always manage to reach that.  Certainly,  I don’t see them going as high at other auctions or on eBay.  Watch this space and I will report back.

That would, however, be an utterly reasonable price to pay for these Tristram Hillier items, which have the same estimate.  I’ve written about them before but, frankly, any excuse.

Tristram HIllier Shell guide to fossils educational poster

Tristram Hiller shell guide to minerals educational poster

What I haven’t ever written about properly, however, are the Shell educational posters themselves.  Must do that one of these days.

Meanwhile back at Onslows, the other thing that will strike you about the auction is a job lot of GPO posters, some being sold singly, some as individual lots.

1950 Harry stevens air mail GPO poster
Harry Stevens, 1950, est. £70-100

Sams 1954 minimum 4d letter rate GPO poster
Sams, 1954, est. £60-80

Now I happen to know the story behind these posters, and it’s one to make any archivist’s hair curl.  Back in the early 1980s, the Royal Mail in their Mount Pleasant HQ were having a sort out.  Sensibly, they decided that two copies of each of the posters they had produced should go to an archive – these are the ones which the BPMA have now.  Rather more bogglingly, they put the rest in a skip.  The seller rescued a selection that he liked.  Some were sold at Bloomsbury in March, this is another batch.

1950 Martin Aitchison Your Letterbox is it really efficient ?, GPO poster
Martin Aitcheson, 1950, est. £40-50

Other than that, the other two interesting items are two rather lovely sets of proofs, one by Barnett Friedman and the other by Edward Ardizzone.

Barnett Freedman (1901-1958) Wuthering Heights (16 plates) , Jane Eyre (16 plates) and Anna Karenina (16 plates), proof uncut lithograph sheets for illustrations from Heritage Press NY 1952,
Barnett Friedman, 1952, est. £200-300

Edward Ardizonne (1900-1979) lithograph proof sheets for Sinbad, Fairground Freak Show and WW2 sentry
Edward Ardizzone, est. £30-50.

I like them a lot, but what you’d actually do with them I’m not entirely sure.

Meanwhile the rest of what is on offer is the usual mix of foreign stuff that I am going to ignore, railway and travel posters, and, as ever, a fair selection of World War Two Home Front posters.

This is probably the stand-out railway poster for me.

Frank Newbould (1887-1951) Scarborough, original poster printed for LNER poster by Waterlow c. 1930
Frank Newbould, 1930, est. £700-1,000

Although, as even a cursory flick through this blog would reveal, I am always a sucker for this series.

L A Wilcox (Lesley Arthur 1904-1982) Cornwall Travel by Train, original poster printed for BR(WR) by Jordison 1960 BR poster
L A Wilcox, 1960, est. £600-700

The main event in the travel poster section, at least if you are me, is a stream of these black and white British travel posters.  A couple are quite interestingly early.

Brighton travel poster 1938
Anonymous, 1938, est. £50-70

The vast majority are not.

Walter Scott's Britain Warwick - The Castle, original sepia photographic poster printed for The Travel Association circa 1948 poster
Anonymous, c. 1948, est. £50-70.

While this in no way constitutes a recommendation to buy one, these posters are quite interesting as historical artefacts.  Take a look at the date: it’s just after the war has ended, and Britain is desperate to pay back the war loans.  And one of the ways to do that, is of course American tourist dollars; so these posters wing their way over to the States to try and persuade our American cousins to come over here.  But I often wonder just how well they worked.  Because America is sleek, glossy and most of all technicolour, but Britain is broke.  So our posters come in black and white and are printed on the cheapest, thinnest paper imaginable.

Of course none of this explains why the 1938 poster is equally as shoddy.  Perhaps the British Travel and Tourist Association were just cheapskates, all the time.

The reason I’ve thought about these posters so much is that Mr Crownfolio and I, some years ago, bought a whole roll of these posters from America for about £30.  We tried to sell a couple on eBay but basically got laughed at.  But then, a couple of years later we tried again, and the prices started rising – so much so that one of the last ones went for over £100.  And now they are at Onslows, well I never.

In the war section, meanwhile, this is probably the most classic poster.

Norman Wilson (dates unknown) Dig for Victory, original WW2 poster printed for HMSO by Chromoworks c.1940 propaganda poster
Norman Wilkinson, 1940, est. £300-400.

While this is my favourite.

Coughs & Sneezes Spread Diseases, original WW2 Home Front poster printed for HMSO by Chromoworks circa 1940
Anonymous, 1940, est. £40-50

Just look at the difference in prices, I am clearly in a minority of one on this.

For a change, there aren’t that many London Transport posters in there, but it’s worth persevering through the whole catalogue, because a pair of gems, both by Abram Games, are tucked away at the end.

Abram Games london zoo lovely poster
Abram Games, 1976, est. £100-150

Abram Games (1914-1996) London Transport Conducted Tours, original poster printed by Waterlow 1950 London Transport poster
Abram Games, 1950, est. £400-500.

In fact that poster above is the very last one in the sale.  And probably one of the best.   But it’s an exception, and I am slightly worried by the general lack of good posters like that from the Onslows sale.  Because with Christies having got so expensive, there’s a real need for an auction house selling the stuff that, well, Christies used to – the Games, the Eckersleys and the Royston Coopers to start with, never mind the Daphne Paddens.  But they aren’t appearing here – so where have they gone?  They haven’t entirely migrated to the railwayana auctions, so where have they all gone?  Do any of you know, because I certainly don’t. And I’d like to.

Harrogate Return

It’s taken two years, but finally I can report on another Morphet’s sale.  Sadly this is not another great poster extravaganza, but still worth your time and attention.  Shall we take this for starters?

Abram Games vintage poster BOAC festival of Britain Morphets
Abram Games, 1951, est. £200-300

The poster – which by rights should go for quite a bit more than that estimate – is a bit of a clue as to what’s going on here.  Because although there are a few other posters in this sale, like the Gordon Nicol below, they’re not the main point of interest.

Gordon Nicol vintage poster British Railways 1958 windsor
Gordon Nicol, 1958, est. £150-200 

Although I will always have time for this London Transport poster, which I know I’ve mentioned on here at least once before

Vintage London Transport poster Street Markets Thomson 1949
A R Thomson, 1949, est. £ 200-300

The main bulk of the fun isn’t posters for a change, but Festival of Britain ephemera, because this auction contains it in industrial quantities, well over sixty lots which range from womens’ handkerchiefs to horse brasses via pretty much everything in between.

Festival of Britain womens hankerchiefs

Festival of Britain brassware from Morphets

Lager glasses anyone?

Festival of Britain lager glasses, yes really

Or just, well, stuff?

FEstival of Britain souvenirs

But amongst the amusements are also a few more sensible things, like this Festival pot.  Actually, it isn’t sensible at all but I still rather like it.

a festival of britain pot of some oddness

Then there is this Wedgwood mug, designed by Norman Makinson.

Morphets Festival of Britain mug Wedgwood

While we’re on the subject of Wedgwood, I should probably also mention this Ravilious Coronation mug as well.

Eric Ravilous coronation mug for Wedgwood

If you’re wondering how he designed a mug for an event in 1953 when he’d died in 1942, the design was originally created for the coronation of Edward VII in 1937, and then revised for the coronations of both George VI and then Elizabeth II.  So there. Estimate £120-150 if you’re desiring it.

Anyway, there is loads more to be found in the catalogues, so really it’s much better if you just go and have a look for yourselves.  As long as you then tell me if you buy anything.

That’s not the only reason to go and take a look, though, because in addition to all of the Festival memorabilia it’s also offering also a very interesting set of Lyons prints too.  The highlights are the Bawden and the Freedman if you ask me.

Edward Bawden Dolls at Home lyons print 1947
Edward Bawden, 1947, est. £200-300

Barnett Freedman Lyons print Window box 1955
Barnett Freedman, 1955, est. £250-300

I also have a soft spot for this Ardizzone too.

Edward Ardizzone lyons print shopping in Myosore 1955
Edward Ardizzone, 1955, est. £80-100

But I can’t afford any of them because we’ve just bought a house, so they’re all yours if you want them.  Off you go.


Which lead on to other things.  Like this greetings telegram.

Claudia Freedman greetings telegram 1950

It came from the local ‘Antiques and Collectors’ (i.e. 1970s cookery books, artificial flowers and old tools) market just near me.  A rare gem in amonst the flotsam, then.

Its main story – and why this telegram exists at all – is that it was sent by some people to someone else.  To John Rees, in fact, in Troedyrhw in Wales who was celebrating his 90th birthday.  He must have been well-loved, because he got a whole clutch of these, all written in the same hand by his local Post Office.  I hope he had a lovely day.

He was lucky to get anything as decorative, because it turns out that this design was the first Greetings Telegram to be produced after World War Two; his birthday was 22nd Jan 1951, and these were only reintroduced on 20th November 1950, as paper rationing was finally eased.  So it’s also a historical document of sorts, a reminder of a time when the world of austerity was finally ebbing away and pretty things just for the joy of themselves were permitted once more.

He was twice lucky because the first design they chose was also very good.  There’s a tiny signature in the bottom right hand corner which, when I squinted at it, seemed to say Freedman.  The lettering also looked a bit like his work, at which point I started to wish that I had bought the whole batch.  But I couldn’t quite persuade myself (or Mr Crownfolio) that the first word was Barnett, so went off to do a bit of digging.

What I discovered was that my instincts were not far off, as the design is actually by Barnett Freedman‘s wife, Claudia.  There’s a very good article on the blog Adventures in the Print Trade about both of their work, which gave me this biography:

She was born Claudia Guercio in Formby, Liverpool, of Anglo-Sicilian parentage. She studied at Liverpool School of Art and the Royal College of Art. Working initially under her maiden name, she took the name Claudia Freedman on her marriage to Barnett Freedman in 1930. Compared to her husband, Claudia Freedman’s output was relatively small, but works such as the autolithographed book My Toy Cupboard (undated but published in the 1940s by Noel Carrington’s Transatlantic Arts) show that she had a talent equal to his.

Which then led me to finding the telegram in Ruth Artmonsky’s book Bringers of Good Tidings: Greetings Telegrams 1935-1982 where it is listed under her maiden name of Guercio.

The piece on Adventures in the Print Trade makes two crucial points, that her work, unlike her husband’s, is now pretty much unknown, and that there was never very much of it in the first place.  These two things may be connected.

They illustrate her very rare wartime book, My Toy Cupboard and it’s worth going over to the blog to see the rest of it, as it is wonderful.

My Toy Cupboard Claudia Freedman from Adventures etc...

But there is a bit more out there to be found.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the trail also led me to Mike Ashworth’s Flickr stream (which will one day be declared a National Monument of Ephemera and preserved for posterity).

Claudia Freedman Shell advertisement 1950

Claudia Freedman designed this ad for Shell in about 1950, he tells me.  It’s a fantastically complex thing and must, I guess, have been designed for magazines as it could never have been reproduced in newsprint.

And finally, I came back full circle to not only a blog I have visited before but also another telegram.  This one was sent to A. Muriel Pierotti on her appointment as General Secretary of the National Union of Women Teachers in 1940, and so is now kept in the archives of the NUWT.

Claudia Freedman greetings telegram 1940

Despite the fact that it was sent during wartime, it is nonetheless decorated – the ban on these didn’t come into force until 1943.  I hope Muriel Pierotti enjoyed her appointment as much as Mr Rees enjoyed his birthday.

Not all objects are so forthcoming however.  I also bought this map of Ontario at the same stall.

Esso map montreal quebec 1950s

There is no artist’s name, no clue at all, just a very endearing town and the name of a garage on the back.

Esso montreal map back

The only story here is mine; I bought it mainly because I have a stack of my father’s old maps teetering on the windowsill in the bedroom waiting to be sorted through one day.  My father loved maps very much.  Top of the pile is this Stockholm map, which he must have had when we used to live in Copenhagen and he travelled to Stockholm for business quite regularly.

Stockholm map from I do not know when but courtesy of ALN Walker

The Swedes clearly have no problem with being both historical and modern at the same time.  Unlike us Brits.

When I saw the Ontario map, it reminded me of the Stockholm one because it seemed to have the same sunny optimism about the city it portrayed, so I bought it.  And that’s the end of the story.

Sold and unsold

Right, it’s eBay Watch time once more.  I do this so often that I feel as though it should have its own logo.  I shall work on that when I get a moment.

Your starter for ten is that this, surprisingly, didn’t sell.

Barnett Freedman vintage London Transport poster from eBay

There isn’t enough Barnett Freedman in the world, so I would have thought that this would have gone, even with a few flaws and an asking price of £100.  Shows how little I know.

But this did sell, for £23.22.

Studio Seven vintage travel by coach poster

Interestingly, although it’s a Studio Seven classic coach poster, I’m not sure that it came from Morphets, perhaps the sale has brought a few more out of the woodwork.  (We didn’t buy it, incidentally; there’s the small question of what we do with the thirty-odd coach posters that we already have to sort out first…)

I don’t remember either of these from the sale either, so perhaps there is now going to be a boom in coach posters (or a mass unloading, depending on your point of view).

Vintage travel by coach poster by Atkins from eBay

Vintage travel by coach poster by Atkins from eBay

The top one is by Atkins, the bottom by Bigg, but they’re on for £75 and £1oo respectively (although, I have to say, I much prefer the cheaper one, if only for the White Horse on it).

But these ones might have come from the sale.  Perhaps.  Either that or Patlid is a seller who has found a rather good cache of unused posters.

Swanage by Bromfield vintage railway poster

I can of course wish that this fabulous Bromfield would go for the £9.99 that it is currently listed at, but rather doubt that it will.

Meanwhile over on the other side of the Atlantic, MaxReinhold is selling even more Zero London Underground posters from the war.

Zero Hans Schleger world war two poster for london transport

He’s had so many of these now that I can’t really get excited about them any more, although I would be interested to know where they came from.  Perhaps I’ll ask.

Finally, a couple of sixties gems.  This LT poster from 1964 is by Laurence Scarfe and is really rather nice.

Laurence scarfe LT poster from 1964

Although whether I would actually want those mad staring eyes framed and on the wall of my house is another question.  So it might not be the £90 of nice that they are asking for.

And then, from just a few years later, there’s this Alan Aldridge poster for a 1968 event at the Royal Festival Hall.  With The Grateful Dead and John Peel, natch.  It’s already been on Retro to Go, but I thought I’d tell you anyway.

Alan Aldridge Royal Festival Hall poster from eBay

Besides, if you want one, you can almost certainly have one, because the seller seems to have found a whole stock of unused copies.  There are more than ten left, and getting one will set you back just £30.

There is more out there too – mainly a whole slew of railway posters – but those will have to wait until next week.  Or maybe tomorrow.