Four posters in search of a story

I’ve always been interested in the afterlife of objects – how things survive long enough to become collectibles or heirlooms or even national treasures.  It’s generally a story of chance and – quite often – being so lost and overlooked that no one bothers to throw you away. It’s also a story that isn’t often told as part of design history; once an object has been created and made, that’s normally the end of it.  But often what happens next is at least as interesting, and can also be very revealing about how we appreciate, or disregard, the objects around us.

So, following on from yesterday’s post about just how little survives, here are a few of our posters with the tales of how they made it through to the twenty-first century.

Tom Eckersley Post Early GPO poster
Tom Eckersley, Post Early for GPO, 1955, Crown Folio 15″ x 10″
Saved by a man who went into his local post office and asked them to keep for him all of the posters and publicity material that they had finished with.  (I will write more about this one of these days as it’s worth a whole post in its own right.)

Henrion London Underground Vintage poster Changing Guard
F H K Henrion, Changing of the Guard for London Transport, 1956, Double Royal 40″ x 25″
Kept by a tutor in graphic design who used it in his teaching.

Mount Evans no smoking poster
Mount/Evans, Anti-Smoking poster for COI, 1965-ish, Double Crown 30″ x 20″
Bought at auction but I believe it came from the designers’ own archive.

McKnight Kauffer ARP vintage poster
ARP Poster, Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1938, Crown Folio 15″ x 10″
Found in the roof of a scout hut.  The air rifle pellet holes had to be restored…

Patrick Bogue from Onslows also mentioned in passing that he once found original railway poster artwork being used as insulation in a loft space.  Can anyone better that?

A lesson in poster sizes – from Tom Eckersley

I got told off the other day for being poncey, because I described the Post office ‘Properly Packed Parcels Please’ posters as Quad Crowns.  Now this is close to being a fair point, but at the same time I think the proper names for poster sizes are lovely things and should be used more.

So, in the spirit of inclusivity and fairness, here is a brief guide to the commonest poster sizes.  Then I can keep being poncey when I talk about posters, and everyone will know what on earth I mean.  And there’s the added benefit that the title of this blog, and my posting name, may make a bit more sense if you’ve just stumbled here at random.

Our tutor for this lesson will be Tom Eckersley OBE (courtesy of his 1954 book on Poster Design).

Tom Eckersley vintage poster sizes

The most general proportions of poster sites in Britain are illustrated here:
Extreme lower left: Crown (15 x 20 inches)
Lower left: Double Crown (30 x 20 inches)
Top left: Quad Crown (30 x 40 inches)
Right: Double Royal (40 x 25 inches)

Most of the advertising, GPO posters, film advertising, public information posters and so on were made in the left hand sizes and their variants.  They also went bigger – many advertising posters were a 60″ x 40″ single sheet.  (We accidentally bought one on eBay once.  It’s big. Very big.)

Mr Eckersley has also left out the half size Crown Folio, which I love so much that I have not only taken as my name but will blog about properly one day.  This seems to have been the default size for display advertising in Post Offices, and so you find National Savings posters this size, as well as the GPO’s own.

Meanwhile, on the right, the Double Royal (and its bigger sibling, the 40″ x 50″ Quad Royal) were mainly used by the railways and London Transport.  I believe that LT posters are still Double Royal these days, although I haven’t actually ventured onto the tube with a measuring tape to verify this.  So pretty much any railway or LT poster will be one of these sizes.

Eckersley also mentions two other poster sizes which don’t fit these proportions.  One is the London bus poster (as seen for sale elsewhere), which is 10″ x 13″.

Clifford Barry Dairy show vintage bus poster

And the other is a “long van strip poster”.  I’ve only really mentioned this so that I can include a colour version of the poster he uses as illustration (with thanks to the BPMA once again).

Lewitt Him post earlier GPO vintage van poster

It’s by Lewitt Him, from 1940 and I want it.  But I’ve never ever seen one of these van posters for sale – they were presumably just chucked out when they went out of date.  Unless anyone happens to have one that they might want to get rid of…

And a final word from Mr Eckersley.  This is how he illustrates lithographic colour printing.  It could have been a poster in its own right.

Tom Eckersley colour printing image