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

Mmmm, 1976 never looked so good

Sold on eBay this weekend*, proof that poster design hadn’t gone into a complete decline by the 1970s, in the shape of this wonderful London Zoo poster by Abram Games.

Abram Games Zoo poster

I think this is great, and that’s a bit of a rare event.  Because, in my mind, Abram Games is rather like oysters or Gainsborough.  Everyone else thinks they’re wonderful, and I know I’m supposed to think that they’re fabulous as well, but I can’t do it.  I can admire them, I can see why other people pay lots of money for them (ish) but I just don’t like them that much.  With Abram Games, his posters are great pieces of design, but more often than not they feel to me a bit worthy, if not dour, and I wouldn’t necessarily want them hanging on my wall.  This, however, has a real lightness of touch which makes it a pleasure to look at – and the tiger (edit: of course that’s what it is) is smiling.  Who wouldn’t want to live with that.

Another surprise about this auction was the finishing price of just over £156, which felt quite low.  This isn’t just because it’s a lovely poster of a kind which doesn’t come up that often, but also because of idiosyncracies of eBay keyword search.  Named designers sell much better than good design, and Games seems to be –  correct me if you think otherwise – the top search in posters.  So a bit of a surprise that this didn’t turn into a more expensive battle.

If all of that fuzziness and folding is giving you a headache, by the way, this is what it ought to look like in focus and with a bit of light restoration.

Abram Games Zoo poster nice

Rather nice.

*You will notice as this blog goes on that I’ll point you to some eBay auctions while they’re going on, and to others after they’ve finished.  This may be a bit infuriating – for which I apologise – but it doesn’t take the mind of Einstein to work out that it rather depends on whether or not we’ve decided to bid on them.  These days, it’s hard enough to pick up a bargain on eBay without inviting half the internet (or, as things stand at the moment, the rather smaller number of readers of this blog) to bid on the posters we’re after as well.