Who knew?

Today’s news is that I did something to something yesterday and discovered a whole new online archive.  For a collection that I had no idea even existed in real life.

It turns out that the British Council owns a socking great heap of posters.  Made up of things like this McKnight Kauffer.


And this Purvis.

EAST COAST JOYS 1932 Tom Purvis

And even this anonymous psychedelic gem.

Beat the breathalyser smoke pot

These – and the many hundreds of others which go with them – come from the Alan Mabey archive, whose story is told on the British Council’s website as follows.

Mrs Phyllis Mabey donated this collection of over 300 posters to the British Council in August 1977. At the time she wrote “I should be very glad to hand the collection to The British Council as a gift, as I feel sure that it could not be in better hands, and it will be kept as a collection and not broken up.I wish that the collection be preserved as an entity and that it should be known as the Alan Mabey Collection.

I’ve tried to Google Mr and Mrs Mabey without finding anything out at all, least of all why they failed to give the whole lot to me.  But I can tell you one or two things about Alan Mabey just from looking at the archive.

The first is that he liked McKnight Kauffer very much indeed, because he must have owned pretty much every poster that Kauffer ever produced.  At leas that’s what it looked like.


There are acres of Kauffer’s designs for London Transport on the site, which I won’t bother illustrating because you’ve almost certainly seen them before.  But Alan Mabey also picked up some other designs of Kauffers which don’t come up anything like as often.  These two are new to me.

poster - READ 'CRICKETER' IN THE MANCHESTER GUARDIAN 1923 Edward McKnight Kauffer

vintage poster POMEROY DAY CREAM 1922 Edward McKnight Kauffer

I think more modern advertising should be along these lines.

The archive would be worth your time simply for these, but there is plenty more, because Alan Mabey had the kind of catholic taste that I can only approve of.  He liked Shell posters and London Transport too, although interestingly there aren’t many railway posters.  Amongst these are plenty enough of the recognised heroes and heroines of graphic design – not just Kauffer, but also Dora Batty, Austin Cooper and Frank Newbould.

poster ORIENT LINE CRUISES Frank Newbould

But he also bought some less obviously collectable posters, the kind of commercial art, in short, which is so often left out of the record.  The first of these is by Robert Gossop from 1928, the second is dateless and anonymous.


JAMAL THE FREEDOM WAVE vintage poster 1930s

This F Gregory Brown is also rather fine.


What doesn’t tend to be represented as much is the kind of post-war poster that I love most of all.  There are one or two, to be sure, like this 1963 Abram Games.

poster KEEP BRITAIN TIDY 1963 Abram Games

Again, this is matched with some of the more commercial work of the time.

PASCALL SWEETS MAKE LIFE SWEETER 1947 advertising poster

CHRISTMAS WISE D H EVANS 1946 Barbosa poster reindeer

The first is anonymous, but the second one is by Barbosa, and the website gives a rather wonderful biography for him.

Artur Barbosa was born in Liverpool, the son of the Portuguese vice-consul and a half-French mother. He studied at Liverpool School of Art and the Central School of Art in London. Whilst still a student he produced illustrations for Everybody’s Weekly and The Radio Times, in addition to producing book covers. He is probably best remembered for his cover illustrations for the Regency romances of Georgette Heyer. In addition to cover illustrations, Barbosa also designed for the stage, produced drawings for fashion magazines and the leading advertising agencies. Barbosa was at school with Rex Harrison, the friendship endured into adulthood when Harrison commissioned Barbosa to design the interiors of his villa in Portofino. This in turn led to a commission to refurbish Elizabeth Taylor’s yacht, the Kalizma.

What is present though, as the poster at the top has hinted, is a major collection of psychedelic posters from the 1960s.

FAIRPORT CONVENTION 1968 Greg Irons  poster

What I can’t tell you is whether any of this this represents Alan Mabey’s taste or not, because the British Council has been augmenting the collection over the years.

 Since the bequest the collection was augmented by post-war works by leading British artists and designers acquired by General Exhibition Department.

They must have been doing that quite heavily too; they say that the bequest was over 300 posters, but the online catalogue runs to 843.  Which is quite a lot.

F Godfrey Brown Ideal Home Show exhibition 1930s poster

There are two things to say about the archive.  One is that only about a quarter of the poster are illustrated.  However much I have tried to work through the full list of titles, my feel for the collection is still very much based on what I have seen rather than read.  I actually found the collection when looking for a Tom Eckersley Post Office Savings Bank poster from 1952, so there is plenty more treasure within.  How about this wartime Edward Wadsworth lithograph, produced by the Council for Encouragement of Music and the Arts?

SIGNALS 1942 Edward Wadsworth  lithograph CEMA

I need to know more.

The other point worth making is that this is actually one of the major British poster collections.  It may not be quite as large as the V&A’s, but it has some of the same scope and ambition.  But I had no idea that it even existed.  So what else is out there that I need to know about?

Odd and odder

This week, Ebay seems mostly to be selling oddities.  And the oddest of the odd has to be this, a redacted Daphne Padden poster for £9.99.

Daphne Padden post office savings bank poster which has been redacted

It would be rather nice if they hadn’t done that, wouldn’t it?

The listing does at least give a bit of provenance:

we understand that this advertisement was displayed in the Post Office Savings Bank Kew until it closed down , 1975 we believe.

My guess was that they rather liked this poster, and so when the Post Office Savings Bank changed its name, they just blacked it out and carried on.  There’s another example from the same place and seller as well.

Vintage GPO savings bank poster redacted

Neither, I’d suggest, are worth buying, but still an interesting object.

As is this.  Which isn’t a poster so I strongly suggest that you don’t spend the best part of £30 on it.

Youths in the post office vintage leaflet

I can’t tell you anything useful about the design either, other than that it is rather good and I would guess prewar.  Does anyone know any more? I may also return to addressing youths in that way too.

Meanwhile this poster is odd in every which way: it’s a rare survival of a commercial advertisement, it’s for an event I’ve never ever heard of and I had no idea such things went on at the Albert Hall.

Ford at the Albert Hall poster

It also doesn’t look very British, by which I think I mostly mean that I’ve never really seen anything like it.  It’s actually just finished as I was writing this piece, but sold for just £58, and I would think it’s worth a lot more than that to the right classic car owning buyer.

Is this Tom Purvis – well they say it is – World War Two poster odd or not?  I can’t decide.

Tom Purvis vintage world war two poster air raid information ebay

Perhaps the frame makes it look a bit strange, because it is after all a workaday poster which was just there to tell people what to do, not be a work of art.  Good to see it, though, because very few of these kinds of things do survive precisely because they aren’t as good to look at as an Abram Games or Lewitt Him from the same period.

There are one or two sensible things too, like this British Railways poster  for Right Labelling which the seller has down as 1960s but I might put a bit earlier.

Vintage British Railways poster right labelling 1950s

Along with this pair of classic railway posters for Inverness and Somerset respectively.

Vintage British Railways poster 1950s lance Cattermole Inverness

Vintage British Railways map poster somerset by bowyer

There are a couple of other map posters being sold by the same seller too, so if that’s your kind of thing, you know where to go.

But I do wonder whether he’s going to get any offers.  Recently I said that prices on eBay seem to be matching those at auction.  This was a hostage to fortune, and eBay has since then concentrated on proving me wrong.    Take this classic London Transport poster, for example.

Vintage London Transport poster theatreland 1921 Jan Poortenaar

It got plenty of bidding attention, but at £188 failed to reach its reserve.

Elsewhere, this British Railways poster failed to sell at just £48.

Frank Newbould vintage British Railways poster Stratford on avon 1950s

One of Frank Newbould’s more peculiar turns if you ask me.

What’s to blame for this?  Is it the new Greek market turmoil, or just the good weather keeping everyone away from their computers?  Answers in the comments below please.

Cheap and Expensive

Bonus extra blog post today (although I can’t type very well at the moment because my fingers are freezing).  I was going to put the eBay news on the end of yesterday’s post, but then it turned out that there was quite a lot on offer.  So now they have a post of their own instead.

The posters up on eBay at the moment seem to fall into a few tidy categories.  Firstly are expensive posters which probably have a right to be expensive.  Top of this list is this Jack Merriott British Railways poster.

Jack Merriott Findhorn British Railways poster

With just a few hours to go it’s already at £415  – a price which will probably have risen even higher by the time I press ‘publish’ on this post.  It might well make almost as much as the version which went at Morphets two years ago, which sold for £600.  For the right poster, it’s starting to look as though eBay wins hands down over the auction houses, simply because the fees are so much lower.  That’s if you’re selling of course; for buyers, I’m not so sure.  I still slightly balk at spending that much money on something I haven’t seen in the flesh.

Another example of the righteously expensive is another British Railways poster, also going today and currently at £142.

Edward Wesson vintage British Railways poster 1950s Moulsham

Finally in this category is a lovely London Transport poster which has been mentioned in dispatches on here before.

Vintage London Transport poster How to make a party go D M Earnshaw

The Buy It Now price of £390 strikes me as a bit more of a dealer level than an eBay level.  But then it is framed, and given what the Findhorn poster is going for anything could be possible these days.

Category two is expensive things which are currently going cheap.  Like this Guinness poster which is currently at £10.50 but, if it is original, is going for a song.

Vintage guinnes poster gilroy Zookeeper and seal

Of course whether something is original or not is always the question looming over every eBay listing.  The dimensions look right on this one, although it is a bit clean.  Any thoughts anyone?

Also cheap is this very odd survival – although I have no idea what it should actually be worth, I suspect it is more than the current £20.  It’s a poster for the 1929 Royal Opera House Ball.  What larks.

Royal Opera House Ball 1929 poster

But it’s rather good, isn’t it.  No word of an artist though.

In the other corner is expensive things which probably should be cheap, and we’ve got just one contender here, this Tom Purvis, which I have difficulty imagining someone paying £149 for.

Tom Purvis Empire Buy British poster

Now don’t get me wrong, because it’s a perfectly good poster, but I just don’t think many people want to hang it on their walls. Or do they?  I shall watch and wait and see.

Then of course there are cheap things that probably should stay that way.  I have a sneaking affection for this British Railways poster – it’s probably the cat – but that still doesn’t make it worth very much.

Vintage British Railways poster Plymouth and Cornwall timetable

So £2.99 is probably about right.   While even £20 seems a bit steep for this National Savings poster, even with the Coronation interest.

National Savings vintage coronation poster

Why were National Savings posters so uniformly dreary, when so many of the posters around them were so good?  Truly I do not know.

Those were going to be your lot, but even as I’ve been writing, some more listings have been passed over to me, and they both come under the heading of things that do not fit into my neat categories at all because I have no idea what they are worth.

This man is selling a big set of Kodak shop display posters.  Given the spelling of color, they are probably American, but I won’t hold that against them too much.

1950s Kodak display card

1950s Kodak display card

The starting price for each is £19.99 but I have no idea if that is fair or not.

This, meanwhile, is not a poster despite appearances to the contrary.  It’s a showcard.

Tom Eckersley vintage Guinness poster showcard

But as it’s currently priced at 99p I can say with some confidence that it is a bargain.  And would look rather good on someone’s bookshelves, I think.

Ceci n’est pas un crease

Everyone has spent their weekend listing posters on eBay, it seems.  Well, everyone except me.  But there is a something for almost every taste out there this morning.

Quite a bit of it is, however, somewhat battered.  Like this Tom Purvis poster, for example.

Tom Purvis 1933 Shell Oil poster kingfishers

This series has been mentioned on here before, as an example of the shift in Shell advertising from technical to natural.  Which it is, along with being by Tom Purvis.  So I really ought to like it.  But I don’t, not even a little bit.

Mind you, it’s in better condition than the next exhibit, this whole collection of posters in the States, apparently discovered in an attic in 1967.

Chester poster Claude Buckle 1930s GWR

Cotswolds vintage Ronald Lampitt GWR vintage travel poster 1930s

Ayr vintage LMS railway poster 1930s Robert Eddie

The three above are the classics, but my favourite has to be this one.

Bellevue Manchester vintage 1930s railway poster

In my head, I am now back in Manchester, to a soundtrack of the Smiths.  And I’ve never seen that poster before either, so it’s doubly pleasing.

These are all a bit spotted and chewed, but there are other ways to mistreat posters.

Clive Gardiner Country Houses vintage London Transport poster 1951

My eyes, my eyes.  It’s Out and About: Country Houses by Clive Gardiner from 1951, in case you can’t tell. Sadly there are several in this state up for sale, including Literary London by Sheila Robinson.

Sheila Robinson vintage London Transport poster Literary London 1951

Although the listings beg more questions than they answer.

Unfortunately this poster has been stored wrapped in an obscure way, which has left it too unravel as shown.
However there are no creases caused by this, so once framed or flattened out it will look good as new.

No, there are creases, I can see them.  Which leads me to suggest that it will take more than flattening to sort this out.

As is all the fashion these days, they’re all listed for £99, which I don’t really think they’re worth in this condition.  While the Peter Roberson below wouldn’t be worth that if if were flat, mounted on linen and offering to make me a cup of coffee every morning.

Peter roberson vintage London Transport poster, anniversaries 1972

Well, perhaps for the coffee.

There have also been a rash of Shell Educational posters turning up too.  A complete set of S R Badmin’s monthly Guide to Trees is available for the rather eyewatering sum of £350.

S R Badmin Guide To Trees shell educational posters April

Which compares rather unfavourably with both the full series of John Leigh Pemberton’s Life In… posters at just £1.99 each

John Leigh Pemberton Shell Educational Poster life in the corn

and also these six County posters, which have an even lower starting price of £1.50.

Shell County Guide educational posters Wiltshire

I wish I knew, for no other reason than my own satisfaction, what Shell educational posters were really worth.  I’ve seen auction houses really talk them up (although not always manage to sell them) while other auction houses won’t even take them these days.  So I shall watch these sales with interest and see if I can draw any conclusions.

Finally, someone other than us is selling Daphne Padden posters.  So if you’ve missed something you liked, here’s another bite at the cherry.

Daphne Padden granny Post Office Savings Bank vintage poster

These ones are also signed in pencil, as were some of the ones that we bought from her estate sale, so I wonder whether they too came from her own collection.  Perhaps I’ll email and ask.

That’s modernism, that was

This may not be the cause of great excitement for many of you, indeed it may not even be news, but the Journal of Design History is now freely accessible online.  Which has let me get hold of an article that I’ve been wanting to read for ages, John Hewitt on ‘The ‘Nature’ and ‘Art’ of Shell Advertising in the 1930s’.  Fortunately it turned out to be as interesting as I’d hoped.

Frank Dobson, vintage shell poster 1931
Frank Dobson, 1931

One idea in particular struck a chord, as it links in with the themes that I’ve been mulling over here recently.

By 1930 Shell had come to realise that any whole-hearted endorsement of modernisation was problematical.  The transformation of the environment, occasioned by increasing suburbanisation and expanding commerce and predicated on a dramatic expansion of the motor car industry intensified during the 1920s and 1930s provoking vigorous and sustained resistance from influential lobbies of middle class opinion.

All too soon it had become impossible to see the brave new modern world – as epitomised by the car – as wholly good.  Even worse, advertising itself was seen as a problem of modernity, as enamel signs and billboards sprouted.  So Shell’s advertising changed round about 1930, something which is often ascribed to the arrival of Jack Beddington at the company.  He was part of it, but as Hewitt points out, there was also an important cultural shift taking place.  Hewitt’s essay explores how Shell reconstructed its public image in terms of art and nature, making the threatening motor car seem much more part of a wholesome and quintessential British identity.

Which is undoubtedly true, but there is also another way of seeing it.  Because the change in their advertising was also a flight away from modernism.

Vic vintage shell poster quick starting pair 1930
Vic, 1930

Until Beddington’s arrival, Shell had primarily been selling its products on their technical qualities.  And the underlying language of that was very often modern.

Vintage Shell poster lubricating Tom Purvis 1928
Tom Purvis, 1928.

But when Jack Beddington arrived, he instituted a very different approach.  There was almost no direct selling of the qualities of the product; instead he tried to build up an image for the brand.  And this image was initially based on the English landscape and nature.

The clearest expression of this is in the ‘Quick Starting Pair’ posters.  Before 1930, these had used images of animals, but often treated in a very schematic way.

G S Brien, Quick Starting, chamois, 1929
G S Brien, 1929

But these were then replaced by much more naturalistic images.

Vintage Shell poster Kennedy north 1931
Kennedy North, 1931

As Hewitt points out, there is a tension between the technological idea and the imagery here which doesn’t necessarily make for successful advertising.

But it was the major landcape campaigns that Beddington, and indeed Shell posters in general, are most associated with.  These began with See Britain First on Shell.

Hal Woolf 1931 vintage Shell poster salcombe
Hal Woolf, Salcombe

Followed in turn by ‘You Can Be Sure of Shell’.

Merlyn Evans vintage shell poster 1936
Merlyn Evans, 1936

This is not only a very different kind of advertising, it is expressed in a very different visual language.  But it’s not simply a retreat back to traditional landscape painting.  This is still a very living idiom in the Britain of the 1930s, and the posters tap into the vein of British romanticism identified by Alexandra Harris and others before her.

Vintage Shell poster lord berners 1936
Lord Berners, 1936

Which is why I think this essay, and the changes it describes, are worth going into at such length.  Because this retreat from modernism doesn’t just happen in Shell posters.  I would argue that it is happening in many other places – and not just the graphic arts. Romantic Moderns contains a discussion of Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts which shows how modernist writing was shifting as well.

I find it hard to be surprised by this, though.  Living in Britain in the 1930s, between the Great Depression and the onset of war, it must have been almost impossible to maintain any faith in the endlessly improving effects of modernity.  The evidence against it was easy to see.  And if you don’t believe in modernity, perhaps the jagged edges of the machine age aren’t going to feel very comfortable either.

Of course, reality is always much more complicated.  But by looking at some of the exceptions within the Shell posters, it becomes possible to see how some of these complexities worked.  Because there were still modernist posters being commissioned – here’s an example from McKnight Kauffer in 1937.

McKnight Kauffer vintage shell poster 1937

Celebrating its achievements of this sleek new aeroplane is still, perhaps a safe place to use a modern visual vocabulary.  Even if only one was every produced in the end.  Other technical advertising was done in this style too.

McKNight Kauffer vintage shell poster 1936
McKnight Kauffer, 1936

But campaigns that could be construed as selling a technical advantage didn’t necessarily use modernism as the decade progressed.

Percy Drake Brookshaw, Summer Shell vintage poster 1933
Percy Drake Brookshaw, 1933

Jack Miller vintage shell summer shell poster 1936
Jack Miller, 1936

The other way in which Shell could be said to be using modernism was in its choice of artists like Graham Sutherland, Ben Nicholson, Paul Nash and Tristram Hillier.  But as Hewitt points out, these artists might be called modernist, but that wasn’t really the way they were being used by Shell.

Graham Sutherland Shell poster vintage 1932
Graham Sutherland, 1932

Nor was the use of modernist artists a means by which Shell could celebrate its identification with modern technology… They were involved in the campaigns that played down any references to the modern qualities of speed and power.

Ben Nicholson vintage shell poster 1938
Ben Nicholson, 1938

The visual language was hardly defiantly modern either; none of these posters were very likely to frighten the horses as they raced past on a Shell lorry.  The modern artists had moved on too.

Hewitt also points out that these artists were not in a majority.  For every poster extolling the modern charms of film stars in an equally modern style,

kathleen Mann vintage shell poster 1938
Cathleen Mann, 1938

there was at least one with a much more traditional point of view.

Cedric Morris Gardeners Prefer Shell vintage poster 1934
Cedric Morris, 1934

This is possibly another case where hindsight gives us the wrong view of a period.  The ‘modern’ Shell posters – particularly the ones by the modernist artists – are much more interesting and collectable for us now, so we tend to privilege them and make them seem more normal than perhaps they were at the time.  But in writing this I’ve been through the online images from the Shell Collection.  And what’s there is a very different set of posters to the ones that are normally reproduced, whether in a book or a Christies catalogue.  Sometimes the hunt for modernism can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

One final footnote.  Shell’s advertising did take on a much more modern tone again in the 1950s.

Vintage Shell poster John Castle 1952
John Castle, 1952

Machinery and technological progress had become not just acceptable, but worth celebrating, one way or another.

Terence Cuneo Vintage Shell poster 1952
Terence Cuneo, 1952.

Modernism was once again possible in the 1950s .  Which is a thought I will be coming back to again one day.

Going Underground

So, the Christies auction.  Which is coming up on 5th November.

I do have to admit that I was a bit hard on it last week when I said that it didn’t containg anything I was interested in.  This is not true, it just doesn’t have anything I can afford.

Austin Cooper 1933 London Transport Poster
Austin Cooper, 1933, est £800-1,200*

I think my cynicism might have been caused by Christies’ brand new ‘cool wall’ technology, which does let you browse through whole swathes of an auction at once (screenshot below).  It moves and tilts and does all sorts of other fancy things too that I can’t show on here.

Christies poster wall screen shot

All of which has the side-effect of reducing the posters to small coloured blobs which are quite easy to dismiss.  But I now have a PDF of the catalogue, which means that I like it a great deal more.

Picadilly express McKnight Kauffer London Transport poster 1932
McKnight Kauffer, 1932, est £600-800

What I like most is the first hundred lots or so.  These are a stunning collection of pre-war London Transport posters, which all come, apparently, from one collection.

Vintage London Transport poster Betty Swanwick 1936
Betty Swanwick, 1936, est £600-800*

Lucky them, because it’s an incredible selection.  I can hardly pick out my favourites.  But I rather like the type on the Pears boats below.

Charles Pears London Transport poster 1935
Charles Pears, 1935, est £600-800

While this is just fantastic in every which way: subject, image, title and general un-Britishness.

Vladmir Polunin 1934 London Transport poster
Vladmir Polunin, 1934, est £700-900*

What’s interesting (if you’re me, at least) is that I had several of these posters on my wall when I was a student – only as postcards mind you.

Alan Rodgers London Transport poster 1930
Alan Rogers, 1930, est £600-800*

Frederick Manner 1929 London Transport poster
Frederick Manner, 1929, est £800-£1,200

Annie Fletcher, London Transport poster 1926
Annie Fletcher, 1926, est £1,500-2,000

But I don’t think there has ever been a time when I could have afforded them (or indeed anything else nice from the period) so I ended up collecting, and interested in, post-war design.  It goes to show how much taste is formed by necessity as much as pure aesthetic appreciation.

I shall also, have to mourn, once more, that I never bought one of this pair when it was for sale for considerably less than that at Rennies.

Edward Wadsworth London Transport pair poster 1936
Edward Wadsworth, 1936, est £1,00o-£1,500

It is also my duty to point out that there are not one but two rather good Edward Bawdens up for sale too, should you have a couple of thousand pound burning a hole in your pocket.

Edward Bawden London Transport poster 1936
Edward Bawden, 1936, est £800-1,200

Edward Bawden London Transport poster 1936
Edward Bawden, 1936, est £600-800

Other than the swathes of London Transport joy, there are some railway posters, which are generally the usual suspects, apart from this Tom Purvis, from a series that I have always rather liked.

Tom Purvis 193o LNER poster
Tom Purvis, 1930, est £600-800

And this train-nerdy one which looks like a vision of the future rather than anything to do with British Railways.  Does anyone know if it ever actually ran? And can I go on it?

marc Severin, 1947 British Railways poster

Then there is the usual miscellany of Mucha, foreign travel and other odds and ends, of which these two Herbert Bayers are probably the most interesting.

Herbert Bayer 1930 Exhibition poster
Herbert Bayer, 1930, est £1,000-£1,500

Herbert Bayer Olivetti 1953 poster
Herbert Bayer, 1953, est £1,000-£1,500

Despite all of these wonderful things, I am nonetheless still going to complain. And, as usual, my complaint is about Christies’ minimum lot price.  It’s supposed to be £800, although given the number of posters estimated at £600-800, they’ve clearly softened their line a bit these day.

It has two rather unfortunate effects.  One is that there is very little post-war design about at all – and what there is ain’t British.  Apart from the Herbert Bayer above, there are a few kitschy railway posters and then these two rather fabulous American posters by Stan Galli from 1955 and 1960.

stan Galli california poster 1955

Stan Galli Los Angeles poster 1960

But that’s your lot, and I, for one, am disappointed.

The other, and perhaps more serious one, is that there are far too many multiple lots.  For example, the Alan Power Speed poster above, also comes with “two posters by T. Eckersley and E. Lombers”.  Eh?  Surely these are things of value in their own right? And that’s not the only one – Electricity Supercedes St Christopher comes with six, count them, six other London Transport posters. While this fabulous Herry Perry comes with four.

Herry Perry, London Transport poster 1930
Herry Perry, 1930 est £700-900

I’ve asterisked all the ones which are parts of multiple lots, just so you can see precisely how many there are.

Now, why does this annoy me?  One reason is that there are tons of posters in this catalogue that I just can’t look at.  Being based in the sticks, I can’t just wander down to South Kensington and take a look at the other parts of the lots.  Yes, I could interrogate someone at Christies and ask for pictures of all of them (I have their name, and I may just do that), but it rather takes the point out of there being a catalogue.  Furthermore, it seems rather a retrograde step.  One of the great things about the internet is that auctions not only all over Britain but internationally too have become available to everyone.  You no longer need to be there to see what is on offer, and to bid.  But the Christies catalogue takes some of that away from me, and I think it’s a shame.

Perhaps even more problematic, though, is that multiple lots make it harder to value individual posters.  When the Alan Power is sold, will its value be for itself alone, or for the two Eckersley/Lombers which come with it?  How shall we tell what share of the worth comes to them – or perhaps they will be bought by an Eckersley collector who will sell the Power on elsewhere.  Then who can tell what the value of anything is?  Not me, that’s for certain.