Plats du Jour by Patience Gray and Primrose Boyd is a book illustrated by a 27-year-old David Gentleman in 1957 used to be everywhere, I would see it in most charity shops and on book stalls, however now if you look online and try to find a copy it is about £30 and up. The Persephone Press reissued it it in 2006 with the original illustrations. However the art of the small illustrated cook book has been lost on a tide of celebrity endorsed cookery books, for a nice cookery book we can only look back or to a private press and hope to get books like Lovely Food – A Cookery Notebook by Ruth Lowinsky, Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David or such like.
However I thought Plats Du Jour was worth looking at in close up for the beautiful covers, letter work and illustration inside. They are so beautiful it is almost aspirational. It sold 50,000 copies in its first year, far outstripping Elizabeth David who was the cookery writer of that age.
Although Gentleman has designed almost everything it could be imagined from Coins and Stamps to Underground Station Artwork and Anti War propaganda he is known most of either his wood-engravings or his lithographs but his drawings and watercolours need a modern retrospective.
I thought it would be interesting to list my 50 favourite books. I have no idea what it might say about me other than I read a lot and like escapist literature. It took a week to edit it down and I just picked the ones I could likely quote backwards. They are in no particular order other than most memorable.
1. We – Yevgeny Zamyatin 2. Maidens Trip – Emma Smith 3. A Crisis of Brilliance – David Haycock 4. Evolution in Modern Art – Frank Rutter 5. Alone in Berlin – Hans Fallada 6. Pictures from Persia – Cecil Keeling 7. The Pale Horse – Agatha Christie 8. And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie 9. Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens 10. The Riddle of the Sands – Erskine Childers. 11. Full Tilt – Dervla Murphy 12. Bicycle Diaries – David Byrne 13. The Painted Veil – Somerset Maugham 14. Lost Horizon – James Hilton 15. The Horse and His Boy – C S Lewis 16. Few Eggs and No Oranges – Vere Hodgson 17. The Happy Prince – Oscar Wilde 18. Dreaming of Babylon – Richard Brautigan 19. Empty World – John Christopher 20. The Tripods Trilogy – John Christopher 21. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood 22. Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett 23. Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame 24. His Dark Materials Trilogy – Philip Pullman 25. The Tempest – William Shakespeare 26. Vanity Fair – William Thakery 27. Mr Norris Changes Trains – Christopher Isherwood 28. On The Road – Jack Kerouac 29. The Wasteland – T.S. Eliot 30. Naked Lunch – William Burroughs 31. Fatherland – Robert Harris 32. On The Beach – Nevil Shute 33. The Doomed Oasis – Hammond Innes 34. The Story of the Amulet – E. Nesbit 35. The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham 36. The Hound of the Baskervilles – A. Conan Doyle 37. The Temple – Stephen Spender 38. The House at Pooh Corner – A.A. Milne 39. The Hours – Michael Cunningham 40. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh 41. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkein 42. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck 43. The Wench is Dead – Colin Dexter 44. The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoyevsky 45. Summoned by Bells – John Betjeman 46. A Clergyman’s Daughter – George Orwell 47. The Pursuit of Love – Nancy Mitford 48. Unnatural Death – Dorothy L Sayers 49. Smiley’s People – John le Carre 50. Dead Souls – Nikolay Gogol
The Puffin picture book series was inspired from various continental and Russian children’s books; as Insel-Bücherei publications inspired the King Penguin series, the Puffin books also inspired others due to the handy size for displaying information. Here are some books that are the same size but are styled in a suspiciously similar way. Some of them are a series of BBC books, others are by tea companies and the V&A.
John Clare (1793 – 1864) was an English poet, the son of a farm labourer, who became known for his celebrations of the English countryside and sorrows at its disruption. His poetry underwent major re-evaluation in the late 20th century: he is now often seen as one of the major 19th-century poets.
This book was published in 1964 with the monthly chapters headed by a wood-engraving by David Gentleman.
The poems of Clare have been republished many times over the years with Gentleman’s illustrations but it is interesting to look at the fashions in book-jacket design using the original illustrations.
These pictures are all from a book by Hilaire Hiler ‘An Introduction To The Study Of Costume’, 1929.
The book illustrates fashion and costume through history. At just over 300 pages there are many wonderful illustrations, some of them I have pasted below.
Hilaire Harzberg Hiler was an American artist, psychologist, and color theoretician who worked in Europe and United States during the mid-20th century. At home and abroad, Hiler worked as a muralist, jazz musician, costume and set designer, teacher, and author.
There are many examples where book design is uniform, most famously Penguin Book’s ‘Stripe’ design by Edward Young and perfected by Jan Tschichold in 1935. Bold and colourful they were enormously successful and cheap to make being paperback. The colours they used to coordinate the books also made selecting a book a quicker process due to your preference, Crime-Green. Fiction-Orange. Cerise-Travel. Blue-Biographies. Red-Drama.
There where many other sets imitating Penguin’s success, most of them short lived. Below is a range of book jackets that Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious had been commissioned to do, but this time in hardback.
Edward Bawden & The Vanguard Library
The Vanguard Library (not to be confused with Vanguard Books, a US series from the 1930s) was a joint venture published by Chatto & Windus in association with William Heinemann Ltd. The joint venture was probably to combine the backlist of titles under copyright to both of these smaller publishers. The series was in print for only a few years in the early 1950s. The series consisted of back catalog titles, mostly modern fiction, a smattering of more and less serious fiction. †
The dust jacket of the Vanguard Library books originally featured a standard design by Edward Bawden of a Trojan warrior on a geometric background.
A page from Bawden’s Sketchbooks showing the designs being worked upon.
Although the series would go on with various designs and dust jackets, it is estimated that only twelve books with Bawden’s covers where issued, all in 1952 with his Trojan design but with colour variations.
The inspiration for the Trojan design is likely to have come from another book illustration commission Bawden had completed the year before, illustrating Rex Warner’s ‘Greeks & Trojans’.
Ravilious & Everyman’s Library The series Eric Ravilious was commissioned to re-design was to run far longer than Bawden’s. J. M. Dent and Company began to publish the ‘Everyman’s Library’ series in 1906. It was conceived in 1905 by London publisher Joseph Malaby Dent, whose goal was to create a 1,000 volume library of world literature that was affordable for, and that appealed to, every kind of person, from students to the working classes to the cultural elite.
An Everyman’s Library book with Ravilious’s designs to the cover 1935-45
After running for thirty years and likely with the new release of Penguin paperback books, the series went under a redesign in 1935. Eric Ravilious was asked to redesign the covers, end-papers and make graphic devices for each subject that would also be colour coordinated with the dust jackets, like penguin books were. Both publishers where aiming for the same thing, cheap books for the people.
Above is the decorative knot used on the front covers of the books from 1935-1945. Signed ER in the corner. The carving on the top and bottom spikes seemed to lack some detail that would be expected from his normal standard. In two letters to his lover Helen Binyon, Ravilious writes about how the work is rushed and from all accounts takes three months from January to March:
3rd February 1935 …Dents have sent along a proof of the new book which is bad but not very bad, and I am hoping at the eleventh hour to do part of the job again. Unfortunately there is a hurry for it. ‡
21st March 1935
…Everyman is out at last, and seeing six new volumes this morning they looked alright – the one blue Chesterton even rather good. ‡
Below are a selection of some of the dust-jacket colours and devices used for the different subjects and featured on the title page of the book. Perplexingly the designs are not featured on the book spines:
Left to right is Oratory (Red), Reference (Pink), Romance (Orange), Poetry & Drama (Green).
Left to right: Science (Grey Blue), Young People (Bright Blue) Travel and Topography (Green), Essays & Bells-Lettres
Looking at the devices under magnification, there is every evidence that the engravings were made in a considerable hurry with engraved lines carrying on where they should have stopped and inadequate clearing of background details, none the less they represent a considerable imaginative achievement and are most effective. ‡
From 1945, the abstract knot was replaced on some volumes with a clam-shell like design overlaid with an ‘EL’, and from 1951 it was used on most jackets until the design was replaced in 1953.
A section of the end paper, with a star like repeat design by Ravilious for the series, it was used from 1935-1953.
An alternative end-paper that was briefly used in 1935 but suspended for the star patterned paper above.
Below is an article by John Russell from The Listener magazine in November 1948. It’s mostly a promotional piece rather than a review, for the book ‘Paul Nash: Paintings, Drawings and Illustrations, 1948′.
The publication of the book was timed with a retrospective exhibition of Nash’s work at the Tate Gallery two years after his death in 1946 of heart failure, as a result of his long-term asthma.
Paul Nash – Landscape of the Vernal Equinox, 1943.
The Vision of Paul Nash by John Russell In a moment of confidence (reproduced in June 1938 in that most fastidious of occasional periodicals, Signature) Paul Nash described how, as a very young man, he broke free from the thraldom of Rossetti. No violence was done; for he still trembled in sympathy with the luckless personages of that Italianate imagination, and was anxious to effect an unobtrusive retreat. ’I might have spared my caution’, he noted afterwards. ‘No one and no thing noticed either my presence or its departure. The lovers stayed locked in their anguished embrace, the chained monkey continued to pick the rose to pieces, the boar-hound of unsure anatomy still slept by the side of the lance and shield. On the window-sill the dove lay dead. Outside the door I passed the frenzied eavesdropper among the shadows’.
The man who could regard his own early attachments – and indeed the whole of life – with such ceremonious irony could not but appreciate the predicament of those who, in future years, will attempt to penetrate the imaginative world of Paul Nash himself. We who have grown up in this world, and marked each of its phases in turn, feel no such difficulty. The dis-peopled landscape of this painter’s art has long been accepted by us; and we know that for Paul Nash the conjunction of a toadstool and a tennis-ball was as significant as the encounter of Lancelot and Guinevere. (He told us so, moreover-remarking that ‘for me at least, the forms of natural objects and the features of landscape were sufficient without the intrusion of human beings, or even animals’.)
Paul Nash – Equivalents for the Megaliths, 1935.
To this conviction we owe the long series of painting in which he underprivileged members of the natural world were given the stature of heroic beings. It is in these works that the conventional order of landscape painting is reversed, and the fungus, the pebble and the diving-board are presented as triumphal features. In the last years of his life, when illness took from him all freedom of movement, he removed, in imagination, still further from the landscapes available to the casual eye. ‘What the body is denied’, he wrote at this time, ‘the mind must achieve’.
Many a friend and acquaintance of Paul Nash must recall how this painter, remarkable as ever for his anachronistic elegance of dress and diction, would expound in the sedate recesses of north Oxford the new visions on which he was working – the cluster of hellebores aslant the night sky, or the underground fortress of the mole. For those who knew, however slightly, this finest of men, it is natural to wish, and in wishing to assume, that the quality and intensity of his imagination have been perfectly reproduced in his work.
Paul Nash – Iron steps, 106 Banbury Road, Oxford (Nash’s Home).
The wish, if not the assumption, has animated, for example, the majestic memorial volume which Messrs. Lund Humphries have rescued from dereliction. Miss Eates, the general editor, has followed in outline the plans laid down by the artist himself; the publishers, less fortunate, have inherited a quantity of plates, and a quality of paper, that one would not normally associate with their imprint. In default of those last personal ornaments which Paul Nash would have known so well how to give, Miss Eates has called upon four distinguished enthusiasts to contribute essays upon various aspects of the artist’s activity. Mr. Read, Mr. Rothenstein, Miss Ramsden and Mr. Philip James discharge their duties in able and affectionate style; there is a good, though not a complete catalogue of known paintings by Paul Nash; and 132 plates, of which twenty are in colour.
Paul Nash’s pictures are peculiarly difficult to reproduce. The unvarnished surface of his oils inclines to look thin and dry when transposed into monochrome; and as for the key-cold delicacy of his watercolours, there can be few signatures which so constantly evade the reproducer’s craft.
Some periods come off well in this memorial volume – the exacerbated realism, for instance, of the paintings brought home from Flanders in 1918; the patient geometry of the late nineteen-twenties; and some of the pictures which it is possible to regard as his finest work- the series done at Dymchurch between 1922 and 1924, in a landscape where, as Nash later remarked, ‘natural and artificial forms have equal pictorial significance, even amounting to architectural beauty’. As against this, there are many reproductions which can only give, to those who do not known the originals, a derisory impression of the science and devotion which made Paul Nash not merely an original fantasticator, but also the best straightforward water-colourist of his generation.
Paul Nash – The Wall, Dymchurch, 1923.
Nash was that rarest of beings – an English water-colourist who got better and better; and he was never so good as when, during the last holiday of his life, he painted at Cleeve Hill, near Cheltenham, the series of sunset studies which, by their mastery of tone and variety of attack, can rank in the company of Girtin and Cotman. Of these paintings, unluckily, a grotesque amount is given, and one can hardly conceive that the artist would have sanctioned their appearance. One can only be grateful for the enthusiasm and the disregard for commercial obstacles which have gone to the making of this book, and its plates include many works which are rare, and some which have been destroyed; but it remains legitimate to hope that before long somebody will publish Paul Nash’s fragmentary memoirs, and a substantial collection of his admirable letters, for in these shines out the preservative irony which will help the best of his work to survive the hazards of reputation.
Paul Nash – The Pyramids in the Sea, 1912.
Here are fragments of text by Andrew Causey about Nash’s preparations on the book, that turned into a his memorial publication.
Paul Nash had been preparing for at least two years before his death in 1946 material for the book which Lund Humphries would publish in due course. He collected black-and-white prints from owners, some of them images he had not seen since before the First World War. And though he did not finish the project, he invested considerable time and energy in it, creating the skeleton of a book of which he may be considered part-author, and in which he could take much pride. ‡
The book signalled an advance on the conventional art book at that point: apart from the various authors’ texts, it contained supplementary information, including chronologies of Nash exhibitions and a list of Nash’s paintings and drawings in public collections in Britain and around the world. It was produced under difficult postwar conditions, marked especially by the shortage of paper of appropriate quality. ‡
The correspondence during the Second World War years surrounding Nash’s assembly of plates for what was to become the Lund Humphries book, shows how highly he valued his early drawings made around the family’s home at Iver Heath and how much his emotions were stirred by reliving his early life through his drawings. The paradox is that a book so personal to the artist and so full of references to his own life should not have been seen by Nash in its finished form. ‡
Paul Nash: Paintings, Drawings and Illustrations, 1948.
† The Listener, November 1948. The Vision of Paul Nash by John Russell
‡ Lund Humphries – Celebrating 75 Years of Art Book Publishing. 1939–2014. – Paul Nash by Andrew Causey
Traveller From Tokyo by John Morris, 1943, reprinted by Penguin 1946.
I bought the Penguin copy of this book. Major Charles John Morris, CBE (1895–1980), known as John, was a British mountaineer, anthropologist and journalist, and controller of BBC Radio’s Third Programme.
It’s rather amusing in places to read the views of an British man in Japan, Morris’s adventures with Japanese cooking especially. But I thought his chapter on the events after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour were worth typing up as it’s a rare insight into what life would have been like for an British man with international contacts in Japan days after.
The front page of the Gettysburg Times the Day after the Pearl Harbour attack.
After Pearl Harbour 7th DECEMBER 1941 to 29th JULY 1942
THE OUTBREAK OF WAR
Sunday the 7th December 1941 was much the same as any other. I had got up rather late, played over a few records before lunch, and spent the afternoon writing an article on Virginia Woolf. It was never published and is now, I believe, in the archives of the Japanese police. My article was for Japan News Week, the American paper that had somehow managed to keep its independence right up to the outbreak of war. Its acknowledged policy was to promote amicable relations between the United States and Japan. This it attempted to do by means of extremely outspoken leading articles, which criticised impartially the attitude of both countries.
In the same spirit of impartiality it also published, in adjacent columns, two weekly summaries of the war situation in the exact form in which they were supplied by the British and German Embassies respectively. These, taken together. often formed amusing reading. As relations between Germany and Japan became closer, however, the German Embassy hinted at the desirability of editing the British summary in such a way that it should not contradict the official German news. This the editor flatly declined to do, upon which the German Embassy ceased to supply him with its own summary.
For some months before the outbreak of war three or four of us who were working for the paper had been accustomed to meet every Sunday night at the house of Paul Rusch, one of the best friends Japan has ever had. Paul had originally come to Japan as a voluntary Y.M.C.A. worker to help the Japanese after the terrible earthquake of 1923. He had later become an educational missionary and, in the course of years, had brought into being, almost entirely through his own efforts, what was probably one of the finest social service camps ‘for boys in the world. This camp was well on the way towards completion when the war put an end to Paul’s activities. He is also known as the introducer of American football into Japan.
A memorial bust of Paul Rusch
Paul’s dinners were much appreciated by all his guests. He had a high regard for the pleasures of the table, was an extremely skilled cook, and would often give us a dinner prepared and cooked entirely by himself. In these feasts, dishes peculiar to his own Kentucky would take a prominent place. Long after the rest of us had been forced by rationing difficulties to give up all forms of entertainment, Paul’s hospitality continued. How he did it we never found out, and it still remains his secret.
On the night of 7th December we had gathered as usual at Paul’s home; W.R.Wills, the Editor of Japan News Week, Phyllis Argall, the managing Editor of the paper, Air-Commodore Bryant, the British Air Attache, and myself. It was not often that we had a member of the diplomatic corps to give tone to our Sunday night parties. Besides, he brought other advantages. The petrol restriction, which had now made it almost impossible to get a taxi late at night, did not apply to members of the Embassy; when they went out to dinner they travelled in their own private cars, and it had become more or less understood that before returning to their own houses they should first see home any fellow guests who did not share their privileges. As this happened to be an unusually wet night, we were delighted to see Bryant’s saloon standing in front of Paul’s door. There would, at any rate, be no need to rush away early; no standing in a dripping bus queue, no strap-hanging on an overcrowded last suburban train.
But, of course, we were glad to see Bryant for his own sake, and to hear the latest news from home. It was only when we happened to meet someone from the Embassy that we had a chance of hearing what was really happening; for, although it was in theory possible for Englishmen in Tokyo to go to the Embassy and collect a copy of the daily bulletin, in actual practice this was seldom done, as regular visits to the British Embassy placed even British Subjects under grave police suspicion. In fact, after Japan entered the war a number of our nationals were arrested for the “offence” of having paid regular visits to their own embassy. The Japanese police were unwilling to believe that one might go there with no more dangerous object than to drink a cup of tea.
After dinner we all sat talking round the fire. Most of us had realised for some time that Japan’s entry into the war was now inevitable, but no one thought the moment was yet at hand. I think if anyone had told us that, as we sat there enjoying our quiet chat, the Japanese fleet was already in position in front of Pearl Harbour, we should have laughed at the idea. No one had received any hint that the crisis had been reached.
We left Paul’s house at about eleven o’clock, and Bryant, after seeing Wills and Phyllis Argall home, took me on in the direction of my house which was not very far from his. As it was getting late and he had to be up early in the morning, I asked him to drop me at the crossroads near his own house. There, accordingly, he stopped the car and we sat in it, smoking a last cigarette, before I got out and walked home. The streets were deserted; I cannot remember seeing a single soul on my way. And yet it later transpired that not only did the police know exactly who was dining at Paul’s house last night, but that they had also kept an eye on Bryant and me talking in his car at the crossroads. No doubt I was shadowed all the way to my house, but such is the efficiency of the Japanese police that I was totally unaware of it. During the whole of my four years’ stay in Japan I cannot recall a single occasion when I so much as suspected that I was being watched, and yet reports which I subsequently received made it clear that the police had kept an eye on me the whole time.
On the following morning I came down to breakfast as usual at about half-past eight. At this hour there was a daily broadcast of gramophone records, and I generally listened to it as I ate my breakfast. I switched on the radio, but instead of hearing a symphony, I heard the announcer talking rapidly in Japanese. He seemed to be saying the same thing over and over again, so I thought I had better try and make out what it was all about. As far as I could understand, the announcer was saying that a state of war now existed between Japan and the United States. (The news of the actual attack on Pearl Harbour was not made public until about an hour later.) As I was not quite certain whether I had understood correctly, I called in my cook and asked her if the news was true. “ Yes,” she said, “ but go on with your breakfast,or you’ll be late for your work.”
I was uncertain what to do, so I thought first of all I would go and talk things over with Reuters correspondent, Richard Tenelly, who was now my next-door neighbour. As soon as I had stepped out of my door, however, I noticed four or five policemen on guard outside Tenelly’s. They told me their chief was inside and that I had better see him. .He came down almost at once and I asked what I should do. “We have no orders to arrest you,” he said, “so you had better carry on with your work as usual.” I told him that I was due to give a lecture at ten, and he advised me to go away and deliver it. He refused to let me see Tenelly.
On arriving at the University I went straight to my classroom and set about delivering my lecture. There was nothing abnormal in the behaviour of the students and we carried on as though nothing had happened. At the end of the lecture, however, I was told that I had better do no further teaching pending the receipt of instructions from the Department of Education, in the meantime, it occurred to me that I would do well to visit the Foreign Office in order to find out exactly what my position now was. I have already explained that I originally went to Japan under the aegis of the Foreign Office, and although the matter was never committed to writing it was understood that in the event of war I should be afforded what practically amounted to diplomatic immunity.
I found the office in a turmoil; indeed, the officials with whom I spoke seemed just as much surprised and stunned by the news as the ordinary man in the street. To-day it is widely believed that the sending of Mr. Kurusu to Washington with the ostensible purpose of making a last minute attempt to prevent war was one of the most underhand diplomatic actions ever committed, since the plans for attacking Pearl Harbour had already been made and the Japanese navy was actually moving into position while Mr. Kurusu’s negotiations were still in progress. It is doubtful if the whole truth will ever be known, but when I call to memory my conversations with members of the Japanese Foreign Office on the morning of 8th December I am inclined to believe that the Japanese Government acted in good faith. I think it is not unlikely that the attack on Pearl Harbour was launched by the Armed Forces without the previous sanction of the Government in Tokyo. I I am well aware that this opinion will not be generally acceptable, but it should be remembered that the Japanese army chiefs already had established a precedent for taking independent action by their seizure of Manchuria in 1931 without obtaining the prior sanction of their Home Government.
I was told by the Foreign Office that orders had already been issued to the effect that I was not to be arrested. But it was added that I should be well advised to remain at home for the next few days, or at any rate until it was possible to see how the situation was developing. If I myself did not feel uneasy, however, there was no objection to my going out in the neighbourhood of my own home. Nevertheless, before going back to my house, I decided to visit my friend Frank Hawley, who was director of the British Library of Information and Culture, an institute which had recently been opened under the auspices of the British Council. It is remarkable that, in spite of the close relations we have maintained with Japan for many years, no one had apparently ever thought it worth while to establish such a library in the days of peace. A British institute could have had very considerable influence in increasing the already great interest in, and respect for, things English. In the event, the British Library was not opened until relations between the two countries had already become strained, and it came under the suspicion of the police from the start. But even during Its short existence it did valuable work, many teachers. and students taking advantage of the excellent selection of books which had been sent out from England by the British Council, although this often made them liable to police questioning.
When I arrived at Hawley’s house I found that both he and his Japanese wife had been arrested early in the morning and taken to the local police station. His cook told me that she thought it would be unwise to make any attempt to get in touch with him; she herself, when taking food and bedding to her master and mistress, had been denied access to them.
Poetry London: A Bi-Monthly of Modern Verse and Criticism. This publication was founded by Tambimuttu and the first issue was dated January/February 1939. The associated publishing imprint, Editions Poetry London, formed in 1943, produced some 70 books and pamphlets, including by Keith Douglas, G. S. Fraser, Henry Miller, Vladimir Nabokov and Kathleen Raine, before being discontinued in 1951.
This is one of those publications. I have a few in my collection but this is an excellent example as the cover is a lithograph by Henry Moore and inside there a further four lithographs by Ceri Richards, not to mention the authors inside.
Ceri Richards trained at the Royal College of Art from 1924. In 1929 he married Frances Clayton, a fellow artist.
His work gradually moved towards surrealism after exposure to the work of Picasso and Kandinsky. He was also a talented musician, and music is a theme for much of his artwork. From 1959 onwards, he made prints for theCurwen Press. One of the high points of his career was the Venice Biennale of 1962, where he was a prizewinner.