May 30th window feature

Our current window display (May 30th 2012) features our stock in two classic and collectable book series.

A classic series of the 1960s

The Travel Book Club operated from 121 Charing Cross Road, London during the 1960s and brought out for their subscribers many inexpensive editions of books originally published by big names like Faber & Faber, Jonathan Cape, Robert Hale, Hodder & Stoughton, Allen & Unwin and Heinemann. 

Hardback books with colourful, enticing covers, the Travel Book Club editions cost between 21s. 0d. and 35s. 0d. (from just over £1 up to £1.75 in today’s money) and featured titles by well-known travel writers, such as Robert Gibbings, Freya Stark, Peter Fleming, J. B. Priestley, David Attenborough, Ethel Mannin, and A. F. Tschiffely.

From the comfort of their armchairs, subscribers in the 1960s could enjoy the exploits of explorers and travellers and hear about lands they might never be able to visit themselves.

The Travel Book Club was part of The Book Club - another similar offshoot was The Scientific Book Club, which had titles on subjects ranging from aeronautics to zoology. We also have in stock some immaculate editions of The Scientific Book Club.

A classic series of the 1940s

With most of Europe in Adolf Hitler’s hands, Britain was in a grim predicament in 1941, but in that year William Collins (the publisher now known as HarperCollins) launched a remarkable series of social history books called Britain in Pictures.

The books were designed to boost morale but perhaps also to record the British way of life in case the Germans completed their European campaign by successfully crossing the English Channel. The books were slim volumes with distinctive elegant covers, but it was the star-studded array of authors that made the series really special, for example:

George Orwell on the British people
Cecil Beaton on English photography
Francis Meynell on English books
John Betjeman on cities and towns
Graham Greene on dramatists
Neville Cardus on cricket
Edith Sitwell on women

Some of the authors have faded into obscurity but they were all experts in their field during those dark days of World War II.

A wide variety of subjects were covered from battlefields to boxing, clocks to mountaineering, butterflies to farm animals, and from waterways and canals to maps and map-makers. In all, there were were 132 titles. Collins published them in large quantities and priced them cheaply. The books were so successful that they were published until 1949.

No-one knows more about this series than Michael Carney, and his 1995 work Britain in Pictures: A History & Bibliography is essential for any collector.

- from “Morale & Preservation: Collecting the Britain in Pictures Series” by Richard Davies