One of my favourite places to browse on a Sunday afternoon is Oxfam Books. What people turn off their bookshelves and out of their homes is endlessly fascinating for me. It’s always the pamphlets and booklets that I am drawn to first, from exhibition catalogues to more esoteric publications. A few years ago, I found a super-rare lithograph by Margaret (Peggy) Angus, which was a free gift contained in a copy of Granta. You can read about that here. Last Sunday I also found something charming that I simply couldn’t leave behind. The striking cover artwork (below) hit me first, then I was captivated by the wonderful mid-century linocuts inside. At £2.49, I had to have it. It’s titled ‘Whitefriars School Journey To Italy 1963‘.
It’s a small, privately printed booklet, produced in Summer and Autumn 1963 by the boys of the Bookcraft Course at Whitefriars School in North West London to commemorate their second trip to Italy in the same year. The names of those who produced the text and artwork, and printed the pamphlet, are listed in the back, together with that of their teacher Mr A.A. Slaney. We’re told the illustrations were produced by D. Scott, G. Hawkes, A. Pearson, L. Ledster, and I. Hands. The text was set by G. Hawkes, C. Grassing, D. Stewart, and P. Nichols.
The quality of the 23 single or three, four, or five colour linocuts is amazing, despite the odd scratch or smudge. There’s even an apology for these on the Production Note page at the back. They roughly illustrate the different chapters of the book, varying in subject from typical Italian scenes to art, literature and architecture, to the life Garibaldi and the unification of Italy. The style is definitively early 1960s, and I think the book is wonderfully progressive and impressive for what was entirely a school art project. I wonder how much ‘support’ they had from their teacher?! But you never forget inspirational teachers, and this was a wonderfully ‘real’ way of making studying come to life – with tangible and beautiful results.
That also leads me to wonder if any of them were inspired by this and went on to become professional artists, illustrators, printmakers, publishers, or bookbinders. I suppose I’ll never know. They certainly took great pains to not only produce it, but detail the method of printing, the machine used (a Cropper Charlton), the font, and even the high quality papers used (Mellotex Cartridge, and Glastonbury Rose for the cover).
I was going to scan and publish the linocuts only on my website, but found myself being drawn into the text, written by the Headmaster Mr E.H. Lee Esq., which captures a view of Italy in 1963, down to facts such as the restricted franchise as regards voting. Not everyone had the vote. So, instead I have scanned pretty much all the pages, leaving only the blank endpapers out. That’s nearly all from me, as I’ll let the boys’ artwork speak for itself. I think most people would cut the prints out and frame them, but I’m going to leave it intact, as it is.
It’s a charming, handmade and quality printed publication that absolutely shouts the artistic style of the day. I wonder how many the class printed but, moreover, how many have survived after over half a century?
Book size: 23cm (9in) high, 16.1cm (6.3in) wide. Please excuse the scans being slightly off-centre, but my scanner isn’t large enough to scan each entire spread!