Mabel Lucie Attwell...
This month Mabel Lucie Attwell's iconic illustrated editions of Lewis Carroll and J M Barrie's classic novels return to print as beautiful new gift hardbacks. Featuring full colour illustrations and end papers and ribbon markers, these are collectors' editions to be treasured. Both editions are introduced by Webster Wickham, great-grandon of Mabel Lucie Attwell. Mcmillan is honoured to celebrate Mabel Lucie Attwell. These gorgeous editions join The Complete Alice in Macmillan's collection of beautiful and enduring children's classics. Mabel Lucie Attwell is widely acknowledged as one of the most notable and popular artists working in the UK in the 1920s. She was highly prolific, producing regular cartoon strips for the Illustrated London News and Tatler, posters for the London Underground, and illustrations for classic children's novels and wartime postcards. Born in 1879 she had a strict Victorian upbringing. She sold her forst drawings aged just 16 and with the proceeds was able to fund her own further education at Saint Martin's School of Art. She attracted royal patronage from 1937 when Princess Margaret ordered a personalised Christmas card. Her unique appeapl was her ability to communicate honestly with adults; as demonstrated in her wartime advertising reflecting the national spirit and giving comfort when it was most needed. Mabel Lucie Attwell died in Cornwall in 1964, in Fowey, where she had spent the last 20 years of her life.
I remember Mabel Lucie Attwell from various children's books and annuals that were lying around the house when I was a nipper - those cherbubic infants of hers were a trademark, I suppose, and instantly recognisable as hers. I wasn't aware that she had done illustrations for Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, though. I had a copy of Alice, and knew about Peter Pan, but this would have been in the early 1950s, when there were probably dozens of editions of both titles, and I'm not sure my Alice was even illustrated - I wasn't aware of the importance of the illustrations at the time, and when I did become aware, it was principally of the Tenniel illustrations. Macmillan are one of the oldest publishing houses in the world, with many "firsts", including Alice, of course, which was celebrated earlier this year. Their celebration of Mabel Lucie Attwell is nothing short of magnificent - these two books bear a strong resemblance to the kind of books that would have been around at the time of their first publication; the illustrations are superb, and the addition of ribbon markers is inspired. These are two books that collectors will drool over, with the added bonus that the content, i.e. the stories, are classics of chidlren's literature (Alice obviously appeals to adults as well, Peter Pan maybe not quite so much) and deserving of places on your bookshelves. These two should win awards!
Hunter Davies: The Beatles Book
Published 1st September 2016 by Ebury Press
THE BEATLES BOOK is the ultimate authority on the fab four. Hunter
Davies, the only ever authorised biographer of the group, brings together three
eminent Beatles experts to compile an invaluable and essential guide. Divided
into four sections – People, Songs, Places and Broadcast & Cinema – The
Beatles Book covers every element of the band’s history and brings every
influence that shaped the incredible Beatles phenomenon vividly to life. Hunter
and his team have also rated entries to show how important, influential or
meaningful that characteristic was in the history of their lives and
creations. Illustrated with material from Hunter's remarkable private
collection of personal artefacts and memorabilia, this compendium is an
beautiful, insightful and entertaining treasure for any Beatles fan.
There are Beatles books, and then there are Beatles books by Hunter Davies. The last book I reviewed by Hunter was his autobiography a few months back, and it was my Nostalgia book of the month. The Beatles Book (with which he had some help, it has to be said) returns to the love of his life - The Beatles, and it is a kind of encyclopedia, in a way. There are four distinct sections: People, Songs, Places, and Broadcast & Cinema. We've had books about the Beatles songs before - Steve Turner's The Beatles Songs is as comprehensive and inclusive as you can get, and yet there are little known facts about the songs that aren't in Steve's books, but are in Hunter's. Then there are the people - this section is rather like a Who's Who of the 1960s, which in most cases means they were born in or around the 1940s - it's absolutely fascinating! And the ratings system is a sheer joy, for example Brigitte Bardot is in there because she was John's favourite actress, but she only gets one moptop because of her minimal influence on the group. This book is a sheer delight, not just for Beatles fans (and there are countless millions of those, of course) but for anyone at all, young or old, who's heard of The Beatles. Hunter says this will be his last book about the Beatles. I hope it isn't because I'm sure he has still more to tell us. But for now, this will keep me occupied for several weeks in between all those other fabulous books I have to read and review!
Mabel Lucie Attwell, Beatrix Potter, the Beatles, Poldark and Queen Victoria...
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Growing up in the fifties (and the sixties) - part 6: entertainment part two...
I was hooked on books from a very early age, so much so that every opportunity to be given books - birthdays, Christmas etc., was taken with open arms. I remember having annuals and picture books illustrated by Mabel Lucie Attwell, who is the subject of Macmillan's celebrations this month, and you can read about their stunning books, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan and Wendy in this month's issue. I don't recall ever having a Beatrix Potter book; neither, for that matter, do I recall ever having a Noddy book, even though he was born the same year as me, 1946. But books formed an important part of my life from the moment I started to read for myself. In the Christmas of 1953, when I was seven years old, my Aunt Joyce gave me beautifully bound copies of two of Charles Dickens's novels, one of which was Oliver Twist, but I forget what the other one was... whichever version they were, I treasured them- they were probably truncated; lots of editions especially published for children were "abridged", and after a while I got to look at the publisher's information page to make sure the edition I was buying was "complete and unabridged" so that I had the whole story, and not some editor's version. I don't recall being read to, although obviously I was. I do recall there always being books in the house, especially ones like the Mabel Lucie Attwell annual, I would park myself in front of the wireless to listen to Listen With Mother when I was 3-4 years old, in 1949-1950, and became familiar with the adventures of Larry the Lamb and Dennis the Dachsund, read by Uncle Mac. I always wondered if there were books of what I was listening to, and of course, as I got older, the truth dawned on me that most things that were broadcast on the wireless were based on books, although in some cases, the books followed the broadcasts, as was the case with Larry the Lamb. Wikipedia states that these stories were broadcast on Children's Hour as plays in the 1950s with Derek McCulloch (Uncle Mac) playing the part of Larry. I remember it differently, with the stories being read aloud on Listen With Mother. I would have been far too young to listen to Children's Hour...
Dad's books: there was a three-volume encyclopedia of sorts on the shelf in the alcove opposite to the one that housed the wireless, comprising a book on the French language, a book on travel (which contained a photograph of a partially naked African female that excited me from the age of around nine or ten, and a volume on World War II, which contained pictures from the liberation of the concentration camps in Poland, and which my Dad didn't really want me to see, so I looked at them when he was at work. I'm not sure if those three volumes were part of a bigger set, and my Dad had only managed to get hold of those three, or if that was how it was published. There was a book on Winston Churchill that Jean and I bought Dad one Christmas; a couple of books by Aldous Huxley, and then a dozen or so volumes from the Companion Book Club, copies of which you still see at car boot sales. I don't remember every title, but I do remember "Boldness Be My Friend" by Richard Pape, and Campbell's Kingdom - I'm not sure if I ever got round to reading that one, but I do know we must have been going through "hard times" money wise, because the collection did not get added to in my memory.
For a while, books only came into the house on birthdays and at Christmas time, at least until I was six or seven years old, and knew that I wanted to collect them seriously. There were magazines, like Practical Householder, and Argosy - and Practical Wireless. I remember Dad building a reel-to-reeltape recorder from instructions in, I think, Practical Wireless during the 1950s, and, to our amazement, it worked! Mind you, my Dad was an engineer. It took him slightly longer to get the engine in our first car to work, that was the Morris 8 Tourer (1936, four seats, soft top convertible), and what seemed like months and months of bits of carburettor etc., laid out on newspaper on the kitchen table while he cleaned and in some cases re-engineered the parts. There were also copies of Woman's Own etc., from time to time, but the books my Mum read came from the Alpha-Rho library, which was a man in a car who brought the latest blockbuster novels to your house, you paid a small weekly subscription and borrowed books to read. There was a perfectly good public library that set up camp in our primary school twice a week in the evenings, but my Mum chose to supplement her reading with a couple of titles a week from Alpha-Rho - I never found out why, but I didn't complain, because she bought our Christmas annuals from him, and it was one of his books, Dennis Wheatley's The Ka of Gifford Hilary that got me started on the occult. More of that later. In 1952, the very first issue of the Lion comic appeared in the newsagents. I remember reading colourful little children's comics like Robin and Jack and Jill, but at the age of six, I was fascinated by the Lion comic and had to have the first issue. I'd seen copies of Eagle, but there was far too much technical stuff in it; what I wanted was stories, and the Lion was perfect for me. I took it right from the first issue until I was about twelve or thirteen years old, and added the Tiger to it when that appeared in 1954.
I was given the Regency Classics editions of Robin Hood and King Arthur at a very early age, probably around the same time I started taking the Lion comic. These two titles did more than any other books to form the backbone of what I believe in, which was and is faithfulness. I saw how much my Mum and Dad loved each other, and the legendary stories of Robin and Maid Marion, and of King Arthur and Guinevere reinforced my growing belief that what mattered more than anything in our world was that men and women were true to each other - they sought, and found, a lifelong partner and they were true to that partner for the rest of their lives. In addition to that, they went to their weddings pure, virginal, and once that belief was engendered in me, I knew that it was appropriate for me, that I would go to my marriage bed a virgin. Yes, I know what you're going to say, Guinevere was tempted by Sir Lancelot and broke her marriage to Arthur. I was heartbroken when that happened, and it strengthened my resolve that it would not happen to me. As testament to that, as I celebrate my 70th birthday (13th September), I coincidentally entered my 51st year of marriage, never having once been tempted by another woman - it has always been unthinkable to me that we would ever be unfaithful to one another... One of my favourite contemporary books was Enid Blyton's The Rockingdown Mystery - the twins next door owned a copy, in all probability it belonged to one of them, but by the time they took up residence in the house next to ours (a semi-detached 1930s villa), both of them had disowned it and they were happy for me to have it on extended loan. I don't recall ever owning an Enid Blyton book myself, although I did read some of the Famous Fives, probably borrowed, again, from a friend. It was the Barney mysteries I loved most, of which Rockingdown was the first. I'm tempted to say that I still have the twins' copy, but it would be a lie - they are in plentiful supply at car boot sales, and I now have all seven titles on the shelf.
In previous issues I've told how I used to borrow my sister Jean's annuals, Schoolfriend and Girls' Crystal, to read. Jean had a few books on the shelf in her bedroom, and one day, rooting through her comics, I happened to spot a copy of Mary Wakefield by Mazo de la Roche, and that started me on the Whiteoaks journey - a saga of getting on for twenty novels about a family setting up home in a small colony in Canada. The setting wasn't important at first, it was the characters that were important - vibrant, alive, stirring characters, like people from a contemporary (well, the same century as ours) piece of classic fiction, like Lorna Doone (one of my favourites). I think the Whiteoak series started me on the road to collecting books - until then I had only my two Charles Dickens, Robin Hood and King Arthur, together with a pile of Lion and Tiger comics, and Lion and Tiger annuals, plus odd titles like Boy's Book of Trains, and things like that. Now, after reading Mary Wakefield, I had something to aim for: the entire Whiteoaks collection, and I was helped in that endeavour by the fact that we were entering the Golden Age of paperback publishing, with Pan, Pan Giants, Four Square etc., etc. Some of my favourite books were published as Pan Giants: the complete Whiteoaks series (although Ms De La Roche was still writing them in the 1950s); the Saint books by Leslie Charteris; the Inspector West books by John Creaset; the Angélique books by Sergeanne Golon; A Summer Place by Sloan Wilson (my favourite film at the time because it starred Sandra Dee..., and yes, that picture on the front cover was good enough for me, plus, there was a photo of Sandra on the back cover!) etc., etc.
I got to know about 4Square books by virtue of Tarzan of the Apes...
I've recounted before about how I would see a film at the cinema, then the following day I would nip down the road to Mr Lees's newsagents (and post office) and look on the revolving rack for a copy of the book on which the film was based. Over a very short period of time I collected Tarzan of the Apes, The Wind Cannot Read, The Dam Busters, Reach for the Sky, and many, many more. It would be unusual for the book of the film I had just seen not to be on the revolving rack. Like I said, for me it was the Golden Age of paperback publishing. Now, all of those imprints have disappeared, and the sad thing is, the publishers into whose archives the titles have disappeared, don't appear to have archivists looking after or willing to talk about them. You can still buy Pan Books, published by Macmillan, and you can still buy Penguins, of course (who started the whole thing off) but it's left to dedicated collectors to keep websites going with details of Pan Giants, for example, and although you can find all of the Tarzan (and many, many other 4Squares) titles on Google, there's no one collecting or publishing information about these marques. Maybe that's something I might think about doing in the future...
In the meantime, I hope you will join me in wallowing in the glorious illustrations of Mabel Lucie Attwell, Beatrix Potter, and in enjoying what the publishers have to offer in the way of Victoriana as they bask in the best costume drama since Downton Abbey... See you next month!
small print: Books
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