Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (3)

Bear Hudson authors

Much could be written about “Elmer Elliot Saks”, better known as F Dubrez Fawcett or as the main “Griff” of many near-the-knuckle paperbacks. With short page counts and fast typing he could breeze through a book a fortnight and still take afternoons off.

The House of Fear by “Frank Richards” reminds us that Charles Hamilton had years of wartime struggles, scraping along in low-paying marginal markets before his post-war resurgence with Billy Bunter in books, theatre and TV.

(Image courtesy of Friardale)

(Image courtesy of Friardale)

Frank Griffin in Nos. 525 and 538 may have been the F. Griffin who wrote Bear Hudson’s factual No. 518, Women’s Legal Problems. However, he was more obviously the Frank Griffin who wrote pulp action paperbacks for Mellifont, Hamiltons and others.

Pure non-fiction contributors also intrigue. No. 515 The 20th Century Guide to London was by Vernon Sommerfield, a pre-WWII transport writer who had broadcast as early as 1925 on “The Human Side of Railways” from 2LO, the forerunner of the BBC; his son was the noted political activist/novelist John Sommerfield.

And who was W.T. Baker, author of the atypical polemic I Speak to the Workers, No. 503? A review of his book mentioned that “Under the pen-name of “Benchfitter” he has contributed frequently to house-organs published by the staffs of factories.” Clearly Mr Baker had spoken to the workers before. Did his proposed next book, ‘Two-tenths of a thou’ from Nazi domination, ever appear? Apparently not. Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (2)

Bear Hudson numbered booklets

The first Bear Hudson booklet was Be Clever with Leather, numbered 501. (No doubt the numbers 1 to 500 were left clear for Bernards.) The highest Bear Hudson number I know of was No. 555, How to Make Rugs, by F.J. Christopher. Some titles carried both the general number and a subset number within a “Model Engineering Series”.

Incidentally, the first few titles were published from 14 The Broadway, Hammersmith, W.6, before the firm settled down at Goldhawk Road, W.12. (A reprint of Be Clever with Leather had the old address on its front cover and the new address on its back, before a further reprint saw 63 Goldhawk Road reach the front cover at last.)

(web image)

(web image)

The Bear Hudson publishing story had several twists and turns. Omitting various oddities of 1946-48 for now, I would place the numbered booklets into three main phases:

1943-5             mostly craft/DIY subjects

1946                mainly pulp fiction

1947-50           returning to crafts

Booklet prices and formats

The prices ranged from 1/- to 2s.6d (5p to 12½p in modern money), with a very few at 6d or 3s.6d. This may have seemed expensive at the time for small stapled pamphlets, but in wartime the printers often controlled the scarce paper stocks and could negotiate a high cover price to increase their own profits. The flimsy pink interior paper just visible in the early printing of Be Clever with Leather above may have been an attempt to imitate home pattern paper, or may have been simply what was available; later impressions saw variations in paper, printers and even the number of staples. (Wartime shortages may explain why, for example, Bernards’ booklet No. 42 used eye-straining dark red paper, while No.51 was slightly more legible on blue.) Most Bear Hudson titles were printed on ordinary white paper. Continue reading

Bear Hudson publishing – The Bear Facts (1)

Sent in by  David Redd this original history of London publisher Bear, Hudson Limited. For which much thanks. Here is the opening part– the rest will follow over the next few weeks..

Introduction

This is the book which caught my eye:

The Terror of Timorkal by Festus Pragnell

(Image courtesy of Brian Ameringen and the SF Encyclopedia Gallery)

It was small, old (1946), oddly-shaped, and from a publisher new to me, Bear Hudson Limited of London. Over a few years I acquired this and other slightly strange little books from the same firm. Bear Hudson, I discovered, had a bafflingly varied mixture of titles and writers:

  • Dames Spell Trouble!
  • Say It with Violence!
  • Model Railway Construction!
  • Make Your Own Motors!
  • Women’s Legal Problems!
  • N Wesley Firth!
  • Eudora Welty!
  • Frank Richards without Billy Bunter!
  • Bob Hope!
  • The Curate Finds the Corpse!
  • The Case of the Indiana Torturer!
  • and a possible relationship with “Bernards’ Radio Manuals”.

Forgive my lack of title-differentiation and excess of exclamation marks. I have tried investigating to make sense of the wide variation in publications, but Bear Hudson seems to have been the original moving target.

I hope my limited findings may intrigue or amuse – and I hope that someone more knowledgeable may fill in at least a few of the many gaps.

–David Redd, 5th February, 2017.

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A relic of the talented Messel Family

Messel Medea cover 001Found in a box of old text books (Zinn collection)  is this copy of part two of C. B. Heberden’s edition of Euripedes’ Medea ( notes and appendices) published by the Clarendon Press in 1886.Stamped in gold lettering on the light brown cover of this distinctly dull-looking school text book are the words MESSEL/TARVERS. Inscribed in pencil on the fly-leaf we find ‘ L.Messel/Tarvers ‘, which suggests that it belonged at one time to Leonard Charles Rudolph Messel ( 1872 – 1953), father of the famous stage designer Oliver Messel. Beneath the inscription are two pencil and ink drawings—one of a veiled lady in Victorian dress, the other a small profile of a man’s head.

Leonard was the eldest son of Ludwig Messel, a German stockbroker who had emigrated to Britain, possibly in the late 1860s.He married and in 1890 bought Nymans, a 600 acre estate near Hayward’s Heath in West Sussex. His son Leonard was sent to Eton, where he joined Tarver’s house, and that is all we really know about his life as a schoolboy. However, if he did execute the two drawings, then he obviously passed on his artistic skills to his son Oliver, who may also have inherited skills from his mother, who was the daughter of Edward Linley Sambourne, the eminent Punch cartoonist. This being so, it is equally likely that Oliver, who also attended Eton, inherited his father’s copy of Heberden’s Euripides, and it was he who drew the veiled woman and male profile. Continue reading

An amazing Art Deco garage photograph

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From the ever-giving El Mundo archive is this quite astonishing Fox Photos pic of a multi-storey garage housing what appear to be bran new, high-class, automobiles. Along with the press agency stamp and the date 6 Feb 1930 is a description in Spanish of the scene. Here it is in full:

Un “garage” moderno, ofrece a los ojos un aspecto fantastico y desconcertante .El automovil ha reemplazado definitivamente al caballo como elemento de transporte y las grandes ciudades se preparan par albergar la avalanche de coches que diariamente sugen de las fabricas e inundan las callas. Este “garage” , que pareciera el producto de una fantasia, ha sido construido en Paris.**

I have yet to see a photo that better expresses the visual impact of the Art Deco era. [R.M.Healey]

**A modern "garage " offers a fantastic and baffling appeal to the eyes. The car has definitely replaced the horse as a transport medium and big cities are preparing to host the avalanche of cars daily coming out of factories and flooding the streets. This " garage " which seems the product of a fantasy , has been built in Paris .

“Fadeless Sundour”

Found on the dust jacket of a Collins 1939 edition of Alice in Wonderland
 this notice:

This book is bound in fadeless Sundour cloth, which can be lightly rubbed with a sponge when soiled, with perfect safety.

The cloth has hardly faded in its 77 year life and does not need sponging. The Sundour company is still going (in Warrington, Lancs) but now deals almost exclusively with  curtains. Its involvement with book cloth seems to have ceased in the 1940s. There is very little online about this and Sundour’s fadeless cloth is mostly mentioned in the more meticulous used bookseller’s lists…

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Famous people from Stevenage (2) Edward Gordon Craig

The only other one appears to be the racing driver Lewis Hamilton, who was really born in Tewin, a few miles away, though some sites will tell you differently. According to the site devoted entirely to famous Stevenage people, most of the other contenders are bit players on soap operas or models, although it is not specified that the one decent footballer amongst them, Manchester United’s Ashley Young, actually came from the town.

Anyway, it can truly be said that Edward Gordon Craig (1872 – 1966), the eminent man of the theatre, designer of stage sets etcetera, was indeed born in Stevenage, long before the ancient Georgian coaching town had a bright, spanking New Town tacked onto its southern end. The illegitimate son of the famous actress Ellen Terry and architect Edward Godwin, it was almost inevitable that he would make his name as a stage designer, with his radical ideas of neutral non-representational sets and use of top-lighting. This photo (to follow) comes from the same archive of press photos featuring Herbert Read, Stephen Spender, Harold Nicholson and Desmond MacCarthy that inspired previous Jots– so one must assume that it too belongs to the Sunday Times Book Exhibition of 1936.

One extraordinary fact about Craig is that although he lived to be 94, all his most significant work was done before the age of 40—that is, before 1912. [RR]

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Beware—-Lady Decorators at Work !!

Here is one of four press photographs from the Photopress agency showing the same group of female house decorators performing various tasks. The other photographs depict two decorators limning Georgian panelling in a ‘West End mansion ‘, painting exterior window frames at the rear of another Georgian house by means of a ladder, while a third shows paint being mixed. This particular shot of three painters white washing a plaster ceiling while standing on two very precarious looking duckboards would probably horrify our Health and Safety jonnies. Back in the early 1930s, when these photos were probably taken, Risk Assessment Reports were sixty years into the future.
A slightly  sexist comment typed on the back of the Georgian panelling photo by some agency worker is worth examining:

WOMAN DECORATORS BUSY ON THE JOB
Many of the big houses and mansions in the West End are now in the hands of decorators. At some of the houses woman decorators are busy on the job of working with effecientcy (sic) that expert decorators would find hard to beat.

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Oliver Messel and ‘Bobo’ Sigrist in the famous Suite he created

It’s got a toilet seat shaped like a scallop shell, a grand double bedroom and more rococo swags, flat columns and baroque touches than a wealthy thespian could wish for. It’s where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton spent their honeymoon in 1964.No wonder American A listers, like Sylvester Stallone, Tom Cruise and Michael Jackson, have demanded it. We are talking about the Messel Suite, which is all yours for a mere £2,950 a night.

This photo, retrieved from a pile of press shots issued by the Dorchester itself, shows its creator, Oliver Messel, arguably the greatest stage designer from the thirties to the sixties, sitting alongside the twenty-two year old Frederika ‘Bobo’ Sigrist, heiress to the Hawker-Siddeley fortune. It was taken on 28 June 1962 on the occasion of her mother’s marriage to British public relations chief Sir Berkeley Ormerod.

Messel and Sigrist, in an artfully arranged pose, may first have met through their shared association with the millionaires of Mustique. Messel lived in a Barbabos beach house named Maddox, which he had totally transformed and decorated to his own designs , while Sigrist  was part of the Bahamas jet-set. A year after this photo was taken, she married Irish film producer Kevin McClory, who was responsible for the James Bond films.

Messel went on from creating stage sets and hotel suites to become one of the most sought after house designers in the Caribbean. Between 1960 and his death in 1978 he designed around 30 homes on Mustique, of which at least 18 have been completed. The V & A houses a large collection of his stage and other designs. [R R]

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Boozing with the Victorian Society in Crouch End, Hornsey and Harringay

Found in a box of books is this photocopy of a typewritten guide to a ‘pub crawl’ (walk no 41) of various late Victorian ‘gin palaces’ in North London arranged by the Victorian Society on 16th September 1966. The guides were two architects-- Roderick Gradidge and Ben Davis—both of whom had designed interiors for Ind Coope. Judging by their descriptions of the pubs they planned to visit, both were also passionate and knowledgeable fans of late Victorian architecture and design. The grand plasterwork of the ceiling cornices and Art Nouveau stained glass is pointed out as being of special interest. But the two men also emphasised the ways in which Victorian pub architects tried to make   their interiors both glamorous and homely as a way of getting their (mainly) lower middle class drinkers (mention is made of Mr Pooter’s ‘raffish’ friends) to spend hours away from their more humble abodes, much (we might add) in the way that the designers of Music Halls and northern shopping arcades  (one thinks of Frank Matcham ), and grand hotels, were doing in the same era. Here are the guides admiring the combination of grandeur and intimacy found in the Queen’s Hotel, Crouch End (below):

All the way round there were through views, glimpses of the other bars, and as a result one was able to feel that one was standing in one part of a single large space, large enough to tolerate the considerable height without become vertical. Since the space was so well subdivided…one could feel secluded in a sufficiently small and enclosed space, but since the proportion of the greater space was horizontal a feeling of repose was retained which could not have belonged to tall, restricted vertical rooms. This method of subdividing an area into small bars by means of partitions, which were half-glazed  with semi-obscured glass, and were not much above six feet high, was peculiar to Victorian pubs, and goes a long way to explaining the incomparable drinking atmosphere they provide...

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Eleanour Sinclair Rohde & Aromatic Plants etc.,

Found -- this pamphlet from the 1930s put out by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde (1881 -1950.) As Wikipedia notes, she had a fairly standard house but an enormous garden where it appears she sold plants (mostly aromatic -with ESR it was all about scent) by mail order and possibly to visitors. She was the author of several now sought after works on gardening, especially The Scented Garden (1937) and A Garden of Herbs (1920). In World War 2 she published a useful work that was reprinted several times The War-Time Vegetable Garden (1941).

AROMATIC PLANTS, BEE PLANTS AND HERBS.




The finely shredded leaves of all plants marked * are a wholesome addition to salads and turn a dull salad into an interesting one.


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