Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Spanish Meidcal Aid Committee

This is a great ephemeral item that was folded into a lot of fairly uninteresting items at a local auction recently. It is a Christmas Card with a two colour linoprint on the front. Fairly dull in that respect. But inside, is a rather bad poem about Spain and the Holy Land and the legend, "Greetings from the The Spanish Medical Aid Committee" and suddenly it is an object which is part of a story. The Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 inspired ideological support from around the world in a way that no 'foreign war' had really done before. Just recently an historically motivated individual noticed that there was nothing much on the Internet about the group and put together a page about them at schoolnet. Clearly it was a left-wing group and was supported by all the usual suspects including our friend Victor Gollancz.

On top of this though, on the back of the single-fold card we are told that it was printed by the Voluntary Printing Unit. All I can find about these people is one line in a Google search extracted from a journal article I can't access which suggests that they were a left-wing printing cooperative formed in 1939. They don't appear to have 'published' anything according to the British Library Catalogue but then, as printer rather than publisher, it's not completely surpising that they don't appear.

I've just finished reading Isherwood's Mr Norris Changes Trains set in pre-war Berlin: the thirties are sometimes portrayed as a rather dull period in history but actually there was a great deal of passion around, of every ideological colour. This Chrismas card is a real touching-point for that sense of rolling up one's sleeves and getting stuck-in.

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