Thursday, August 05, 2010

Corvine Patterned Paper Revisited

This is one of those slightly spooky coincidental things that happen from time to time. The first thing that happened was that I pulled from a box of books, about a week ago, this copy of Advice by Hilaire Belloc (Harvill Press, London, 1960). Immediately I was put in mind of the patterned paper used on the cover of The Bull Against the Enemy of the Anglican Race, a fairly rare piece of Corvine polemic edited by A. J. A. Symons and published in 50 copies for the Corvine Society meeting of 1929. I blogged about this paper about a year ago and about how I also found it on a bound copy of Modern Russian Songs. As soon as I looked up my own blog entry however, I saw that, although very similar, the two were not the same. Also, the printing of the paper on the two books in that previous post was done, in both instances, from a woodblock. In the case of Advice, the cover hasn't been anywhere near a woodblock.

The first coincidence was that from the very same box of books I pulled a copy of Room and Book by Paul Nash (Scribners, New York, 1932) which, in its discussion of patterned papers in bookbinding includes a page on which two samples are tipped in. They are, of course, the paper from The Bull and the pattern used on Advice. This is great news because it also attributes the papers, the Corvine one to Althea Willoughby and the Belloc to Enid Marx, both of whom designed the pattern for the Curwen Press. I then notice that although published by an operation called The Harvill Press, the Belloc book was actually printed by yes, The Curwen Press.

Marx, it appears cut something of a dash through early 20th century design and worked at one stage for Penguin. She is best known perhaps for her design of the pattern for the heavy-duty upholstery of the seats on the London Underground. Willoughby is a slightly shadowy character to me still although I guess she must have been very well regarded in her time as she was one of the illustrators for Faber and Gwyer's Ariel poem pamphlets, in such company as Barnett Freedman, Eric Gill, Blair Hughs-Stanton, and of course, Paul Nash.

So then the list of coincidences continues and, having not spoken to anyone about any of this, the original blog post gets the following comment from the long-time Corvo collector Bobby T McFarland:

This paper has been reproduced as plate 8 in "Patterns for Papers," one of the Victoria and Albert Museum Colour Books (1987). In the introduction by Sarah Postgate she credits the artist Althea Willoughby as the creator, who worked for the Curwen Press in the 1920s and 1930s. No information is given about the artist. The footnote dates the paper 1929, the year of the publication of "The Bull."
This paper apparently was not reproduced in "A Specimen Book of Pattern Papers Designed for and in Use at the Curwen Press," published in 1928.
It is perhaps no coincidence that my proof copy of "The Quest for Corvo" published in 1934 is bound in this same patterned paper.

And then, today, just as I am contemplating putting together this post, I am browsing through the poetry shelves of a local bookshop and what should leap from the shelves and thrust itself into my hand but this book of poems by Sheilah H. Hirst, And only the Silence shall Sing... (Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1937) with the Enid Marx paper covering its boards, this time printed in nice thick ink, straight from the woodblocks.
Well, you wait a year for information about a patterned paper and it all comes along at once...


M.O.M. said...

I find that pretty interesting. Thank you for posting your observations. I had a copy or 2 of Advice in my shop. Reason to look for it again.
Joanne Hendricks

Callum said...

Hi Joanne,
Thanks for dropping by. I just googled your shop, what a wonderful idea to have a shop devoted entirely to cook books. I know there are other specialist dealers but I wonder how many other actual shops there are in the world - can't be many surely.

M.O.M. said...

Hi Callum, I don't know if you can this open link, but I thought it was a pretty odd illustration.
I have your BLOG bookmarked as I have other design links-- Duncan Grant for one, Beatrice Wood.

Who links to my website?