Thursday, April 24, 2014

1930s Modern Publicity

"What gives our dreams their 
daring is that they can be realised" 
— Le Corbusier

The scans below are from two early issues of the commercial art magazine, 'Modern Publicity'. The inaugural 1930 edition was actually the seventh publication in the annual series that had evolved through a number of titles, commencing in 1924 as 'Posters and Publicity'.

'Modern Publicity' was renamed 'World Advertising Review' in 1980 and it appears to have ceased publication in 1991. The images in this post below were scanned from the 1930 and 1933 yearly magazines. (mouse-over images : title tags have 'some' publishing information)

"Ask me to review the last decade and I could fill a book with the story of how a small and distrusted and inexpert industry called advertising rose to the power and position and proud promise it holds today. [..]

Within a few years the advertisements we are producing today will have been forgotten. But the spirit which produced them, the new and adventurous attitude of mind which is growing up around us at this time, will live on. A great revolution is taking place. It is taking place in architecture, in furniture, in painting, in writing, in music, in habits, in thought, and in outlook. 'Humanity has struck its tents, and is once more on the march!'

I believe this revolution is as yet only in its earliest beginnings. I believe that we have not even begun to visualise the transformation it will eventually bring about in every theatre of human activity. [..]

There is a new spirit - in road making, in architecture, in engineering, in advertising. Where it will take us eventually no man can forecast. The picture of the future in my mind is stupendous. We move today in what the mathematicians call geometric progression. Each fresh discovery leads us to make ten others. [..]

Twenty-five years ago man had not flown. Twenty years ago the escalator was but a dream. Ten years ago the speed and smoothness of the six-wheel motor-bus would have seemed incredible. Ten-five-two years ago, the British industry did not possess the vital power to move men's minds which breathes from these advertisements."
Sir William Crawford KBE - 1930

The Arc


Putzt Alles

East Coast by London and North Eastern Railway (LNER)


To Regents Park


Lady butterfly car

Cup Final


"The descriptive epithet of [this] year 1930 must be that of a year of trade depression. On both sides of the Atlantic there have been great upheavals. Unemployment has become a world phenomenon. In prosperous America it has assumed the dimensions of a problem. In England it has reached the two-million mark. [There is a special] acuteness in Germany; and there are signs that even the stable and equable position of France is not likely to escape all the effects of this general slump.

In these gloomy circumstances the message of Advertising to industry is one of hope and adventure. Now is the time to move forward and not back, to show daring rather than caution, to infuse a fresh spirit of energy and experiment into the operations of industry rather than to accept failure and consolidate depression. For advertising is the irrigating stream of distribution, draining the flooded areas and carrying fertility into the desert; and when industrial centres are choked by over-production and on the other hand the consumer is evidently in need of commodities, modern publicity has an important part to play.

'Modern Publicity' - this volume - therefore, is an incitement to fresh efforts. It is an indication of new lines of thought, new avenues of marketing. It shows how four of the keenest brains of today regard the commercial problems of today and tomorrow, and how best they think all the many forms of advertising may be used to cooperate in order to give their maximum assistance in bringing about industrial revival and success."

Dewar's Wonderful Whisky...

Decca for Dancing

Ideal Recipe Book...

East Coast Frolics



Exhibition of Industrial Art...(Manchester, 1930s)

Shell Oil and Petrol

Austin Beed's of Regent St w.


Programme for Bon Marche


"In the general style of American press advertisements of today there is evident a freshness which is very attractive and not a little due to the renewed vigour of their illustrations.

In the same way Europe became enamoured of a very geometrical and abstract form of advertising, from which any sort of realistic appeals was excluded. Spots, squares, blunt arrows, sans serif type - and purely typographical layout - were the order of the day. Admitted that an advertisement must have a backbone; that it must be solidly based on some scheme or foundation of pattern; but this also is a thing that can be, and has been, overdone. The clean look of the typographical page, the mysterious sparkle of its symbolic ornament at fist provoked interest because they were new and strong; but their strength is becoming wearisome and new devices must be found. [..]

During the economic changes [that have gone in the last decade] 'Modern Publicity'has maintained a steady and consistent level of the best in advertising, and in the third year of a great depression we venture to think its standard is as high as ever and in some respects higher than before. The high level of skill and invention which advertising displays is a good omen for the future."
Introduction to 'Modern Publicity' - 1933

  • All the images above were scanned by me from [1] 'Modern Publicity - Commercial Art Annual' 1930, Edited by FA Mercer and W Gaunt. Published by The Studio Limited, 44 Leicester Square, London & [2] 'Modern Publicity - the Annual of Commercial Art and Industry' 1933-1934, Edited by FA Mercer and W Gaunt. Published by The Studio Limited, 44 Leicester Square, London & The Studio Publications Inc. 381 4th Avenue New York.
  • See the Designers Books post on 'Modern Publicity' magazine, in which they display cover image scans from more recent decades.
  • Quad Royal also features scans from 'Modern Publicity': taken from the adverts/posters inside issues from the late 1950s | early 1960s.
  • Thanks Colin R!!
  • This post first appeared on the BibliOdyssey website.
  • A variety of 'Modern Publicity'-related material on Amazon

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Alphabet & Writing Copybook

'The Writing Pen: a new book containing several alphabets and various moral judgements as well as descriptive formulae, bills of exchange, maritime policies, waybills, and other trade writings in the current style, with a final table of Roman numerals' is an approximate title translation for this slender 18th century Italian volume for improving handwriting skills.

[Each image has been cropped back to the plate border from the full page 
layout, and most plates were rotated to get them nearer to true horizontal]

La penna da scrivere - Francesco Polanzani, 1768

La penna da scrivere - Francesco Polanzani, 1768 a

La penna da scrivere - Francesco Polanzani, 1768 b

La penna da scrivere - Francesco Polanzani, 1768 c

La penna da scrivere - Francesco Polanzani, 1768 d

La penna da scrivere - Francesco Polanzani, 1768 e

La penna da scrivere - Francesco Polanzani, 1768 g

La penna da scrivere - Francesco Polanzani, 1768 h

La penna da scrivere - Francesco Polanzani, 1768 i

La penna da scrivere - Francesco Polanzani, 1768 j

La penna da scrivere - Francesco Polanzani, 1768 k

La penna da scrivere - Francesco Polanzani, 1768 l

La penna da scrivere - Francesco Polanzani, 1768 o

La penna da scrivere - Francesco Polanzani, 1768 p

Francesco (Felice) Polanzani (1700-?1783) entered into an engraving apprenticeship in Venice under the tutelage of Giovanni Pitteri before settling in Rome in 1742. The following 20 years are regarded as Polanzani's most active professional years, with the majority of his engraving and etching output being modelled after paintings by the Masters (see, for instance, this web set at Thorvaldsens Musem in Denmark).

While in Rome, Polanzani became a friend - and/or student - of the renowned architectural illustrator, Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Polanzani is perhaps best remembered for his eccentric portrayal of Piranesi:
"In the famous portrait [1750], etched by Felice Polanzani but surely devised by the subject himself, Piranesi appears as the reincarnation of an antique bust looming over an ivy-covered slab of stone.." (ED Howe, 'The Art of Exaggeration' 1995)
'The Writing Pen..' (the book seen above) was designed by Felice Polanzani and published in Rome in 1768 by P&G Samonati. This copybook consists of a title page and nineteen engraved plates featuring alphabets and writing samples reflecting contemporary business and letter styles. It may have been aimed at clerks and office worker-types of the day, who could practice their handwriting using the commercial letter and fine cursive samples as models.

The founding curator of the Printing and Graphic Arts Collection at Harvard University's Houghton Library, Philip Hofer, assembled an impressive array of writing and penmanship manuals in the first half of the 20th century; including Polanzani book. So remarkable was his curatorial & acquisitional skills, that a book devoted to Hofer's legacy, the Hofer Collection of Writing Manuals, was published by Harvard University about a decade ago: 'The Practice of Letters: The Hofer Collection of Writing Manuals, 1514-1800' (1995) by DP Becker [Harvard UP].

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Zoological Atlas

'Atlas de Zoologie : ou Collection de 100 Planches' by Paul Gervais (1844) is a supplementary volume of illustrations, originally produced for a large French series on zoology published between 1816 and 1830. The original series featured 60 written volumes and another 10 or so volumes of illustration plates. The series title: 'Dictionnaire des sciences naturelles, dans lequel on traite méthodiquement des différens êtres de la nature, considérés soit en eux-mêmes, d'après l'état actuel de nos connaissances, soit relativement à l'utilité qu'en peuvent retirer la médecine, l'agriculture, le commerce et les artes...'.

{mouse-over for plate titles; all illustrations have been lightly background cleaned}

5. CIDARITE porc-epic 5.a. Une des longues epines du meme gros 6. C. diademe 6.a. Base de l'epine gros 6.b. Tubercule mamelonne gross 7. C. rayonne

1. ECHINOMETRE artichaut. 1.a. Le meme depouille 2. OURSIN pustuleux. 2.a. orifice des ovaires 3. OUR. melon de mer. 3.a. orif. des ov'es 3.b. portion du tet d'epouille montrant les ambulacres grossi


described in 1840s as Actinozoa (obsolescent term)




molluscs - gastropods or snails

6-legged insects

spider species

head of dodo

bird with elaborate head plumage display

bird of paradise with beautiful neck colouring


Cuscus species climbing on tree branch

shrew + numbat

koala + Tasmanian devil illustrations

large eared dog species and hyena

Paul Gervais (1816-1879) began his education in general science and medicine before specialising in palaeontology at the French Museum of Natural History in the 1830s. Soon after, Gervais was appointed to the Chair (later Dean) of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy in Montpelier in Southern France and later held professorships at the Sorbonne and the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Gervais published widely across palaeontological-related subjects including a noted supplement on French zoology/palaeontology for a series by renowned naturalist, Georges Cuvier. Gervais was one of the earliest scientists to consistently use the term dinosaur.

In a 26-page preview, Gervais provides classification details for all the species illustrated in the 'Atlas de Zoologie' (1844). The beautiful hand-coloured engravings were executed by gifted hands after designs by Prêtre, Meunier and Vaillant. It seems that one of the original editors of the enormous zoology series (1816-1830) died before this particular set of illustrations could be allocated among the supplementary volumes; thus, this later Gervais volume features some of the most curious and unusual species from across the animal world. Of particular note above (to me): dodo, koala, Tasmanian devil and Bird of Paradise.

Creative Commons License