Sep 14 2011: Frontispiece and Endpapers from Everyday Knowledge in Pictures (Odhams Press, 1940s)
One of the odd things about growing up in an extended family where handed down rather than new things was the norm is that many of your cultural reference points slip into oddly oblique relationships with different eras and expectations. Which is why I remember spending much of my childhood drinking in encyclopaedias published thirty years earlier and having my first exposure to music in a kind of imaginary era composed of both the New Wave scene and the early 1960s, courtesy of my dad and uncles’ records, rather than the time during which I actually listened to the sounds that were available: on some level Jimmy Ruffin, The Shadows, B52s, Temptations, Patti Smith and Louis Armstrong will always be exact contemporaries, however perfectly I understand that they all come from different places and times.
This kind of randomness might explain why the frontispiece and endpapers pictured here (from a late 1940s book exploring science and engineering – its various chapters flit from the construction of the London Underground to power stations, dams and wireless transmitters, from chemistry to the organisation of the Solar System and Royal Mail network) strike such a chord now, despite having been designed and circulated two generations before my time. As earlier posts expressing admiration for cooling towers or lunar expeditions might imply, the imagination doesn’t always absorb its formative influences from its surroundings or its values from the culture it lives in, but instead constructs its Heath-Robinson edifices from all kinds of randomly circulating ephemera and imagery.