Tag Archive: 1950s

Literature Art Music

“The publication of Perspectives and its sale at a low price that will make it readily available to students has been made possible through a grant from The Ford Foundation, established by the family of Henry Ford. The Foundation is dedicated to works of philanthropy, social welfare and education throughout the world. It is one of the objectives of The Ford Foundation to further friendship and understanding among the peoples of all countries through the exchange of cultural materials. Perspectives will be devoted chiefly to art, letters, and thought of the United States, but its sponsors are also preparing plans for activities aimed at presenting the cultural achievements of many other lands to American audiences.”

It was a couple of months ago now that I picked up two copies of Perspectives from Tombland Books in Norwich. Being a huge design geek when it comes to anything forgotten and retro, two magazines from the 50s was hardly something I was going to not buy. It’s also an added bonus that one of them, is the first ever issue. Now I’ve never heard of Perspectives, or any other design publications pre-1980 for the matter, but by the looks of things this was pretty groundbreaking stuff. I mean, the copyright year is 1952, so I’d be willing to be that a tri-monthly publication focusing on the arts was quite rare to say the least. They’re not even really magazines per say, at least not by todays standards, as they’re bound and of the same quality stock as your average paperback book. Along with issue 1 I picked up number 13 for it’s Bass-ian style cover:

Their content too, is structured and presented much more like a book, which gives these a pretty intellectual feel. And though the emphasis is firmly on ‘the arts’, they’re very well designed typographically. It may have been the 50s, but decent layout is pretty much timeless. This page below is a good example, retro yet intelligent and articulate.

When it comes to the actual articles, alot of it goes over my head, at times sounding more like a textbook with stuff like an essay by Jacques Barzun titled ‘America’s Romance with Practicality’, but there’s some really cool stuff from then new and exciting artists in America. Here’s a couple of the ones I really dug…

Like so much of the stuff I put on Coffee Stained Papers, these are relics of a part of the creative industry’s past that really shouldn’t be sitting outside a second-hand bookshop for £1 each. They should be preserved, cherished and most importantly appreciated. I think it’s weird that these things appear to have been pretty much forgotten about, as several Google searches only yielded a smattering of info and a couple of designers like myself who randomly came across a copy and dug the covers (like this dude here). Which is a shame, as the combined effort and progressive thinking that went into getting something like this published worldwide in the 1950s is a truly wonderful thing. Which I think is a nice note to sign off on, and I’ll leave you with a double page spread of the people responsible for bringing Perspectives to life (I particularly like the look of Lionel Trilling, what a fantastically 50s looking bloke, cut from the same cloth as the great Rod Serling, cigarette on the go, eat your heart out Don Draper).


5 Penguins and a Sega Mega Drive

We’ve been talking about it for a few weeks now, but this morning my pals and I finally made is to the (locally) famous Kessingland car boot sale in search of whatever old rubbish sparked our geeky interests, which if you know me at all or read this thing on a regular basis will know, has gone into overdrive as of late. I have some really fond memories of this thing, going with my Dad every month or so when I was like 11, buying cool VHS tapes (The Evil Dead and Hellraiser flicks in particular stick out in my mind) that we would then sit down and watch in the afternoon. My father raised me on a steady diet of action, sci-fi and horror movies, so a car-boot sale full of Die Hards, Predators and Terminators for 50p was actually pretty exciting. Obviously no end of other crap is on offer, not just films, but that’s the main thing I remember from my childhood, which is pretty cool really. Most parents these days introduce their kids to smoking, drugs and sponging off benefits. My Dad chose to give me Schwarzenegger, Cameron and Robocop, because, well he’s an absolute legend. But I digress…

The last time I came must have been at least 7 years ago, most likely more, but some things as they say, never change. Rows of cars, tables full of random bric-a-brac and hoards of people. This place is still very, very popular. What amazed me and my comrades though, was that where there was once tables and tables of VHS videos for £1, there are now tables and tables of DVD’s for £1, which just doesn’t seem right. DVD’s still seem like a fairly new technology to me, and I even saw a few Blu-Rays for sale, honestly, at a freaking car boot sale. Madness. The first thing I picked up was a Penguin from 1966, hidden amongst a load of Catherine Cookson novels, for the staggering price of 35p:

Part of a series of Penguin’s that use cover illustration by Renato Fratini, I dig the mix of rough and elegant. The almost photo-perfect faces coupled with the nightmarish, quickly sketched background gives it a nicely dark ambience. For 35p though, this could have been any old Penguin and I would have bought it. We then came to the retro gaming stall, where laid out on a giant blue tarp sat two Sega Mega Drives, a Master System, a Sega Saturn and a massive array of games, boxed and loose cartridges. My friends and I have been on a bit of a retro-gaming trip recently, spurred on by my own obsession with the old and because everyone my age just feels so fondly about the consoles of their 16-bit youth. I was very tempted to buy the old school model Mega Drive for £15, but my good friend Maurice had his heart set on a Model II (the smaller one with the red buttons) complete with original box, and for the reasonable sum of £25, making that two of my closest friends now with Mega Drives. The need to own one seemed a little less pressing, so I’ll wait until next time to purchase my slice of geek nirvana.

The next item I did buy was this fantastic West Side Story vinyl LP for 50p…

Saul Bass‘ (whose work I’ve admired since college) iconic design really stood out and I actually think all the extra type that’s been added looks pretty nice. Very retro, and a cool as hell object to simply have around my desk. After all, West Side Story is pretty great. I also really dig the CBS logo in the corner, a bit more 60s awesome for you. As well as the outer cover, the inner sleeve is pretty interesting too, as it doubles as a magazine for the record company:

The Inner Sleeve’, man the retro-ness just keeps on coming. Loving the 3D block typeface they’ve used on the title, as well the duelling trumpets. The whole idea is pretty neat, and I didn’t realise they did it. Nowadays you just get extra flyers in the album cases promoting the label’s latest releases (which 9 times out of 10 I glance at and throw away), but back in 1961 it was an integral part of the packaging.

Next up is The Action Book for Boys, which although I’ve removed the sticker, was around 30p I think…

There has been a big resurgence in the ‘boys annual’ style book in the last few years, with titles like ‘The Dangerous Book for Boys’ occupying many shelves in places like Waterstones. I think it’s other people like myself really digging the old, prim and proper style of publication our Dad’s used to get when they were little. Tales of Nazi plots and boy scouts saving the day from a group of diamond thieves or something. There’s something quite posh about them, but with age comes fondness and this book has a wealth of great (and by ‘great’ I mean kinda stupid and dated, but fun) stories and illustrations. The one that really stood out to me, is ‘The Mountie Gets His Man’ by Naunton Lane, which tells the story of Constable Bill Dockley of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who ends up battling wolves in the woods for some reason. The illustrations are pretty awesome to say the least:

Next I picked up four more Penguin books (well spotted Zach) for 50p each from a lovely old couple. These ones are the older, colour band versions from the 50s which I really like. As his wife was popping them in a bag for me the guy said, “Once you’re done with them, pass them on to your children.” Which I thought was really nice and reflects the long and varied lives books like these have. Passing from numerous owners, traversing the globe, which is quite literally the case with ‘Elizabeth and Essex’ which proudly displays a sticker on its inside page from Foyles, a book seller based in Cape Town.

And finally I spotted this beautiful set of oil paints, which just looks so lovely. I can’t find a year or date anywhere, but it looks pretty old, at a guess I’d say 60s / 70s. The price said £2 but the lady heard me saying I’d buy it for the box alone and said I could have it for 50p. Hell. Yes.

Aside from the cool as hell outer box art (with that lovely CMYK colour spot design), the paints themselves look great and have wonderful names like ‘Zinc Titanium‘, ‘Burnt Sienna‘ and ‘Phthalocyanine‘, whatever that means. One tube is missing, but I couldn’t care less, I would have paid 50p for the empty box, the paints are just a bonus.

All in all it was a fantastic trip out, it brought back alot of nice memories and I got some crazy awesome stuff to clutter my desk and shelves up with. Good. Times. (There will also be a Mega Drive centric post once we get it all hooked up and working, so stay tuned fellow nostalgists!)