Saturday, February 14, 2009

Old Boys' Book Collectors Part Three

“The London Journal that I knew ceased some years ago; but it was continued in several different forms, until with the issue dated 27 Jan1912, it finally disappeared as a separate publication after the title had been kept up for sixty-five years. It was merged in another weekly paper, full of interest and amusement, called Spare Moments, belonging to the same publishers, Messrs. C. and W. Bradley & Co. of Fetter Lane. They have been kind enough to answer some of a series of questions I put to them, whence I learn that they have a complete set of the London Journal, and also possess the woodblocks of the illustrations from which good proofs could still be taken. Gilbert’s illustrations in the reprints in book-form were printed from stereotype copies.” -- Ralph Thomas, N&Q 11s. VIII. 23 Aug 1913, p.142.

Associated with the old boys book collectors were collectors of a different sort, men like Ralph Thomas, who I introduced back in Part One under the name Oliver Hamst in an 1877 post to N&Q. I’m pleased to see that Thomas alluded to this old article on Highwayman Literature in a footnote (N&Q 11s. VII. 22 Mar 1913) thirty-six years later. He had apparently had a change of heart.

“On looking now at the illustrations to Miles’s ‘Dick Turpin,’ I think more of them than I used to do. They are no doubt rough, but they appear to me to be vigorous and full of life, and the execution as good as an artist and wood engraver could afford to put into them at the low price they were probably paid.”

Unlike the old boys book collectors, who favoured boys story papers, Ralph Thomas collected the London Journal for its John Gilbert illustrations. In 1913 Thomas began a long series of articles titled “Sir John Gilbert, J. F. Smith, and the London Journal.” I think its safe to say Frank Jay’s Peeps into the Past (1919) was largely inspired by Thomas’s original explorations. Thomas is often quoted in Peeps about such subjects as W. West’s Theatrical Prints, the Skelt’s, and the London Journal.

To begin we will first have a look at an article posted two years earlier by Herbert Clayton, “Sir John Gilbert as Illustrator,” which was taken up by Ralph Thomas and largely expanded upon. “Sir John Gilbert as Illustrator” appeared in N&Q on 30 Dec 1911.

“Sir John Gilbert, J. F. Smith, and the London Journal” runs to over twenty pages from 22 Mar 1913 to 17 Oct 1914, so I will just post the beginning of his informative articles and move on.

I don’t have much information on the activities of John James Wilson and the old boys book collectors from T. P.’s Weekly between 1913 and 1917. They probably sought out literary papers with letter columns where they could continue sharing information for their scrapbooks and attract new enthusiasts. John James Wilson contributed an article on "M.J. Errym" to a newspaper, Bootle Times 9 Jun 1916, probably on a Queries page. They may also have moved on to the pages of Spare Moments, which had a queries and replies page.

They were definitely in Vanity Fair an Amateur Magazine, edited by Joseph Parks, which ran 31 numbers in 3 volumes from June 1917 to May & June 1927 then changed title to The Collector’s Miscellany a bimonthly Journal for Collectors. I don’t know when The Collector’s Miscellany ended its run but it was still being published in March 1935.

In 1919 Spare Moments, which had absorbed the old London Journal, published Frank Jay’s brilliant book-length “Peeps into the Past; being a history of old-time periodicals, journals and books” in instalments. It ran from 26 Oct.1918 to 19 February 1921. Frank Jay wrote of this series of articles in 1922 that they appeared “in Spare Moments (London Journal supplement) ... the whole series of articles numbering 50, can be seen in the British Museum Library (Press number 11850, v. 33).” The publisher was F. A. Wickhart, 4, Crane Court, Fleet-street.

One of the contributors to Spare Moments was Herbert John Allingham, nephew of Albert John Allingham (Ralph Rollington). A caricature by Tom B. showing “Wild Uncle John” in a drunk and disheveled state appears in Julia Thorogood's 1991 book Margery Allingham a Biography.

Continued in our next...

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