Britain in pictures

Advert for Mellotex with Britain in Pictures books

The Britain in Pictures series of books was published in the late 1930s and 1940s by Collins. It was edited by the then literary editor of the Spectator, Walter James Turner.

The overall aim of the series was to tell a social history of Britain, perhaps spurred on by the war and a subsequent re-appropriation of nationalism in all its forms. Although the series ran with the subtitle ‘The British People in Pictures’, the books were as much about writing as pictures. The roll call of authors reads like a veritable who’s-who of the literary, political and arts worlds of the period. From John Piper on British Romantic Artists, Cecil Beaton on English Photographers and Edith Sitwell on English Women to Graham Greene on British Dramatists and John Betjeman on English Cities and Small Towns.

A uniformly designed set of over 100 books, they look great as a collection. This image (from a 1947 book promoting Britain abroad) is an advertisement for the Tullis Russell paper company. Each book in the Britain in Pictures series, it says, was printed on their Mellotex cartridge paper. The advertisement features 3 small model men, standing amongst a world built from Britain in Pictures. It’s all a bit Incredible Shrinking Man and Gulliver (the experimental Russian communist puppet version from 1935, of course…) rolled into one.

And, really, what could be nicer than living in a world of books?


Robert Allan

I have (I think!) the complete collection, plus some of the ombibus editions and the history and bibliography of Britain in Pictures by Michael Carney. Any clue about the value of the complete collection? Any offers?

shelf appeal

No idea of such fiscal matters, I’m afraid. Abebooks would be a first stop, maybe?


Talking of value, I found “British Statesmen” in a box of books outside a bookshop in Totnes in October 2013. It was free! I did feel obliged to go in and buy a book though.


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