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?