Invalid Delicacies

Fortnum & Mason Invalid Delicacies order paper 1920sInvalid is a word one seldom hears these days. It’s certainly not a word found on a greeting card in WHSmith, or one of the more hallucinatory greeting card shops of which Shelf Appeal can hardly speak.

But it is a good word. And Fortnum & Mason used it a great deal in the 1920s and 1930s when selling their Invalid Delicacies, morsels of tasty comestibles packaged together to tempt the poorly back to health.

This slip of paper for ordering came inside an equally handsome Fortnum direct mail booklet: A Commentary – this number concerns Invalid Delicacies, from around 1924. Whilst the booklet is lovely, the ephemerist loves the even rarer slip of paper inside those pieces of paper. Similar in layout and artwork, it is just a nice nice thing.

The woodcuts on both the booklet and the order slip here are by W Hendy, who, when Edward Bawden wasn’t, was doing superlative illustrations for Fortnum’s printed things. The Invalid Delicacies Food Department was run by one Stuart Menzies. Who, according to Wiki went on to become a copy-writer and started his own advertising agency, Stuart’s Advertising Agency Limited, on the back of persuading Fortnum’s to publish these very commentaries.

The list of delicacies to tempt is perhaps not so nice as the illustrations. Not for a vegetarian, anyway. Turtle Soup, Chicken Broth Jelly and half pint jars of various Calves’ feet pickled in various things. Why, it’s enough to make you feel poorly all over again.



Katherine C. James

Love this. When it arrived in my email I read its title as in “not valid” rather than as in “unwell individual,” and was initially pondering why Fortnum & Mason had abandoned validity. The work on this piece is beautiful. I do enjoy your blog.

shelf appeal

Thanks so much for your comment. It’s that unusual word ‘invalid’ isn’t it? It reads oddly, and looks slightly odd on the page to us, too.

Martin R

Sorry that I’m late! In an 1899 book Edith Nesbit mentions “a place in Holloway where they made preserved tongues and invalid delicacies” (Treasure Seekers, ch. 3). I googled the unfamiliar term and ended up here. Thanks for explaining!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *