London in your pocket

London Craftsman by Marjorie Quennell 1939

This little book London Craftsman is a common thing. Not in its looks or content, you understand. But it is easy to find and cheap to acquire.

Written by Marjorie Quennell as ‘a guide to museums having relics of old trades’ it is perhaps the 1939 equivalent of #MuseumWeek. It was published by the London Passenger Transport Board. They lived at 55 Broadway, London, Charles Holden’s epic 1920s home for the Underground Electric Railways Company. Decorated, here and there, with Eric Gill and Jacob Epstein pretties.

This book was ‘One of the London-in-your-pocket books, 6d’. Apart from the lovely idea of having London in your pocket it offered: ‘Many guides in one and 24 photographs as well.’

Quennell was, at the time this was published, a curator at the Geffrye Museum, where (Wikipedia tells us) she installed those period rooms that never really seem to have changed. Naturally there is a nice fat entry on the Geffrye in the book. She had been married to architect Charles Quennell and together they  researched and wrote on social history and archaeology.

The tone of the book is nice. Quennell goes through each museum looking for examples of early trades. For someone interested in the history of museums it provides nice snippets.  The Science Museum (where I worked out a good few years) has: ‘..under Sir Henry Lyons’ charge become human. It has stooped to its public, and in simple language explains to the schoolboy and the the man in the street as much of the marvels of science and industry as it is possible for them to understand.’

The look of this book is neat and tidy. The paper wrap cover is a lovely bit of typographic design. I normally like a pattern or a picture on a cover. But this book succeeds despite the lack.

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