Small picture books

English Chintz V&A book

Shelf Appeal can deny no longer the presence of at least one collection on the shelves. Of small books, booklets really, from the V&A museum in a super series called Small Picture Books, published in the main in the 1950s by HMSO.

They are of a perfect size. They are picture books of funny old collections in the V&A. They are proper curatorial connoisseurship as it once was but is no more. Except for a few surviving curators who have not been ‘let go’ from their museum yet because they are hidden in a small office on an unknown staircase in a quiet part of the museum and everyone has forgotten that they are there.

The small volume seen here is English Chintz Small Picture Book No. 22, first published in 1955, followed with this second edition of 1967. Not a big seller then. It seems to have had the same cover on both versions. A light, delicate and bright Roger Nicholson design. Nicholson has had some research and writing action over at the Quad Royal blog, Their content very often crosses over with that seen here. And as the Quads say, there isn’t a lot to find out about Mr Nicholson. He did some very nice textile designs in his time, I do know that. But no chintz that I am aware of.

English Chintz has some very nice pictures of other nice textiles in it though. In black and white of course. But still nice. The text is mercifully sparse. What there is is cumbersome enough: ‘In view of the uncertainty that has hitherto prevailed concerning the dating of English printed textiles, only those fabrics have been illustrated which could be dated exactly, or within a very narrow margin of error, by reference to precisely dated evidence such as pattern-books, excise stamps, design registration numbers, etc.

That sort of writing is not going to win any more fans for chintz. But Mr Nicholson’s cover just might tip a few design types over that way.

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