blog

Robert Reid

Notgeld

Out of the darkest days in Germany during World War I came NOTGELD, the bright, utterly charming and exquisite accomplishment of German graphic art that will never be seen again. The days were indeed dark, as the Allies had blockaded Germany and vital materièl was in short supply—especially silver, nickel, and copper used to mint coins. Being in such short supply, German towns, cities, and states soon started issuing paper notes to replace the small denominations usually found in metal coinage.

Since “Notgeld” means Emergency Money, it was a singularly apt term and the paper notes proliferated from 1915 to1922 until 63,000 different notes had been issued by 3,600 sources. In the end, notes were produced by companies, steamship lines, shopkeepers, and even Prisoner-of-War camps. Continue Reading…

Railroad postage stamps

I started collecting model trains in the early 1970s in Montreal, and became a dedicated train buff from then on. Subsequently I amassed a goodly collection of Canadian, American, British and French locomotives and rolling stock, mostly steam but some diesel. So when I started collecting postage stamps in New Haven , it was natural that I should include a special collection of the many stamps covering railroads. I was totally surprised to find so many currently being published by post offices around the world—many more than those on ships and airplanes. Which just goes to prove that trains still hold a special place in the hearts of mankind. Indeed, so special that they are having a resurgence of building all new lines as a sign of “progress.” And in Western countries there are a rash of short-run scenic railroads run by railroad buffs using equipment they have taken great pains to restore. Terry and I even got a book together about the ones in North America and had it published in New York by E.P. Dutton. Continue Reading…

Playing cards

Although playing cards were invented in 9th century China, with the idea spreading throughout the world to Persia, Egypt and India, it was not until the invention of printing that the playing cards we know could be possible. They were printed from woodcuts and coloured by hand at first, and later the colours were stenciled on before colour printing took over. The idea of four “suits” was invented in Europe, along with “Kings” and other royalty by the late 14th century, so that placks of 56 cards contained a King, Queen, Knight and Knave in each suit. The King was the highest value card until the late 15th century, when the “Ace” replaced it, being adapted from Dicing. Cards with their value printed in the corners grew from 1700 on and in English packs the “Knave” became known as the “Jack.” Then it was found that square corners became tattered and could give away particular cards, so round corners were adapted, along with backs printed with designs to hide wear and tear and to discourage tell-tale writing on the backs. Jokers are a recent addition to a pack of cards and have no standardized appearance, so each publisher tends to design them separately from the other cards, adding their own variety of illustration, so that Jokers have themselves turned into collectible items. Continue Reading…

In memoriam — Geoffrey Spencer

Editor’s note: this memorial for Geoffrey Spenser was created in March 2015 when he passed away. Geoffrey was survived by his wife Elizabeth. Continue Reading…

Art Post Cards Collected by Lucie Lambert During Her World Travels

Art reproductions on post cards caught my idea as I left the great museums I was visiting on my travels. Over the years they became my imaginary collection of artworks, drawn from every era and culture and showing every technique and style in human history, from the Lascaux cave paintings to our own contemporaries. However, a collection of this kind quickly becomes a disorganized mass of treasures sleeping unseen in boxes and files, so it is a pleasure to single out some special ones for publication. Continue Reading…

1930s sheet music from the collection of Terry Berger

During the 1930s Tin Pan Alley produced the most tuneful popular music the world will probably ever see. Because the phonograph was still being developed and was not in general use, the populace produced their own music at home—generally on the piano. The success of a new song was gauged by the sale of the sheet music printed up so people could play it at home. And what wonderfully designed covers were produced to attract customers in the music stores. Art Deco was the style of the day, and here it is in abundance. And the performers’ photographs have become an archive of the great professional musicians, band leaders, and singers who were the superstars of their day. For a while Terry went through a mania of collecting sheet music and has boxes of it, from which a very few of the more interesting ones are shown here. Continue Reading…

Canada’s entry in the Oxford Bodleian Library’s celebrations of 500 years of William Shakespeare

This is Canada’s entry in the Oxford Bodleian Library’s celebrations of 500 years of William Shakespeare.

They asked printers around the world to submit a broadsheet of one of his sonnets printed by letterpress. Ours is printed by Alex Widen of Clinton, BC, a former Vancouver printer and colleague of Jim Rimmer. Ingeburg van Hammerstein is a local artist with whom I did a book of Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady” sonnets. Continue Reading…

Luggage labels of Canadian airlines

CANADIAN COLONIAL AIRWAYS. Founded in Montreal in 1929 and ceased operation in 1942 when it was reformed as Colonial Airlines, an American airline later absorbed by Eastern Air Lines. Continue Reading…

Collecting beer coasters

Anyone with a graphic sense must be delighted with the variety of designs on beer coasters that are slapped down on the bar to await your impending glass of beer. Some are marvels of graphic design and well worth saving. The few shown here are Canadian and American, but the British also produce some collector’s items. My favorites here are the Checker Cab coaster because I loved those Checker Cabs that made life in New York bearable, the Egyptian Pyramid coaster because I’m crazy about all things Egyptian (ancient Egypt, that is) and the Moosehead Beer coaster that reminds me of the many happy times I’ve enjoyed that fine Canadian Lager in a variety of settings. Continue Reading…

Collecting book matches

Truly an integral part of the “Good Old Days,” book matches are so bright and cheerful, and so full of memories, that everyone saved them. I wonder how many collections are out there, and what memories they would bring back if we could see some of them. Continue Reading…