blog

Robert Reid

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…

Vancouver artists photographed by Yukiko Onley

Working quietly away over the years, Yukiko Onley has amassed a large collection of photographs of Vancouver’s artists from all disciplines. Because Yukiko is herself a world-class portrait photographer, these photographs are well worth looking at, so a small number of them are reproduced here. Yukiko took up photography while living with her husband, Toni Onley. After his untimely death she became a professional photographer and turned out to be particularly good with people and children. Continue Reading…

Chinese paper rubbings

The first form of printing consisted of rubbings from Chinese tombs shortly after the invention of paper at least 1,500 years ago. Numbers of copies could be made from the carved stones to propagate cultural myths, but Imperial fiats and regulations were also carved in stone, with copies of the rubbings disseminated. That sounds like printing to me. Continue Reading…