Ephemeral Reading: Christmas and Summer Annuals in the John Johnson Collection. Guest post by Terry Hale, University of Hull

We are very privileged to have a guest post by Dr Terry Hale from the University of Hull. An expert on annuals, this festive post explores a little-known corner of the John Johnson Collection.

Cover of Ally Sloper's Summer Number, 1883
Ally Sloper’s Summer Number, 1883. JJColl: Annuals 1

Despite the considerable level of academic interest in Victorian literary culture, much of it in recent years focusing on sensation fiction, the more ephemeral publications of the era – notably, Christmas Annuals, the closely-related Summer Numbers/Annuals, and even, starting in the early 1880s, the Shilling Shocker – have fared much less well. This is all the more surprising given that such ephemeral productions, though looking back to such relatively well-documented forms as the literary annuals, gift books, and keepsakes of the 1820s and 30s, were largely a product of the same forces that gave rise to Victorian sensationalism or, in the case of those productions aimed at juvenile readers, an attempt to mitigate and channel those forces in more wholesome directions.

A large part of the problem is, of course, that such ephemeral productions have simply not survived. By and large, readers discarded such material almost as quickly as they acquired it, probably at the same time they took down their decorations in the case of Christmas Annuals or while packing their trunks before returning home from their holidays in the case of Summer Numbers, while collectors, bibliophiles and librarians have tended to view such material as unworthy of their attention. Even Shilling Shockers, with their fragile paper wrappers and far from sturdy paper spines, were hardly designed to survive more than a single railway journey.

The net result of this is that anyone seeking to research the history of such marginal publications is going to struggle to access material. Indeed, finding a substantial run – never mind a complete run from its inception in 1860 through to its demise in 1898 – of the legendary Beeton’s Christmas Annual, in which Sherlock Holmes first made his appearance in 1887, would tax the combined strength of the entire British library system. The National Library of Scotland has a number of issues, for example, as does the British Library. But between them, nothing like a complete run – and very little from the publication’s final decade despite the promise of their catalogues. In fact, this is a problem with most Christmas Annuals. Very few such publications were under the same ownership from start to finish, and it is quite clear that a change of proprietor rarely, if ever, improved distribution, especially when such changes occurred in the latter stages of a particular title’s life cycle – and this directly impacts on conservation

But if accessing Beeton’s Annual poses considerable problems for researchers, there are a great number of lesser annuals – including those attached to such standard Victorian monthly periodicals as Belgravia, London Society, or Tinsley’s Magazine – that pose no less insurmountable obstacles.

It is for this reason that the John Johnson Collection, accessible through the Bodleian’s Weston Library, is such a useful resource. For although the Collection is, like those made by other collectors, a serendipitous enterprise, it contains not only a great deal of material not available elsewhere, some of which allows us to patch the gaps in other collections, but that material comes complete with the fragile paper wrappers in which such items were originally issued. This business of wrappers is more important than one might imagine since the covers often contain information about price, publisher, year of publication, and even the name of the editor which is not repeated elsewhere. The vast majority of annuals that have survived have been bound together higgledy-piggledy without wrappers which makes even the question of assigning a date to them something of a laborious process.

More significantly, however, the John Johnson Collection has particular strengths of its own: firstly, in the field of annuals aimed at children; secondly, in the not unrelated area of annuals produced by evangelical groups; and, thirdly, with regard to the emergent sensation novel.

Cover of The Quiver Annual, 1880
The Quiver annual, 1880. JJColl: Annuals 11

Thus, Annuals Box 10 (of the thirteen box-files in which the annuals are stored) contains a useful set of the lavish Christmas Numbers (1869, 1870. 1879 to 1886) offered by The Quiver, a periodical perhaps attempting to soften its strongly evangelical stance following the death of its proprietor, John Cassell, in 1865. One of the high points of examining this set of material was the discovery of a little known story by the writer Bernard Heldman dealing with fraud (‘To Be Left Till Called For’, The Golden Mark, Christmas Number of The Quiver, 1880). Since Heldman himself was later convicted of fraud and subsequently changed his name to Richard Marsh when he started writing sensation fiction, this item is something of a curiosity.

Cover of Good Cheer, the Christmas annual of Good Words, 1877
Good cheer, the Christmas annual of Good Words. JJColl: Annuals 5

Elsewhere we find the 1877 Christmas Number of Good Words with contributions from Anthony Trollope and Margaret Oliphant (Box 5); the The Fireside Christmas Number for 1895 (again Box 5); and Paths of Peace, 1897, the Christmas Number of the Sunday Magazine (Box 11).

Another interesting body of material aimed at the children’s market, though this time of an entirely secular nature, is to be found in Box 1, which contains four Summer Numbers of Ally Sloper’s Annual (1881-1884), together with a twelve-year run of Ally Sloper’s Comic Kalendar (1876-1887). The hand behind all this material is Charles Henry Ross (1835-1923). In August, 1867 Ross published a full-page picture strip in the humorous magazine Judy, of which he was then editor. This picture strip, entitled ‘Some of the Mysteries of Loan and Discount’, introduced the character Ally Sloper – thereby creating what is now generally considered the first British comic strip. Judy was taken over by the artist Gilbert Dalziel in 1872, though Ross’s wife, Marie Duval, who had stronger graphic skills than her husband, continued to draw the Ally Sloper strips until 1879. Finally, in 1883, Ross sold his rights in Ally Sloper to Dalziel. The material gathered in the John Johnson Collection, therefore, casts considerable light on this early transitional phase in the development of the comic strip.

Cover of the first issue of Ally Sloper's Comic Kalendar, 1876.
First issue of Ally Sloper’s Comic Kalendar, 1876. JJColl: Annuals 1

 

Double spread from Ally Sloper's Comic Kalendar, 1876
Double spread from Ally Sloper’s Comic Kalendar, 1876. JJColl: Annuals 1

Ross’s work both as a writer and as a graphic artist extended far beyond Judy. During the same period, he was also supplying both Beeton’s Christmas Annual and Routledge’s Christmas Annual with comic strips as well as various skits and stories. Ross is also a significant, though largely overlooked, figure in the development of sensation fiction. It now seems likely, for example, that he was the principal author of the pseudonymous Penny Dreadful Ruth the Betrayer; or, the Female Spy (1862-63), a work which is now considered to have been the first to introduce the figure of the female detective to popular literature.

Cover of the Round Table Annual, 1890
Round Table Annual, 1890. JJColl: Annuals 11

Ross was not above mocking the conventions of sensation fiction, however, and in 1872 he published a sophisticated parody of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Mary Braddon entitled Hot and Cold; A Life and Death Search which constituted the entirety of Routledge’s Christmas Annual for that year. The John Johnson Collection does not include a copy of Hot and Cold, but it does contain two issues of a Christmas Annual entitled The Round Table (numbers for 1880 and 1890; Box 11), both containing criminous matter, of which Ross was editor. This criminous theme is picked up in other annuals, such as John Camden Hotten’s The Piccadilly Annual (1871), a work largely dedicated to Hunted Down and The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Box 9); The Englishman’s Christmas Annual (1877), a bizarre publication created by Dr Edward Kenealy, the barrister who had defended the notorious Tichborne Claimant and who was still trying to drum up public support for his client more than two years after he had been sentenced to fourteen years’ imprisonment for perjury (Box 4); and an extremely scarce copy of Remington’s Annual for Christmas 1889 (Box 10). (Remington & Co. was one of the more elusive publishers who clustered around Henrietta Street in the 1880s.)

Paradoxically, though shilling monthlies such as Belgravia and London Society were at the forefront of publishing sensation fiction in instalments, their various Christmas and Summer Annuals, though by no means devoid of interest, are relatively tame affairs.

London Society was launched by the publisher James Hogg in 1862. From the outset, it published a Christmas Annual and, starting around 1868, a Summer Number as well. However, while tracking the evolution of the Christmas Annual has been made slightly easier by the fact that, at least as far as the early years are concerned, copies are occasionally to be found in bound collections of the periodical itself, this is not the case with regard to the Summer Numbers which are very scarce.

Cover of London Society Holiday Number 1868.
London Society Holiday Number 1868. JJColl: Annuals 7

On this basis, the five copies of the London Society Summer Numbers (for  1868, 1869, 1871, 1875, and 1886) in the John Johnson Collection (Box 7) are of particular interest, not least since they all retain their bright paper wrappers. Indeed, while  the noted bibliographers Sadleir and Wolff both list their holdings of the Summer Numbers, the earliest issues they record are for 1872 (Sadleir) and 1874 (Wolff) – the John Johnson Collection, therefore, indicates a slightly earlier launch date and raises the possibility of an even earlier one.

Summer Tourist, 1871
Cover of Summer Tourist, 1871. JJColl: Annuals 11

Interestingly enough, the contents of these early Summer Numbers themselves – and we can include here Mary Braddon’s The Summer Tourist of 1871 (Box 11) – provide a fascinating glimpse of how the Victorian Miss came to terms with the new phenomenon of the middle-class family holiday. Thus, the various articles, stories, and poems, not to mention illustrations, deal with such issues as the merits of one destination over another, both at home and abroad, how to select a hotel, the advantages and disadvantages of travelling companions, picnicking, and even the etiquette and management of seaside romances.

Needless to say, other researchers will undoubtedly find other pathways through the John Johnson Collection and other points of interest along the way. There can be no doubt, however, that the Collection itself comprises a major repository of such material, a repository, moreover, that has not only been professionally catalogued but is easily accessible thanks to the helpful ministrations of the library staff though for those unfamiliar with the Bodleian it is certainly worth sending an email a few days in advance of a personal visit.

An index to the Annuals is online via the John Johnson Collection website

Admissions procedures are at:  http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/johnson/visit/researching-in-person and http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/using/getting-a-readers-card

 

 

 

Woven silk postcards (Stevengraphs): guest post by John G. Sayers

We are very grateful to John for another blog post contextualising the ocean liner ephemera which he is donating to the John Johnson Collection.

In the very early 1900s postcards were an inexpensive form of communication, travelling at a postal rate costing less than letters. However, if you wanted to display a special level of love and friendship you could pay the money to purchase a woven silk postcard.

Stevengraph from the John Johnson Collection: Bookmarkers 4

Woven silk images were reportedly first introduced in the 1860s using Jacquard looms which had become redundant in the face of imported competition in ribbon manufacturing. Thomas Stevens was the innovator and he was able to adapt the looms to create pictures in silk. Bookmarks, greeting cards, and eventually postcards were among the upmarket products coming out of the mills in Coventry. Because of the leadership of Thomas Stevens, they became known as Stevengraphs.

The Sayers Collection illustrates two different styles of Stevengraph ship postcards. One is a colour image of the ship with the name of the ship and sometimes other information printed below the image. The other style is a ‘Hands Across the Sea’ card with national flag images depicting the countries normally served by the named ship. For example, the Lusitania card depicts British and American flags; the Empress of Ireland card pictures the British and Canadian flags.

Because all these cards were relatively expensive to the sender they are uncommon and relatively expensive to the collector. Frequently they were sent in an envelope since they are relatively fragile, so postally used versions are relatively rare.

Values depend upon the ship, the condition of the card, and the shipping line. As would be expected, White Star Line cards, particularly RMS Olympic, sister ship to Titanic, have an enthusiastic following. Ships in disasters are expensive because some people collect cards related to disasters. In this collection, RMS Lusitania and RMS Empress of Ireland fit solidly into that bracket.

What do these cards tell us? First, that the British textile industry in the later 1800s was creative and adaptive. Second, that postcard manufacturers were always searching for new types of product and found one in specialized shipping images purchased in bulk and then mounted into postcards.  Third, that buyers will pay more for what is perceived as a quality product.

These charming postcards are contained in The Sayers Collection in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library. A vast quantity of other ocean liner ephemera capturing social, shipping, historical, and commercial information in The Sayers Collection, continues to migrate across the Atlantic to the John Johnson Collection.

 

Nazi Cruising Treat. A guest post by John G. Sayers

If you work for a large corporation – particularly in a Sales capacity – you will probably be familiar with incentive programs. They are not unique to the corporate world, and an interesting historical example is the Strength Through Joy travel programs offered in Nazi Germany during the 1930s.

Global tourism was in recession, and in order to maintain German tourist resources – and jobs – a series of travel incentives were offered through the Strength Through Joy movement. My understanding is that low-priced domestic tourism was available to the Party faithful as a reward for their support and contributions. The level of tourism was related to the amount of that support, and ship cruises were at the apex of possible rewards.

A ship named the Wilhelm Gustloff was built and launched in 1938 specifically to cater to this travel trade. Noteworthy is that this was the first liner built specifically and solely for cruising. At over 25,000GRT, she was larger than many of the liners used by Cunard for Tourist Class trans-Atlantic service, and represented a significant landmark in ocean liner cruises.

When Gustloff went into service in April 1938, she represented the highest travel reward for a Party member or supporter. This postcard, written on the first day of her Maiden Voyage and postmarked with a Wilhelm Gustloff cancellation two days later, would make a significant statement to the recipient about the sender’s elevated stature in the eyes of the Nazi administration. The message may be mundane but the postmark tells it all.

Gustloff postmarkWilhelm Gustloff was in cruising service for only a short period of time. In September 1939 she was requisitioned by the military and used primarily as an accommodation ship during the war. In January 1945, carrying a flood of refugees and wounded fleeing the oncoming Russian army, she was torpedoed and sunk by a Russian submarine in the icy waters of the Baltic. Estimates of the passengers crammed on board range from 6,000 to 9,000 – in the chaos there were no formal records kept. Most of those passengers perished, leading to the greatest loss of life in maritime history.

This postcard, and a significant number of other Strength Through Joy ephemera such as Menus and Cruise Activities, is contained in The Sayers Collection in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library. A vast quantity of other ocean liner ephemera capturing social, shipping, historical, and commercial information in The Sayers Collection, continues to migrate across the Atlantic to the John Johnson Collection.

 

Secrets of White Star Line Ship Logs. Guest post by John G. Sayers

We are grateful to our donor, John Sayers, for another fascinating post giving insight into the significance of shipping ephemera

As with the shipping logs of every other line, the White Star Line Voyage Logs provide a day-by-day record of the voyage, and a summary of the average speed of the ship. However, the White Star Line logs are important at a higher level of shipping research.

Log for 1898-12-21 A Britannic WB
1898-12-21 A Britannic WB

When Cunard took over the White Star Line in 1934, they phased out most of the White Star Line ships fairly quickly. Only the relatively new Georgic and Britannic remained in service. The White Star administrative offices were integrated into Cunard, and the records of the former are reported to have been destroyed.

So, the only surviving information about the line and its ships is in the on-board documentation that has been saved by passengers, such as the Logs of each voyage. As with so many other lines, these are difficult to find and, by this collector’s assessment, worth acquiring even if not in perfect condition. The importance of the message trumps the condition of the medium.

For example, ships are sometimes compared in terms of their rated maximum speed. But running a ship at maximum speed may be neither prudent nor possible. Wear and tear, fuel consumption, and risks such as icebergs (as encountered by Titanic) can all serve to reduce the practical working speed. The advertised top speed may not be the actual average rate in crossing the Atlantic, and so the Logs’ values provide a more accurate practical assessment of the ‘working’ speed of a ship in service conditions.

To passengers who have come through a rough voyage, the reminder in the form of the printed Log is probably not likely to be retained. For other voyages, once the Log has been shared with admiring friends and relatives, its value to the traveler has diminished, unless it represents memories of a winning guess in a day’s Pool for the distance travelled, so it is no longer a useful memory.

This material, and a vast quantity of other ephemera capturing social, shipping, historical, and commercial information in The Sayers Collection, continues to migrate across the Atlantic to the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library.

Fun and games at sea. Guest post by John G. Sayers

Our wonderful and indefatigable donor, John Sayers, in another insightful post relating to the Sayers Collection of Ocean Liner Ephemera

Welcome aboard! Anyone who has been carried across the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean by plane will probably have concluded that it was a long, boring trip. Not so. Or at least not by comparison to the travellers of decades ago when ocean liners were ‘the only way to cross’.

We’re talking about days and days at sea, interrupted only by meals. For some passengers, mal de mer sharply reduced their appetites. For others, the bar was the beacon, particularly during Prohibition in America. The shipping companies were aware of the days and days of uninterrupted boredom facing passengers, so they provided games and sports as distractions.

cover of Normandie Games booklet
Normandie Games Booklet

 

This ‘GAMES’ booklet from the legendary S.S. Normandie describes and illustrates ‘Little Olympics Afloat’ on the expansive deck space for tennis, shuffle-board and other sports in what they describe as a ‘Stadium at Sea; A Work-out on the Waves’. Also, there was the gymnasium with its rowing machine, hand-ball, and a shooting gallery; and Sun-Deck Sports and Sea Air including Tennis and Trap-Shooting. Exhausting!

 

 

For the 12 days between Honolulu and Yokohama in 1931, the S.S. President McKinley offered a daily schedule of sports capped off with a ‘Gymkhana’ on the final day of the trip.

President McKinley Games
President McKinley Games

Other ships offered Bridge and a variety of other games, and on board a British troopship in 1940 there was even a boxing match between members of the Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) and the British Army! The trooping experience must have been a stressful one, because it was December 21, 1940 on board the Viceroy of India of the P&O Line. She had been requisitioned by the Government and converted for trooping service only the month before, and these men were off to battle – somewhere!

 

This material, and a vast quantity of other ephemera capturing social, shipping, historical, and commercial information in The Sayers Collection, continues to migrate across the Atlantic to the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library.

Mantle’s flour archive, Ashby-de-la-Zouch: guest post by John G. Sayers

Through John Sayers, we have just received a donation of a ledger containing a wealth of advertising material for Mantle’s Flour – a rare survival.  John has kindly sent us this post contextualising the volume.

An archive of Ashby-de-la-Zouch material brought back to England from Canada is one of the most recent additions to the Johnson Collection. A thick ledger, with Mantle’s Flour ephemera tucked and in some cases pasted into it, is a slice of a late Victorian business, with two photographs and numerous business documents and advertisements.

The archive was donated by a Canadian who acquired it in Canada.

Mantles Flour interior photo
Mantles Flour interior photo

Reportedly, it was brought to Canada about 1900 by the son of the owner of the British business, who emigrated to London, Ontario and set up a business there. A single artifact in the collection is from that Ontario business, and suggests that its products included flour, but went beyond it. We have no information as to what became of the Canadian business.

Apparently, the British company, Mantle’s Flours, advertised extensively, and striking posters attest to this. An 1897 16-page program for a Fête carries a profile of many of the businesses in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in the form of advertisements. Size of the advertisements varied considerably by business, and the largest advertisement of all – a full page – was by Mantle’s Flour.

Mantles labelLate Victorian design styles and techniques are illustrated throughout the material. Not only typography but also colour played a significant part in making some of the material very eye-catching. The illustration, a poster with one corner tipped in to the ledger page, provides a fine example of the impact of graphics and colour.

For the student of business in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, or for that matter Victorian local businesses generally, the advertisements cover much of the spectrum of late Victorian product and retail enterprise. The Program for the Fête also describes late Victorian entertainments that were provided to attendees throughout the day of the Fête. By today’s standards some of them were ‘politically incorrect’.

There are no accounting records or financial statements in the archive. What we see is essentially what the public saw. From this writer’s experience, this is relatively unusual. Financial records lend themselves to being saved because they are already in chronological order. The Mantle’s Flour records are not in any specific order and can be dated only as far as to the decade.

However, they are focused in one ledger and are in fine condition. What a wonderful business and social ‘find’!