Monday, 15 May 2017

This Is London ........ a unique guide to the London of 1959

Now I have no idea why I never got a copy of This Is London.*

I guess that there are only so many books that you can get for Christmas, and with the Eagle Annual and the odd history book that was enough.

Not that I think I would fully have appreciated it back then when I was only ten all of which is so different now.

It is a witty, informative guide to the London I knew as a child and is full of marvellous images in the style of the period and these alone take me back nearly sixty years.

But it is also the humour which shines through and marks it as something original.

It starts with a page of brown sludge with the occasional splash of yellow accompanied with “Well, this is London. 

 But don’t worry, it is hidden in fog like this only a few times a year in winter. Most of the time it looks- like this!”

And that is the start of a wonderful series of bright colourful and exciting paintings of London with a text to match.

All of which is a riveting read and one that has now become a history book in itself.

So much so that the new edition which was published in 2004** has updated some of the entries,  pointing out for instance that “Today the Billingsgate fish market is located in the Docklands, a rejuvenated section of the London Docks.  It moved there in 1982.”

Now that move passed me by and while I have no doubt it was for the best I have vivid memories of the market, the over powering smell and the debris left on the streets on a Saturday morning only hours after the traders and the fish had left for shops across the city.

It is just one of the moments which bounced out of the past along with those electric milk floats, old Routemasters and a river which was still a working river full of ships from every corner of the world unloading their cargoes under the shadows of tall cranes and massive warehouses.

All of which I remember and for those like my own lads who never knew that London, Mr Sasek’s book has it all.

And so as you would expect I have gone looking for other editions in the same series which included, Paris, Rome, New York, and San Francisco.

In time I might order up the reprints of New York, and San Francisco but at present I am content to wait for the arrival of This is Rome which was originally published in 1960 and reprinted in 2007.

Like This is London it has an page of updates which will be fun to match with the original text and my own memories of a city we regularly return to.

Now I would like to have used images from the book and even wrote the story using the cover and one of the Underground, but the no one seems to know who holds the copyright and so without permission it is a picture postcard from 1950 and a photograph of a typical 1960s living room.

Such are the joys of being correct about copyright.

And for those intrigued by the books there is a site dedicated to the authors and his books***

Pictures; Trafalgar Square, 1950 from the collection of Tuck & Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB,  and a living room 1965, © Chris Ridley/Geffrye Museum of the Home, Geffrye Museum,

*This Is London, Miroslav Sasek, 1959

**Universe Publishing, a Division of  Rizzoli International Publications, New York,

***This is M Sasek,

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