Tuesday, 17 April 2012

High Street

It is such a pleasure to finally get my hands on a copy of this book, (even if it is just the reprint and not an original). I have been an ardent admirer of Ravilious' work since a student, and the price of original copies of the book were way beyond my student means. High Street was originally published in 1938 in an edition of just 2000 copies. It is a highly sought after book as the original lithographic plates created at the Curwen Press were destroyed in the London Blitz, making original copies highly collectible. Ravilious himself also died during the Second World War. Ravilious's beautiful lithographs were complemented by the text of J. M. Richards, who gives interesting information about the architecture and interesting products produced and sold by each shop. Many of the first editions of the book have been butchered with people cutting out the plates and selling them as original lithographs.

The book is about the variety of shops which could be encountered on the typical British high street of the time. Many of the the shops were found in London, but Ravilious also travelled to Sudbury, Suffolk, and Castle Hedingham, Essex for the bicycle shop, firework shop and hardware shops respectively. The shop fronts and overall design of the book are very much of its period and this sense of nostalgia is what adds to its charm.

Among my favourites of the illustrations are the Oyster bar, Submarine Engineer, Restaurant and Grill Room and Letter Maker.