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John Lehmann’s New Writing


In 1936 at the age of 29 the poet John Lehmann (1907 - 1987) launched a new monthly literary journal, New Writing, which became the mouthpiece for a generation of writers that included Cecil Day Lewis, W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood. These writers, who were too young to have fought in the First World War but old enough to have been left deeply traumatized by it, felt themselves to be overlooked, misunderstood and ignored by the older generation and subsequently felt a keen sense of isolation.


Whereas Lehmann characterized the older generation as ‘sympathetic observers’ (his description of Virginia Woolf with whom he had a fraught artistic and business relationship at Hogarth Press), he believed the artist’s role was not merely to reflect, but also to actively participate in shaping political and social events. With New Writing he wanted to bridge the gap between the author and reader: to create 'an effective brotherhood border between victims of oppression' and the 'sense of broader comradeships.'


The inclusion within New Writing’s pages of biographies and photographic snapshots of the writers, and himself as editor, were an attempt by Lehmann to develop personas that he hoped would breed a sense of their familiarity among its readers. Photographic images, of not just the writers, also played an important part in his design. He used them to share art from home and abroad alongside scenes from everyday life in order to blur the lines of distinction between the two.


Although Lehmann recognized that he ultimately failed in his ambition to bring the writer and the reader closer together (and just as the magazine had turned its back on the previous generation, in 1950 it found itself snubbed by the one that followed), New Writing has been deservedly described as a 'collective masterpiece of a generation.'


The books in the photographs are Penguin paperback issues of volumes No. 5 (April 1941) and No. 32 (1947) that contain prose and poetry from C. Day Lewis, W.H Auden, Edith Sitwell and Lawrence Durrell. The magazine was initially published by Bodley Head and continued to appear sporadically in hardback format till 1946. Its move to Penguin in 1940, where it ran for 40 editions until 1950, no doubt, broadened its popularity and helped it to secure a reliable source of paper in a period of scarcity during the Second World War. Its first Penguin edition also contained the first publication of George Orwell’s essay Shooting the Elephant (1940).


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Vera Bock


The name Federal Project Number One may have been an uninspiring one, but throughout the 1930s this project - established as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programme to help Americans out of The Great Depression - became an important patron of the arts.


Alongside creating employment for people in the creative industries, it also had the responsibility of giving fine art mass appeal by integrating it into everyday life. It is not then surprising that one of its most important activities became the production of posters to promote other government sponsored works and initiatives.


One important illustrator affiliated with The New York poster division was Vera Bock (1905-1973). Headed by the internationally renowned German industrial designer Richard Floethe, who gave his artists the freedom to experiment with bold colours and different styles, it was the perfect environment for Vera to flourish. There she produced numerous silkscreen posters, noted for their distinctive Germanic influenced wood-block designs that also drew on her previous experience as an illustrator of children’s books. The quality of the posters produced by artists, such as Vera, was so high that it led Floethe to reflect that the "government unwittingly launched a movement to improve the commercial poster and raise it to a true art form."


As well as continuing to illustrate children’s books, in the 1940s Vera went on to produce illustrations for Life and Coronet magazines. Her work has been included as part of two exhibitions at nypl and many of her drawings for children’s books are housed in the Kerlan Collection of Children’s Literature at the University of Minnesota.


The book in the photographs, illustrated by Vera Bock, is Arabian Nights, collected and edited by Andrew Lang, and published by Franklin Watts, inc. in 1946.


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Lavengro by George Borrow


George Borrow (1803-1881) described his romanticized autobiography, Lavengro: The Scholar, the Gypsy, the Priest (1851), as 'a dream of study and adventure.' The curious blend of fact and fiction, travel and philosophy, aristocrats and gypsies, baffled critics when it was released. Blackwood’s Magazine wrote that: 'The adventures, though interesting in their way, neither bear the impress of the stamp of truth, nor are they so arranged as to make the work valuable, if we consider it in the light of fiction.' If also failed to impress the public: as after an initial print-run of 3000, it was not reprinted again for over 20 years.


Lavengro, the gypsy word for Word Master, describes two of Borrow’s greatest passions: languages and gypsies. Whilst he was considered a poor student and his early career in law floundered, Borrow was a prodigious linguist who by the end of his life is estimated to have acquired knowledge of around 100 languages. His great affinity for gypsies runs through all his works and his vivid depictions of them in his earlier novel A Bible in Spain: or the Journey, Adventures, and Imprisonment of an Englishman in an Attempt to Circulate the Scriptures in the Peninsula (1843) also went on to influence Prosper Mérimée, who after reading the book used one of its characters as a basis for Don Jose in his novel Carmen that was adapted by Bizet for opera.


It was not until after Borrow’s death that Lavengro finally began to garner praise and find an audience. Described as having passages that are 'unsurpassed in the prose literature of England,' it was included in the Oxford University Press World’s Classics series in 1904, and in Everyman’s Library in 1906.


The book in the photographs was published by Macmillan in 1896 and is a first edition with illustrations by E.J.Sullivan.


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Philip Castle
The cover for the Penguin book in the photograph, The Wanderer by Fritz Lieber, is one of many quirky illustrations created by British airbrush artist Philip Castle. Among Castle’s list of high profile achievements is a cover illustration for Time magazine and artwork for musicians, including David Bowie, Pulp, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney’s Wings and, more recently Metronomy. His best known work, however, is for film posters, in particular the iconic images he produced for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket. They were produced by working in close collaboration with Kubrick, who on both occasions decided a hat would be a key feature of the image.
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Philip Castle


The cover for the Penguin book in the photograph, The Wanderer by Fritz Lieber, is one of many quirky illustrations created by British airbrush artist Philip Castle. Among Castle’s list of high profile achievements is a cover illustration for Time magazine and artwork for musicians, including David Bowie, Pulp, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney’s Wings and, more recently Metronomy. His best known work, however, is for film posters, in particular the iconic images he produced for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket. They were produced by working in close collaboration with Kubrick, who on both occasions decided a hat would be a key feature of the image.


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