Don't judge a book by its covers? Whyever not! I do it all the time. I bought this gem today, largely because of its splendid Batsford dust jacket, at the Oxfam bookshop in Highgate - the one close to the top of the hill (with prices to match).
Batsford published a whole range of 'discover Britain' style books between the wars - this one is from 1935 - which are now much collected, in large part because of their cover designs. Brian Cook, the artists, was in fact Sir Brian Caldwell Cook Batsford. One of the family! His designs have a striking, and very fresh, use of colour. They are both of their time and refreshingly modern.
Cook also has the rare distinction of standing as a Conservative for Parliament - and losing to a candidate from Common Wealth (a radical left party which won three by-elections during the Second World War and even managed to retain one of these seats in the 1945 election). He later represented Ealing in the Commons for sixteen years and died in 1991.
Paul Cohen-Portheim is every bit as interesting - a German who was in London when war broke out in 1914, and was interned on the Isle of Man. He wrote a book about it. The Spirit of London is in the style of the 'streets more than palaces' writing about the city, and has well over a hundred black-and-white photographs. The title was published posthumously - Cohen-Portheim died in 1932 - and wasrepublished just five years ago in 2011.
But there's nothing like a first edition - with the original dust jacket. And below you can see that Cook's design made good use of the back of the book too..
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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