Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Out In The Shires

In Unmitigated England, there are certain essential books that must appear on bookshelves, both in the home and at the local library. An assortment of Everyman Classics, a row of dog-eared Penguins, everything by Jonathan Meades and a set of Shell Guides. And quite recently a byelaw was introduced that states that everyone coming of age will receive a representative set of twenty one Shire Books. What an institution they have become. "...such gems" as Joanna Lumley has it; "...in every way delightful", Lucinda Lambton. And that's just the girls. "You won't be disappointed" joins in Jonathan Dimbleby. And they're right. Perhaps, to begin with, we remember them as quirkily typographic booklets with monotone text and illustrations, telling us about things like Whitby Jet and Roman Coins. And then, seven years or so ago they came under the direction of Nick Wright at Osprey Publishing and the Shire brand was extended, pummelled into shape and made to stand upright in a smart new livery on the Shire Spinners in countrywide bookshops. And now in glorious colour too! 

And here, I suppose, I must declare a particular interest. Mr.Wright and I were taking luncheon somewhere in the Bermudan triangle that is pinned down by Daventry, Banbury and Brackley, and he suddenly said "I think I might have a job for you". The brand now having been very successfully established (and I had started to shuffle books along the Ashley Towers library shelves to make room for them) the next stage needed to be looked at, and this year will see new covers starting to spin in the bookshops. The premise is simple. Shire Books are packed with brilliant information on very particular interests, centreing around our heritage and of course quite rightly unashamed nostalgia for the past. Now was the time that the subjects of the books should be the heros. Or heroines, of course. So for the last year I have been immersed in the Shires, with new challenges set before me every day. I have stood waiting for ten seconds of sun amongst caravans in Shropshire, polished up Corgi Toys in Leicestershire, recreated the Blitz on my kitchen table and frightened myself with a garden gnome in an old radar station in Kent. Here's just a handful to be going on with, I hope you like them, I hope you will make room for them on your shelves.  


 



 

 
 
 

10 comments:

Adam Smith said...

Wow, they look fantastic! I love Shire books, sometimes I'm astounded by just how esoteric some of the titles are and incredibly glad that someone is making books about garden cities and very specific eras of gardening.

Can't wait to see these in an English Heritage gift shop or cathedral bookshop in the near future.

Peter Ashley said...

Thank you Adam. You should be able to get Shire Books just about anywhere. Ideally of course they should be hung up with bulldog clips in angled ranks against the varnished teak of WH Smith platform bookshops at railway stations.

Stephen Barker said...

Never mind the Victoria Gardener I want a book on the Georgian Gardener. Peter as you seem to be a friend of the management could you have a word.

Jonathan Dudley said...

You're the perfect person to become involved in these estimable publications. Their makeover has been entirely successful and the range more and more esoteric…I particularly love 'cash carriers in shops', covering those fascinating clattery overhead change machines one used see in larger shops all over the place. My request please is 'Mole draining by steam'…can you arrange?

Philip Wilkinson said...

Terrific covers - with nice typography on them too. GARDEN CITIES is the first of the new ones on my shelves, and I am eagerly awaiting LONDON'S ROYAL PARKS and BUNGALOWS.

Peter Ashley said...

Thank you all for your kind comments and suggestions. I am lobbying for 'Sculpture Railways of Surrey' but as I've found only one so far it might be a struggle.

Sue said...

Stunning stuff. I want 'British Family Cars of the 50s & 60s' and I want it now!

The Vintage Knitter said...

What a perfect job for you; actually its not a 'job' is it, but a literary revelment!

I've always been a fan of Shire Books and they're well represented on the VK bookshelves; the last one I brought was 'Old Radio Sets'. I shall certainly be putting the Blitz and British Family Cars on my book list.

P.S. I'm currently writing a book for their sister company, Old House.

Peter Ashley said...

Sue and VK: Thank you, and it looks like they'll have to hurry up and get 'British Family Cars of the 50s & 60s' printed quickly! The vehicle, incidentally, is a rare 1959 all steel Morris Oxford Traveller, as opposed to the ash framed jobs more familiar on the Minor Traveller. I shall be doing a post on it shortly.

martin said...

Lovely covers! Have they done one on Typewriters? Probably. I've not found it, though..