Book Review: The Art of Street Jewellery

Signs that sold

How refreshing to come across a book that delivers on every level: well written by the two authors who are obviously experts on the subject; illustrated with about 2500 enamel signs (in color) and related graphics; beautifully designed and printed and with a delightful bit of whimsy because the book's title is printed on a metal sign that's stuck on the cover.

Baglee and Morley have written other books on the subject but these 240 pages must surely be the definitive study about street jewellery. The book is really in two parts. The first hundred or so pages look at the development of these permanent signs in Britain and a nice touch is the addition of many shop photos from the early years of the last century showing how the signs would be placed anywhere on the building and because they were virtually indestructible they would stay there until the place was demolished.

A long chapter on the companies that made the signs and how, shows some wonderfully flamboyant trade catalogs. The Wildman & Meguyer pages show an amazing number of typefaces in all sorts of styles. Part of the chapter looks at sign makers around the world and there are plenty of European signs in the illustrations. The American company Ingram-Richardson of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania gets a few mentions.

The second part of the book shows hundreds of colored enamel signs divided into various trades, like breweries, stores, garages, petrol companies, chemists etcetera. Transport gets a good showing with shipping lines, cars and bikes. Airlines, least European ones, were too new for this sort of advertising.

The back pages have an eight page Gallery showcasing signs from around the world, a six page Products and Inventions Timeline with a lovely bit of line art showing, in profile, a row of shops with little colored signs in position. There are two indexes, first a general one and the second lists all the product signs.

Though there are a huge number of signs in the book everything is presented in a simple, elegant and straightforward way that makes looking through these pages a pleasure. If only other books that featured large collections of visual items looked as good, in particular Schiffer (two of their titles are in the bibliography) who churn out collector books should use 'The art of street jewellery' as an example of how to do it properly.

The Art of Street Jewellery is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN)

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The front cover has the title on a real enamel sign.

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The book's endpapers.

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Title spread.

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Pages from the Garnier trade catalog.

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The back of the book has an eight page Gallery section.

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Product and inventions timeline, from 1807, using a clever line drawing of a typical street showing how the signs were placed anywhere on a building.

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