Saturday, July 27, 2013

Britain in Pictures

I have been doing a bit of book sleuthing this morning about a series launched in 1941 by Collins (now HarperCollins) called Britain in Pictures. Apparently, the 132 books in the series were designed to boost morale at a time when Hitler was threatening to cross the English Channel.

The books were written by some very famous writers - George Orwell (The English People), Edith Sitwell (Women), Graham Greene (Dramatists) - and covered everything from British boxing and birds to cricket and farming. There is even a volume on British hills and mountains.

Each slim book is octavo sized and contains black and white illustrations and 'plates in colour'. 

I happen to know about this series through three books that I bought on a now-long-ago trip to England and Scotland. I didn't know at the time their history:

English Novelists by Elizabeth Bowen, English Gardens by Harry Roberts, and British Universities by S.C. Roberts

Each volume runs about 50 pages. Two of my copies still have their original jackets. I bought the three for two pounds each. I don't remember if I purchased them in London or one of the other towns I visited. 

Oh, yes. I was the one going through customs declaring 'books' while everyone else was bringing home woolens, pottery, and tea sets.

Now three does not a collection make, and these three books have been languishing all alone on my shelves for many years, but in the age of the Internet, I feel a little thrill of excitement at the prospect of finding more. 

Who could resist the books that cover Villages, Postage Stamps, Wild Flowers, and The English at Table? And, what fun it will be tracking them down!

Perhaps you, dear readers, have one or two of the series gathering dust on your bookshelves. If so, let me know, and maybe we can strike a bargain.


  1. The simple design is absolutely gorgeous - I wish I had some!

    1. I love the simple covers too, Vicki. So elegant. I have never seen one of these for sale in a book store in the States. Guess that means I will just have to go to England to do my shopping!

  2. Some of these, but I don't think all, were republished in what looks like facsimiles by Prion in 1997. I bought three of them from the now defunct A Common Reader catalog, but only have one now. They seem to have the same simple covers and, I assume, the same content and black and white illustrations. I didn't realize that they were reprints of a larger series. Good luck in your search! If I come across any of the older ones, I'll keep you in mind. I love little books! If you're interested in my single newer one (English Cities and Small Towns by John Betjeman, you're welcome to it.

    1. Aren't you kind, Joan. I can't find out anything about Prion and this series. If you want to email me - bellebookandcandle[at] - we can discuss further. Thank you so much. The Betjeman book sounds lovely.