Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas, Advertising and.... Biggles!

Léon-François Comerre - The Flower Seller
CHRISTMAS is a time when we are besieged with advertisements. Things to buy, things to eat, programmes to watch.  This week I have been thinking about advertising, how we market our wares, and how that has changed over the centuries.

Shopkeepers have always used signs outside their premises to attract custom, as can be seen in this print by Hogarth (below). At one time, signs hanging over the streets were banned, because of the danger of them falling down and causing injury.

And those with trades to sell might also place ad advertisement in a newspaper, like this lovely, short piece in the London Evening Post in 1746. It appears Mr Grainger promise to teach pupils to "write well in a Month"(many of us would be pleased to have such guarantees in education today!).

The advent of moving pictures early last century was an exciting development in entertainment, and it wasn't long before advertisers recognised the potential. Who doesn't remember sitting through "Pearl & Dean" while waiting for the big picture to start?

Television gave advertisers the opportunity to bring their products right into the home, and boy, did it become an art form! For a while (until modern technology made it possible to fast-forward through the breaks) adverts were in danger of taking over from the main event- indeed, some were much better than the programmes they interrupted (although possibly not the one shown here).

Books have never been subject to quite such a hard sell. After all, as readers we like to take our time and browse, don't we? But authors  want to get the message out there, so they have to advertise, too, and we do. Via our publishers, or personally, via social media.  But it's not new.
This came home to me earlier this week, when I was trying(unsuccessfully) to reduce the number of books on my overcrowded shelves.  As a girl I fell in love with Capt W E Johns' flying ace, Biggles, and my collection of Biggles books has remained with me ever since. For years I spent my hard-earned pocket money on Biggles books, reprints like this...

....or second hand copies, purchased room an Aladdin's cave of a bookshop on the historic Christmas Steps in Bristol.  It was in one of these old books, a 1950s edition of "Biggles Works it Out", that I found a note from Capt Johns himself.   It had been fitted into the front of the book, whether by the publisher or by the book's original owner I do not know, but here is the note .

Perhaps it is because I am now an author myself, and battling constantly with demands of modern media, but this really struck a chord with me. It makes that personal, direct appeal to the reader, just as we are urged to do today.
This book, along with its message, is going to remain on my shelves for a long time to come.
Merry Christmas, everyone, and happy reading.

Melinda Hammond

You can read my homage to the WWII flying aces in my short story,

Or, if you want a little Christmas treat, you might like The Duke's Christmas Bride.


Elizabeth Hawksley said...

I love the Biggles book cover, Melinda! It's very much of its period and it certainly shows that it's going to be an exciting read. It also shows - as, alas, too many modern novels' covers do not - that the artist has actually read the book!

And the note from Capt W. E. Johns makes it very special.

Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. I have recently re-read a couple of the Biggles books and they are pure adventure - of their time, but very exciting reads.

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