Sunday, 30 March 2008

Guinness Book of Records 1972






As I get older I find myself increasingly drawn to the re-investigation of fondly remembered books and objects. Often the actuality falls far short of the memory, but I was delighted to find the 1972 Guinness Book of Records in a car boot sale last summer, for it is every bit as beguiling as I remember it.

This was one of my grandfather's books, and along with a fascinating set of encyclopedias it was my favourite choice from his shelf. So how do you engage the interest of a child with what is essentially a book of lists? You do it with exquisite Illustration, sensitive layout skills and wonderful draughtsmanship.

The colophon credits layout and Illustration to one Denzil Reeves, whom I've found passing reference to on the web but no biography (if you know more, please tell). His calligraphic skills are excellent—the cover type and frontispiece are hand drawn—but nevertheless this
is a curious book. Illustrated title pages evoke the conventions of illuminated manuscripts, but at the same time it is a wholly modernist construction.

The clarity of the book comes from the deceptively simple grid and typography. Large titles are in Clarendon, while the main body is set in a text serif (a little too small to identify), with captioning in Helvetica. The grid is eight column, with two columns of body text and two thin columns which hold both captions and hanging sub heads. Pictures are black and white, but every chapter uses a different spot ink, out of which the Illustrations are often knocked out. Tables are clearly set, and no page ever feels over dense.

One of the things which occupied me longest about this book as a child was the cover, which is a masterpiece of playfulness. It's a rendering of an antique shop, populated with items from the book itself. The rear cover reproduces the view, but from behind the glass, enclosing in a good natured piece of trompe l'oeil a book which is to my mind a masterpiece of popular art. As the Guinness bottle in the window is labelled, priceless…

5 comments:

emily ringer said...

Denzil reeves was my grandfather and unfortunately died in 2008, he was 82 and was still working 6 monthes up to his death. He has done alot of work for the national trust and winston and randolph churchhill, some of his work is hanging at chartwell hall. He was a member of the suffolk arts and craft society. I a have been trying to track down some of his work as we only have black and white photos and pencil outlines of his work and it would be nice to see whatelse he has done.

PRP said...

Hello Emily, I'm sorry that I didn't get back to you sooner — I've just realised that my email address for this site was feeding through into the junkbox. It's great to find out more about Denzil. As I mentioned, this book is all I know of his work, but I'll happily post up more pages if you would like to see them. Paul

cheap viagra said...

I love this vintage guinness book of records 1972, my grandma still haves an embarrasing record in the book of this year.

Anonymous said...

Denzil Reeves was my brother in law and I have one of his illustrated poems call 'The Robin' which he did for my parents and has now been handed down to me. The exquisite detail of his flower and and animal illustration was so fine, that it had to be seen to be believed which was far removed from the work he did in two volumes of the Guinness Book of World Records. Recently my sister has been able to buy back a set of 'Four Season' illustrated poems which had come back onto the market.

Paul Pensom said...

Hello there. That's fascinating. He was a wonderful draughtsman. Do you have these pieces scanned? If so I'd love to see them. Paul