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Our Latest Newsletter

As we hurtle towards the end of the year, we bring you the latest tidings from our library here in Blackheath. We've been as busy as ever with new content rolling in and plenty of projects needing our pictures. This month we cover a couple of Christmas traditions, and take a trip to Tibet. There's also World Cup footie, a cracking new royal drama-doc and some recently added Japanese art. As always, we like to mix it up, so read on for a five minute fix from your favourite historical picture resource.

Football Fever

The countdown to the 2022 Fifa World Cup has begun and while it feels strange for it to be held in November, it's likely football fever will take hold as the first kick-off approaches. By way of a warm up, we've picked a starting line-up of World Cup-related images to keep you onside.

Of particular note is this terrific colour photograph of the Queen presenting the Jules Rimet trophy to England captain, Bobby Moore after the team's legendary victory on 30th July 1966. The photograph, depicting one of the most iconic moments in sporting history, is by revered sports photographer Gerry Cranham and was taken for The Illustrated London News. Get in touch if you would like to license it, or any others in this striking selection.

The Very First Christmas Card

On May 1st, 1843 English Academic painter and illustrator John Callcott Horsley designed the first commercially produced and printed Christmas card, commissioned by English civil servant and inventor Henry Cole. Joseph Cundall, a London publisher of children's books, collaborated on the project, put his imprint on the card, and sold them at his Summerly Home Treasury Office. Summerly was a pseudonym invented by Henry Cole and used in a variety of his collaborations with Cundall.

This example sent (and signed) by Henry and Marian Cole was inscribed with, 'Granny and Aunt Char'. The hand-colored lithographed card, which read "A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You," was controversial because it included a picture of a family with a small child drinking wine together which disturbed the UK temperance movement (who were calling for abstinence from alcohol at that time). The controversy aided the popularity of the card and two printings, totalling 2050 cards, sold in 1843 for one shilling each.

Although we've had a version of this image, taken from a reproduction, for some years, we now have images of the original examples from 1843 sold by Henry Aldridge & Co, one hand-coloured and another, even rarer version before hand-colouring.

Adventures in Advent Calendars

Another Christmas tradition of the papery kind is of course the advent calendar, and while the last few decades may have seen chocolate-filled advent calendars eclipse the traditional paper variety, we want to give three festive cheers to the latter kind, being a) better for the environment and b) better for your teeth.

Our friends at the Porch Fairies have licensed some delightful Racey Helps illustrations from the Medici Society archive through us for advent calendars which we would heartily recommend. There is still time to get one of these and they can be conveniently ordered through their website.

Tibetan Tales

New contributor Henry Aldridge & Son gets a second mention in this newsletter as they continue to provide us with interesting content, this time a fascinating set of photographs charting the controversial 1903 British invasion of Tibet, an expedition ordered by Lord Curzon, who wished to prevent Russia gaining any influence in the country and to instead turn it into a British protectorate. It was a policy that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2000-3000 Tibetans as British forces, led by Colonel Francis Younghusband, progressed towards the capital Lhasa.

The pictures were taken by an officer and ADC to Younghusband, Captain William Hayman, who photographed monks in their temples, local Tibetan men, women and children, the Gyantse Dzong fortress, towns and the surrounding landscapes, and includes the first pictures taken of Mount Everest by a Westerner.

Time travel back to Tibet at the turn of the last century here.

Japanese Prints

The opening up of trade routes to Japan in the mid-19th century was to trigger the dissemination and popularity of Japanese prints, one of the most influential and enduring forms of art. We have an excellent selection of Japanese prints from various periods, with over 500 via our representation of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and have just added another set to our website. This includes some exquisite examples by the master, Utagawa Hiroshige, such as the Horikiri Iris Garden and Suruga Street (pictured).

More surprising perhaps is the contrast between Hiroshige's familiar elegance, and the spare modernism of artists from the 1920s and '30s such as Takashi Henmi and Sakuichi Fukawaza, who instead depicted views of industrial architecture, and even a baseball stadium, while still demonstrating the pleasing restraint and poise of their artistic predecessors.

You can view these latest additions here.

Royal Mob

Starting this week on Sky and Now TV is Royal Mob, a rollicking drama-documentary in which the escalating rivalries and tensions between the different branches of Queen Victoria's extended European dynasty would partially contribute to the outbreak of the First World War. Royal history, and particularly this period, is a real strength of our library and we were delighted to supply over 70 images for the four-part series, many drawn from either the Illustrated London News archive, or the collection of royal expert Charlotte Zeepvat.

Click here for more information on a story that gives The Crown more than a run for its money.