On Copyright and Permissions. “I feel a bit like Sherlock Holmes…”

I’m currently working on a short piece (as part of the AHRC Pets and Family Life Project) about the way horses and soldiers were portrayed in the illustrated press during The First World War. I am particularly interested in The War Illustrated, as this was an extremely popular publication 1914-1918, was affordable to all, and would have been widely read by the British masses. For those who had never witnessed warfare first-hand, this was the nearest they would ever come to ‘seeing’ war. It was also the only means they had of forming the scant information they were given in the letters home of their loved ones into pictures.

Obviously, when talking about visual images, you really want to be able to include some examples in your work. So, off I went on a mission to try and find out who actually owned rights to The War Illustrated now in 2017. This proved to be no easy task. Albeit an extremely interesting one. I knew, for example, that it was originally owned by The Amalgamated Press. That it had two periods of publication, during the First and Second World Wars, and went out of print (never to return) in the late 1940s. But who owned it now? Rights to The War Illustrated had been bought along with numerous other defunct titles by IPC. However, IPC was no longer in existence either. Time Inc. had bought IPC, but did they still own The War Illustrated? (They had sold rights to an array of Amalgamated Press comics fairly recently.) The search continued…

Image result for sherlock holmes
The Sherlock Holmes Museum, London.

And now we were in New York. (Well, by email and the powers of the internet anyway.) Times Inc. had moved its archive to a special collection curated jointly by The New York Historical Society and Time Inc’s own archivists. Had they got The War Illustrated? No. But … at long last … they did know who I needed to contact. Back to London we go and … problem solved within moments. “Voila!” And how interesting it has been. My faith in the power of random people to be wonderful and helpful has been restored. Everyone I have ‘met’ along the way has been so helpful.

I now know a lot more about copyright and permissions than I ever have before. Well, I’ll know for next time. 🙂



Horses in ‘The Triumph of Steam’

Last week I looked at The Triumph of Steam and talked about the work Matt Edwards (www.mattedwardsbooks.tumblr.com) and I had been doing to restore it. The Triumph of Steam 

I hinted too that there might be a horse connection – so here it is.

As the more horse-literate amongst us are no doubt well aware, and more than capable of imagining, horses and steam engines did not always mix. Henry Frith’s The Triumph of Steam provides us with an interesting insight into the sort of problems people (and horses) may have been party to when horse first encountered machine. Especially, perhaps, in the early days, before horses became accustomed to the noisy, fire belching beasts in their midst!

Horse and Train
From: Across Maryland History: The B & O Railway’s Early Days by Neal J. Conway, http://www.nealjconway.com

Recalling the early days of steam, Henry Frith tells us:

“We who live in days when to be near a railroad is considered the greatest possible advantage, increasing the price of property, and promoting in every way our comfort and convenience, cannot imagine the panic that the very name of a railway excited some sixty years ago. It was to bring ruin, destruction, death, to everything it came near. The air was to be poisoned with noxious smells of the engines! Cattle grazing in the fields would die with fright at its hideous shrieks and squeaks. It would be no longer safe to travel on any road near which a railway ran; for what horse could be trained to bear the sight of the infernal monster? There would be no end to the accidents and of the peril to life and limb…”


The Triumph of Steam

Hello! So here is my current book repair and restoration project. This time, it isn’t one of my own books, hence the change of subject. But there is still a horse connection – and I’ll tell you all about that at a later date! 🙂

This revised edition of The Triumph of Steam by Henry Frith was published in 1892 by Griffith Farran & Co. Limited, London. In 1898 it was awarded to Philip H.G. Lord by his school, The Grammar School at Newchurch, as a 2nd prize for drawing. I think I’ve mentioned this in my Blogs before, but I love the oddments, inscriptions, annotations and other interesting things that are sometimes to be found in old books. They give a sense of its story and the people to whom it once belonged. I wonder what became of Philip Lord?

The copy I have been working on has had a hard life, but it is easy to see this would have been quite an expensive book at the time. It is bound in an extremely fine calf skin leather, is nicely constructed and is illustrated throughout. Working with leather has of itself been a new and exciting venture. I have learned how to pare leather. You (as I was) may not be aware that the construction of the spine is entirely different from the process used when working with cloth bound books. Older books also tend to be bound using cord rather than tape. In this repair we have replicated the appearance of the cords while making the actual repair using tapes.

I am looking forward to returning it to its rightful owner fully restored! 🙂





‘Soldiers and their Horses’

Soldiers and their Horses traces the soldier-horse relationship from the Boer War in South Africa, through The Great War and its aftermath and into the Second World War. The story of the soldier and his horse takes us from the British Army’s infamous mishandling of its horses in the Boer War, to the pinnacle of excellence in horse supply, management and veterinary treatment that was achieved during The Great War. Horses would never again be relied upon to the extent they had between 1914 and 1918, but the War’s legacy lived on into and beyond the Second World War whenever and wherever horses were employed.”

(There is more, but that’s for later. Watch this space!)

Well, that’s another incarnation of my book proposal off to my commissioning editor. I think it’s a lot stronger. It also has a new title. Maybe not as catchy as the old one, but it does ‘do what it says on the tin’, so that has to be a good thing right?



New Project – Paper for ‘Humanimalia’ on ‘Breed’


The Noblest of Animals: The Horse, ‘Breed’ and British National Identity, 1900 to 1914.

“As the poet Lindsay Gordon put it, and many British horsemen and women genuinely believed, without ‘the stud’ and ‘the land’ and ‘the chase’ the British ‘breed’ would itself die. Portrayals of the horse’s place in British society in the early twentieth century reflected the ideas and attitudes of the people by, and for whom, they were created. This paper will explore such portrayals to discover what Gordon meant by ‘breed’ and why it was that the horse was so closely allied with imagined ideas of Britishness. It was thought, for example, that the horse shared many admirable strengths with those of the British people; such as kindness, courage, sagacity, gentleness and strength of character. All of these traits were thought to be found upon the hunting field and amongst those most closely connected to the horse and ‘the land’. The British ‘breed’ may only ever have been an illusion in reality, but it was nevertheless a powerful driver of British national identity in the early twentieth century. Inevitably the horse’s symbolic and emotional connection with ‘breed’ leads us into a complex world of contrasts, contradiction and moral complexity.”

I’ll let you all know once it’s published. Meanwhile, back to the book proposal… TTFN!

Image result for fox hunting


On Publishing, Mules and WW2


A Mountain Battery: In the Bog, by L.D. Luard
Two British soldiers attempt to haul two laden mules out of boggy ground. Behind them other mules and soldiers are visible moving up a slope in mountainous terrain. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/17034

This week, the ongoing saga of the publishing proposal took a new and interesting turn. Feeling that my project as it stands would be too “narrow”, my (hopefully) publisher have suggested that I might like to expand it to cover The Boer War, The Great War AND The Second World War. My first reaction was one of, I have to confess, utter horror. However, after a brief foray into the archives and a preliminary snoop about, the idea of delving into the soldier-horse relationship post-1939 really appeals. Already, interesting material is revealing itself. Not least, some very interesting interviews with veterans, who all talk about the respectful approach to their mules that soldiers quickly came to find worked the best. I have never met a mule, but I imagine they prefer to be ‘asked’ rather than ‘told’. Who was ‘the boss’ in this relationship is debatable, but I would be inclined to suggest that it was the soldiers who worked with the mules and that it was the mules who, in fact, did most of the training. So, the next task is to review (again), revise (yet again) and resubmit (third time lucky?) my proposal and hope that this time it gets the go-ahead. Fingers crossed!