Johanna Basford, whose fanciful, hand-drawn illustrations launched a worldwide craze, is back with flying colors.
Not far from Johanna Basford’s home on the northeast coast of Scotland lies a parabola of golden-ocher sand where the proportion of sky to land is unlike anything you’ll likely see outside of a Bertolucci film.
A wildlife Eden, this stretch of heathland serves as a motorway for birds that wheel in from the Arctic—red-throated divers, pink-footed geese and long-tailed ducks with cream and chocolate plumage.
During the summer months, strong gusts combined with the powdery sand can ruin a perfectly good sandwich.
Throughout the winter the shoreline is invariably a few degrees warmer than inland. On this biting afternoon, the sea changes shades with each shift of cloud and rain and wind. Basford sits in a pub in nearby Ellon, her hands wrapped around a cup of English breakfast tea, comparing the colors of nature with those found in a 120-pack of Crayola crayons.
“As a child, I used to think the yellow and the white were just a bit redundant,” she says in a soft burr that tends to drift upward at the end of a sentence, making statements sound like questions. “But I don’t think I had any specific favorite colors.
I do remember the day that I learned that if you heated up the crayons, you could bend them. And that was a revelation.”The 35-year-old Basford is something of a revelation herself.
She’s a pioneer—possibly the pioneer—of the modern adult coloring book, a childhood pastime retrofitted for frazzled grown-ups.
When the genre stormed the best-seller lists five years ago, Basford’s debut, Secret Garden, led the charge. It’s filled with filigreed visions of ferns and flowers and frogs rendered delicately in black and white, all drawn by hand.
“I had a hunch that there were adults out there who would love to return to the days of finger-paints and carefree playing with color,” says Basford, a freelance illustrator whose initial pitch to a publisher was met with baffled silence.
“The first print run was a tentative 13,000 copies. I was fairly certain my mum was going to have to buy a lot.”Secret Garden turned out to be a runaway sensation, selling 12 million copies worldwide, including nearly four million in China over less than three months.
Translated into 45 languages, it was also a huge hit in Brazil (1.6 million), the United States (1.7 million) and France (350,000), where it outsold the country’s most popular cookbooks.
“I love the idea of chic Parisian ladies putting down their saucepans in favor of gel pens,” Basford says. In South Korea, sales of 1.5 million suggest that nearly 3 percent of the population owns a copy.
By 2016, adult coloring books had their own dedicated sections on Amazon and in big-box stores. Demand caused worldwide pencil shortages, and Faber-Castell, the planet’s biggest wooden-pencil manufacturer, had to add shifts at its Bavarian factory to keep pace with global demand.”
Trafalgar Sqare is famous for the man perched high above it on the column, but I recently discovered another man hidden underneath the square who hardly anybody knows about and he is just as interesting to me.
I have no doubt that if you were to climb up Nelson’s Column, the great Naval Commander would have impressive stories to tell of Great Sea Battles.
If you descend into the crypt of St Martin in the Fields, the celebrated Road Sweeper who resides down there has his stories too.
Yet as one who was born in a workhouse and died in a workhouse, Henry Croft’s tales would be of another timbre to those of Horatio Nelson.
Henry Croft stands in the furthest, most obscure, corner far away from the busy cafeteria, the giftshop, the bookshop, the brass rubbing centre and the art gallery, and I expect he is grateful for the peace and quiet.
Of diminutive stature at just five feet, he stands patiently with an implacable expression waiting for eternity, the way that you or I might wait for a bus.
Only since since 2002, when his life-size marble statue was removed to St Martin in the Fields from St Pancras Cemetery after being vandalised several times and whitewashed to conceal the damage.
Born in Somers Town Workhouse in 1861 and raised there after the death of his father who was a musician, it seems Henry inherited his parent’s showmanship, decorating his suit with pearl buttons while working as a Road Sweeper from the age of fifteen.
Father of twelve children and painfully aware of the insecurities of life, Henry launched his own personal system of social welfare by drawing attention with his ostentatious outfit and collecting money for charities including Public Hospitals and Temperance Societies.
As self-appointed ‘Pearlie King of Somers Town,’ Henry sewed seven different pearly outfits for himself and many suits for others too, so that by 1911 there were twenty-eight Pearly King and Queens spread across all the Metropolitan Boroughs of London.
Image: At Henry Croft’s funeral in St Pancras Cemetery in 1930
It is claimed Henry was awarded in excess of two thousand medals for his charitable work and his funeral cortege in 1930 was over half a mile long with more than four hundred pearlies in attendance.
Printer and newsagent Herbert Ingram moved from Nottingham to London in early 1842. Inspired by how the Weekly Chronicle always sold more copies when it featured an illustration, he had the idea of publishing a weekly newspaper that would contain pictures in every edition.
Ingram’s initial idea was that it would concentrate on crime reporting, as per the later Illustrated Police News, but his collaborator, engraver Henry Vizetelly, convinced him that a newspaper covering more general news would enjoy greater success.
Ingram rented an office, recruited artists and reporters, and employed as his editor Frederick William Naylor Bayley (1808–1853), formerly editor of the National Omnibus.
The first issue of the The Illustrated London News appeared on Saturday 14 May 1842.
Its 16 pages and 32 wood engravings covered topics such as the war in Afghanistan, a train crash in France, a survey of the candidates for the United States presidential election, extensive crime reports, an account of a fancy dress ball at Buckingham Palace, theatre and book reviews, and a list of births, marriages and deaths.
The newspaper also carried three pages of advertisements for items such as a taxidermy manual, Madame Bernard’s treatment for baldness, and Smith’s quinine tonic. Ingram hired 200 men to carry placards through the streets of London promoting the first edition of his new newspaper.
Costing sixpence, the first edition sold 26,000 copies. Despite this initial success, sales of the second and subsequent editions were disappointing.
However, Herbert Ingram was determined to make his newspaper a success, and sent every clergyman in the country a copy of the edition which contained illustrations of the installation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and by this means secured a great many new subscribers.
Its circulation soon increased to 40,000 and by the end of its first year was 60,000.
In 1851, after the newspaper published Joseph Paxton’s designs for the Crystal Palace before even Prince Albert had seen them, the circulation rose to 130,000.
In 1852, when it produced a special edition covering the funeral of the Duke of Wellington, sales increased to 150,000; and in 1855, mainly due to the newspaper reproducing some of Roger Fenton’s pioneering photographs of the Crimean War (and also due to the abolition of the Stamp Act which taxed newspapers), it sold 200,000 copies per week.
By 1863 The Illustrated London News was selling more than 300,000 copies every week, enormous figures in comparison to other British newspapers of the time.
Image: The Watercress Girl by Frederick Ifold (1867).
In 1851, the journalist Henry Mayhew published London Labour and the London Poor, a groundbreaking and influential survey of London’s working classes and criminal underbelly.
What is particularly striking about the work are the lengthy quotations describing their lives from the people themselves.
The result is a poignant and sometimes humorous portrait of Victorian London’s forgotten underclass.
One of the most famous and heart-wrenching profiles is of an eight-year-old watercress seller from the East End. She is unkempt and emaciated when Mayhew interviews her, and wears nothing more than a thin dress, a ragged shawl and carpet slippers even in the severest weather.
Here is what the ‘ watercress girl’ had to say about her life:
“I go about the streets with water-creases, crying, ‘Four bunches a penny, water-creases’. I am just eight years old – that’s all, and I’ve a big sister, and a brother and a sister younger than I am. On and off, I’ve been very near a twelvemonth in the streets.
Before that, I had to take care of a baby for my aunt. No, it wasn’t heavy – it was only two months old; but I minded it for ever such a time – till it could walk. It was a very nice little baby, not a very pretty one; but, if I touched it under the chin, it would laugh.
“Before I had the baby, I used to help mother, who was in the fur trade; and, if there was any slits in the fur, I’d sew them up. My mother learned me to needle-work and to knit when I was about five. I used to go to school, too; but I wasn’t there long.
I’ve forgot all about it now, it’s such a time ago; and mother took me away because the master whacked me, though the missus use’n’t to never touch me. I didn’t like him at all.
What do you think? he hit me three times, ever so hard, across the face with his cane, and made me go dancing down stairs; and when mother saw the marks on my cheek, she went to blow him up, but she couldn’t see him – he was afraid. That’s why I left school”.
Tough little birds have been crash landing in a west Highland village as they start their massive migration to South America.
But the confused Manx shearwater have been given a helping hand on their journey by two Anglia Ruskin University students.
Life Sciences students Martyna Syposz and Filipa Goncalves have been assisting local volunteers in rescuing Manx shearwaters and sending them on their way.
Mallaig, a small port on the west coast of Scotland, is just 18 miles from the island of Rum, which hosts the second largest colony of Manx shearwaters in the world.
The birds migrate thousands of miles from Rum to South America each autumn, but some disorientated juveniles don’t make it any further than the mainland.
One theory is that young birds are blown in the direction of Mallaig due to their inexperience in the air, and are then confused by light pollution. The seabirds start to circuit above the buildings, become fatigued and eventually crash.
Martyna said: “Due to their physiology, unlike most other species of birds Manx shearwaters are not able to take off very easily from a flat surface.
“They have long wings and because their legs are positioned towards the back of their body, they also find walking difficult. That’s why volunteers are needed to rescue them.”
Fellow student Filipa said: “We searched for them every night, caught them and kept them safe until we could release them.
“The final stage was done early in the morning.
We released the birds from the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry, which is a good high spot to help them fly and also avoid predation by gulls, and wished them a safe journey to the South Atlantic.”