Printers’ Pie – the 1930s revival
The idea of Printers’ Pie as a magazine of stories and cartoons seems to date back at least to 1903, when it was (first?) published by ‘The Sphere’ to raise funds for the Printers’ Pension, Almshouse, and Orphan Asylum Corporation. The name ‘Printers’ Pie’ comes from the term used to describe unsorted type – a jumble of different letters, and the Printers’ Pension Corporation was a long-established charity. Its first Festival President was Lord John Russell in 1828 and later Presidents included Dickens, Disraeli and Gladstone amongst many other distinguished names.
Over the next few years there were regular issues of Printers’ Pie, from around 1912 extended to two issues a year, with the addition of a Christmas issue under the title ‘Winter’s Pie’. From 1909 to 1918 all or most issues featured drawings by George Studdy, best known for his drawings of the dog ‘Bonzo’. After that it may have become less regular and eventually petered out.
But some time around 1935 the idea seems to have been revived under a slightly different name. I have a copy of ‘Christmas Pie’ 1935, printed and published by Odhams Press, selling for 6d and now raising money not for a printers’ charity, but for the King George’s Jubilee Trust. There’s a Foreword from Edward, the Prince of Wales, soon after to become King Edward VIII, noting (in underlined text) that the entire proceeds from sale of the publication would go to the Trust. In contrast the front cover says only that the Trust would receive all profits.
The list of writers, who presumably contributed stories without being paid, includes many of the leading and most popular names of the time – A.A. Milne, A.E.W. Mason, G.K. Chesterton, Warwick Deeping, Ethel Mannin and Beverley Nichols among them. All stories are illustrated, and all illustrators credited, as are the various cartoonists contributing ‘joke drawings’.
It was followed in 1936 by a ‘Summer Pie’, sporting a front cover design by Bruce Bairnsfather (celebrated in the recent RSC production of ‘The Christmas Truce’). The charitable purpose of this issue is less boldly emblazoned, but profits were to go once again to the Printers’ Pension Corporation, as well as to the National Advertising Benevolent Society, a famous Fleet Street charity.
‘Christmas Pie’ 1936 returned to supporting the King George’s Jubilee Trust. With Edward having become King in early 1936, the foreword is now written by Albert, Duke of York, himself soon to become King George VI after the Abdication, and who again insists that the entire proceeds will go to the Trust. There’s a ‘Summer Pie’ 1937 too, supporting a new Children’s ward at Hornsey Central Hospital, as well as the National Advertising Benevolent Society.
After that I lose track of what happens, until Summer 1939, when there’s a final pre-war issue, with stories by Agatha Christie, Noel Coward, Sidney Horler and P.C. Wren amongst others, and a double page centrespread cartoon by W.H. Cobb. Were there Christmas Pies in 1937 and 1938 and a Summer Pie in 1938? I’ll look out for them. It’s likely though that the series was ended by the war after summer 1939, before coming back in a different form around 1943. I’ll come back to that revival in another post.
Posted on April 28, 2016, in Vintage Paperbacks and tagged Agatha Christie, Bruce Bairnsfather, Christmas Pie, George Studdy, Odhams Press, Printers' Pie, Summer Pie. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.