‘Printers’ Pie’ had started in the early years of the twentieth century as a way to raise funds for a Printers’ charity. It continued until at least 1918, sometimes twice a year, with Christmas issues called ‘Winter’s Pie’, but stopped publication soon after. There may have been one or two publications in the 1920s called the ‘Sketchbook and Printers’ Pie’, but information is scarce.
In 1935 it was revived (see this earlier blog post) to raise money for the King George’s Jubilee Trust and then for other charities, now using the titles ‘Christmas Pie’ and ‘Summer Pie’. So far as I can tell the final issue in this series, published by Odhams, was in 1939.
But then after a gap of three or four years, it appeared again in 1943 under the original title, this time published by Hutchinson. The publication marked Walter Hutchinson becoming Festival President of the Printers’ Pension, Almshouse and Orphan Asylum Corporation, the original charity for which ‘Printers’ Pie’ had been created, and was to raise funds for them.
It was now in a small paperback format, and selling for the relatively high price of 2s 6d. Pre-war issues had sold for 6d and in 1943 most paperbacks were selling for around 9d. But as well as being for charity, this was on unusually good quality paper for a wartime publication, featured a colour cover and several pages of glossy photographs in two sections. There were stories by H.E. Bates, Howard Spring, L.A.G. Strong and James Hilton among others.
It was followed by ‘Christmas Pie’ at the end of 1943 in a similar format, again selling for 2s 6d. This time there was an appeal for donations to the same Printers’ charity, but no direct mention that the proceeds or profits from the publication would go to the charity. Most issues from then onwards contained no mention of being for charity, but on the other hand the price came down to 1s 6d. The exceptions were the Spring Pies for 1945 and 1946, with the price raised to 2 shillings and profits going first to the Bookbinders’ Cottage Homes and Pensions Society, and then to Toc H.
The format instead seemed just to be adopted by Hutchinson as part of their series of Hutchinson Pocket Specials. From Autumn 1944, there were more or less regular issues five times a year, titled as Spring Pie, Summer Pie, Autumn Pie, Winter Pie and Christmas Pie, published roughly in March, June, September, November and December.
Each issue had a colour portrait of a girl on the cover and inside a mix of articles, short stories, cartoons and photographs. mostly in a light-hearted tone. The style feels very similar to ‘Lilliput’, then a popular monthly magazine.
In April 1946 there was an extra issue called Pie’s Film Book, with Vivien Leigh on the cover as Cleopatra, from one of the big films of the year. It was printed entirely on glossy paper, lavishly illustrated with black and white photos of film stars, and selling at two shillings. Pie’s Film Book No. 2 appeared the following year in similar format, with Margaret Lockwood on the cover, but that seems to have been the end of this venture.
There were other attempts to modernise the format. Colour appeared internally for the first time in the Christmas 1947 issue, with four reproductions of Dutch paintings and in 1948 many of the black and white photographs were replaced by colour illustrations of various kinds. But perhaps it was still not modern enough for the post-war world. The Summer and Christmas issues of 1948 experimented with some discreet nudity, but it was too late or too desperate.
So far as I know, the 1948 Christmas issue was the last until it reappeared in a slightly larger format and at the reduced price of one shilling in December 1949 as ‘Winter Pie’. The editor is now shown as Barbara Vise and the cover illustration is by (presumably related) Jenetta Vise. Inside there’s no longer any colour, but the layout looks less cramped. The content though is less than riveting, featuring articles such as ‘Why I like going to the cinema’ by the Bishop of London, alongside articles on suits of armour and portrait miniatures.
It was followed by ‘Spring Pie’ in April 1950 in a similar format, although this time with a centrefold featuring colour photographs of pottery and porcelain. But then this too seems to have died.
After that, Hutchinson seem to have given up any ambitions to continue the series. Both the ‘Pie’ title and the aim of raising money for good causes seem to have passed back to Odhams, the publisher of the pre-war issues. They published at least one more issue in 1952 in the larger pre-war format, as ‘Summer Pie, in aid of the National Advertising Benevolent Society. That may well have been the last of the Pies.
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.