A Shell Eye on England
The Shell County Guides 1934-1984
About A Shell Eye on England
The Shell County Guides began in the 1930s under the leadership of the young John Betjeman. The content of these early guides was often elitist and ironic but a relief from the dullness of earlier guides. By contrast to their often conservative ideas, their design and imagery was highly influenced by European Modern graphic design, experimental and documentary photography and Surrealism.
After World War Two, John Betjeman and John Piper (editors of the post-war Shell Guides) moved away from the self-conscious ‘cleverness’ of the earlier guides and in their place offered serious texts which dealt with each county, comprehensively accompanied by a deceptively ‘style-less’ Modernist design with black and white photography from a range of very good photographers. By the end of the 1970s however, the audience for the Shell Guides were taking holidays abroad. Shell, in response, produced a guide to France and Faber, the guide’s publisher, produced a guide in the same format but to the Greek Islands. The County Guides had had their day.
David Heathcote explores the particularities of the Shell Guides and examines their relation to their cultural context. The book will appeal to a wide range of readers – from the ‘nostalgia’ audience, through those with an interest in John Betjeman and John Piper, to a younger readership interested in cultural history, design and photography.
Read Jack Watkins' review of 'A Shell Eye on England' in the Independent of 22 February 2011 http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/uk/the-guides-green-and-pleasant-lanes-2221671.html