My favourite books 21: The London Perambulator

With Foyles poised to open in Stratford (of which, more tomorrow), I shall concentrate this week on London books – something I could easily do for a couple of months.

The London Perambulator by James Bone, with illustrations by Muirhead Bone

Jonathan Cape, 1925

A beautiful book – printed to a high standard on heavy cream paper, hand cut and wearing its 85 years lightly.  In the pattern of so many books, before and since, each chapter reviews a different aspect of London – clubland, the river, the cockneys &c.  The language can be a little florid (“In all these ancient fastnesses of the law, men of lay character and curious ways appear and live curious lives”), and the nostalgia a little suffocating, but the author reminds us that London has always been a changing city – the Georgians, Victorians and Long Weekenders had already knocked down most of ancient London, and much that was newer, interesting and irreplaceable, long before the Luftwaffe and Harry Hyams went to work.  The last chapter is simply entitled “Gone!”.

What makes the Perambulator special is the work by Muirhead Bone, sketcher, engraver and war artist.  My hand-held photo can’t do justice to pictures like this one, showing the demolition of the Egyptian Hall, which used to stand on Piccadilly.

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