Santa, Savings, and Fractal geometry

Santa, Savings, and Fractal geometry

Identifier: 2014074 TRUSTEE SAVINGS

The Droste effect — known as mise en abyme in art — is the effect of a picture appearing within itself, in a place where a similar picture would realistically be expected to appear.

The effect is named after the image on the tins and boxes of Droste cocoa powder, one of the main Dutch brands, which displayed a nurse carrying a serving tray with a cup of hot chocolate and a box with the same image. This image, introduced in 1904 was maintained for decades with slight variations. The logo of cheese spread brand The Laughing Cow also features the Droste effect. The effect was used by Giotto di Bondone in 1320, in his Stefaneschi Triptych. The polyptych altarpiece portrays in its center panel Cardinal Giacomo Gaetani Stefaneschi offering the triptych itself to St. Peter.

The appearance is recursive: the smaller version contains an even smaller version of the picture, and so on. Only in theory could this go on forever; practically, it continues only as long as the resolution of the picture allows, which is relatively short, since each iteration geometrically reduces the picture’s size. It is a visual example of a strange loop, a self-referential system of instancing which is the cornerstone of fractal geometry. [Adapted from Wikipedia]

Well the artist responsible for this example didn’t try too hard; after a reasonably recongnisable image within the main picture, the next one is basically a blob.

You can’t escape from Santa, even at NeverSeen Books.


Trustee Savings Bank Christmas Annual 1949. 32 pages including paper cover. Size: 128 x 196 mm.

This little booklet was one of several published in the early post-war years by the Trustee Savings Bank. It’s full of homilies, puzzles, a children’s page, recipes, and other heart-warming stuff typical of the magazines and advertising material of the period.


trustee3click to enlarge

It’s Party Time, and Prince Charles beams out of his pram at his mother, who’s not yet Queen. Meanwhile, there’s a typical English Christmas Tea in progress – though the grandmother in her shawl looks American to me – with the gents all wearing ties, of course. A chocolate Yule Log supplements the bulging Christmas cake, and impossibly real candles light the tree.

The Trustee Savings Bank (TSB) was a British financial institution. Trustee savings banks originated to accept savings deposits from those with moderate means. Their shares were not traded on the stock market but, unlike with mutually held building societies, depositors had no voting rights; nor did they have the power to direct the financial and managerial goals of the organisation. Directors were appointed as trustees (hence the name) on a voluntary basis. [Wikipedia] The complex history and merger with Lloyds is here.


Condition: Good – some creasing, mostly around the spine area.

Price: £6.00 plus postage. Enquiries:

The [sad] Case for Spirit Photography

Plate from The Case for Spirit Photography

I recently attended a guided tour by exhibition curator Gaia Tedone, of her exhibition Twixt Two Worlds, at the Towner Gallery Eastbourne. The exhibits include a series of ‘spirit photographs’ by 1920s medium William Eglinton.

Introducing the exhibit, Gaia commented that these photographs were printed at a size that would fit into a large pocket, perhaps so that the owner could always have these ‘appearances’ of their dear departed with them, as a source of comfort. I had already come to the same conclusion about my copy of Arthur Conan Doyle’s book The Case for Spirit Photography.

The Case for Spirit Photography. Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. London : Hutchinson & Co. First edition. Undated [1922]. Original printed paper covers. pages: x, [11], 12-110, [1 rear advert]; illustrated with photographs.

When I acquired it, the book seemed to have the kind of wear that’s usually found with old motor car manuals. The cover and outer pages were very stained, worn, patched, and heavily dog-eared. Many sections of the text had been underlined in pencil.

Spirit photography started in the 1860s. One of the later practitioners was William Hope (1863–1933). Psychical researcher Harry Price revealed that photographs by Hope, who was a key figure in the ‘’Crewe Circle’ of spiritualists, were fraudulent. Despite this, Hope still retained a noted following including Arthur Conan Doyle, who refused to accept any evidence that Hope was a fraud and went to great lengths to clear his name, including writing the major portion of this book. (Conan Doyle wrote the first 6 Chapters, pages 11- 61. There are 110 pages in all.)



It has often been asked, how could the person with intelligence sharp enough to have created Sherlock Holmes – and well versed in the mechanics of photography – have believed that the spirit photographs of the era were genuine manifestations of the dead? The answer seems to be that his grief, following the deaths of several members of his family, were such that he needed to have faith in the afterworld, and his faith overcame the evident falsity of these images. Indeed, the even more ridiculous Cottingley Fairies apparently charmed him into acceptance of their veracity. There’s something so very sad about all this.

An owner’s name, Alexander McCorquodale, is on the Contents page: Maybe not the gentleman of that name who was the first husband of ‘novelist’ Barbara Cartland, but apparently the person who had such a desperate attachment to this book.


The cover has been washed and restored, the pages gently cleaned and tidied, and the broken spine re-glued. There are still some smudges and stains, and evidence of folded page corners. I’ve left the pencil underlinings; perhaps they have some research value.

This first English edition (the first of all editions) sells for around £200 – £650 online. Bearing in mind the condition:

Price: £120.00 plus postage. Enquiries: