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:

ARK – as a new book is published, we offer the first 13 issues

Last June, the Royal College of Art published a book celebrating the College’s journal, ARK. I’ll let the RCA website provide more details.

‘Royal College of Art Critical Writing in Art & Design students have produced a celebratory book exploring the College’s historic and influential visual arts journal, ARK.  ARK: Words and Images from the Royal College of Art Magazine 1950-1978 … is a wide-ranging anthology of articles and images from the College’s long-running ARK magazine – an influential presence in British cultural life.  CWA&D students have selected and  curated material from ARK’s 54 issues, spanning nearly three decades, to give a snapshot of its bold and fast-changing design, and extraordinary cast of writers and artists that helped propel it to international attention. This new publication features a complete run of ARK covers in full colour including designs by Len Deighton and Alan Fletcher; a preface from design critic Rick Poynor; and a full index of the magazine’s content throughout its duration, as well as rare texts and classic image essays. Together, the material offers a vivid overview of the changing attitudes and approaches to art and design in Britain in an age of considerable flux.  ARK, a style and design journal created by RCA students, was part of an era of cultural transformation across fashion, film, television, advertising, newspapers and magazines. Such was the stature of ARK that it drew contributions from creative luminaries including Ralph Rumney, Lucio Fontana, Alison and Peter Smithson, Toni del Renzio and Reyner Banham. In his preface, Rick Poynor describes this influence:  ‘…ARK has become a vivid historical document. It records, narrates, evokes and recalls its moment (or succession of moments) with energy, eloquence and insight. There were other contemporary British magazines about visual subjects with elements of content or design in common – Motif, Typographica, the short-lived Uppercase, even The Architectural Review – but…none of them could match ARK’s twists and turns, its visual conceits and coups de théâtre, or its eclecticism of content during its heyday from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s.’ ARK: Words and Images from the Royal College of Art Magazine 1950-1978, designed by Jorg Schwertfeger (MA Visual Communication, 2014) and priced at £15.’

You won’t be able to buy it from Amazon (hooray!) but search online, and you’ll find it available from a real bookseller, including the RCA.

Coincidentally, Neverseen is pleased to offer a run of:

ARK: the Journal of the Royal College of Art. The first thirteen issues. No.13 is subtitled The Journal of Design and Fine Art. Size: approx 238 x 178mm. No.1 has b/w illustrations, all other issues have illustrations in both colour and b/w. Details of condition listed below. I have taken two issues to illustrate interior layouts, to give some idea of the wonderful contents of this collection. All front covers are illustrated at the end of this post.

The illustration of Figureheads from the National Maritime Museum is by Valerie Brook (now Falla). Sixty years on, she’s still producing and exhibiting great artworks. A print of one of Val’s scenes of Hastings hangs on a wall at home as I write this, brightening our mornings. I spoke with her a few weeks ago, and she told me of the arrangement with ARK. “The art editor would approach a student whose style of illustration might suit a particular article in the magazine. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but it’s interesting now to look back…” Valerie looks at her work from that time, which seems to me to reflect an already very mature talent, as a somewhat detached and bemused observer – “Look at how I angled that head!” – and with genuine modesty. Before starting at the RCA, Val’s drawings had won a prize of £100 from Punch – a useful sum that went towards her RCA fees – and I was treated to a view of some of her delightful artwork for the competition.

arkLACEY[click to read]

In 1970 or 71, artist / robot-maker, collector, performer and archetypal British eccentric Bruce Lacey put on a show at the National Film Theatre, entitled ‘Bruce Lacey Exposes Himself’. It was a wonderfully rambling exposition of his obsessions, with films of his machines and ‘collections of random junk’– including a screening of Ken Russell’s The Preservation Man (1962) (which is here, if it’s still there), and jumpy home movie footage of his aunt walking her dog, taken on 9.5mm film decades earlier. I was technician for the show. Bruce arrived with a 45rpm disc. “I wanted the recording to sound old,” he explained, “so I buried it in the garden for a while.” It still had mud in the grooves, but I risked damaging our record player stylus. That isn’t Lord Tennyson you hear supposedly emanating from the cylinder player in the BBC Monitor film, it’s Bruce (imitating a faded recording of the great poet), wearing a ‘Sgt. Pepper’ jacket years before the Beatles latched on. I remember that Lacey’s NFT show was my first experience of arranging a radio mic. Unrestrained by cables Bruce darted among the audience as he commented on the images on the screen, and in-between clips, with a non-stop monologue of observations, ruminations and fears. “I always look in a toilet bowl first,” he explained to the audience at one point, probably apropos of nothing. “Spiders lurk there, and then they crawl up your bum.” (Audience laughter.) “They do!” I’m happy to learn that Bruce is still exposing himself all over the country. Lacey’s contribution to the issue of ARK included here was a short piece, a double-page spread explaining his collecting mania, illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings of his “forlorn objects”, including a grouping of eight magic lanterns – long before such items started to be seriously sought out by more conventional collectors. The way he treats his “stuff” is outrageously uncuratorial and delightfully refreshing.

The ARK layouts are beautiful, and the text engaging with no waffle or padding. The advertisements are in themselves attractive, no doubt helped by a succession of Advertising Managers who were top-flight budding artists. In recent years I was privileged to know Bob Falla, a fine talent who served on ARK in that capacity for a while. I could go on writing forever about these wonderful magazines and the memories they evoke, but I have to stop here. The covers of the thirteen issues offered here are shown below.
Condition: Most copies have some minor foxing and spotting to some pages, not very evident except where noted below. A few finger marks, and fading to some spines.

1. Foxing to covers, noticeable on the back. 2. Minor foxing to covers. Small stain to very edge of top right of several pages. 3. Foxing to covers, and last page. Staining (coffee) to top corner / outer margin of most pages. This has been treated. 4. Foxing to cover, noticeable on the back. 5. Foxing to covers. Stain to outer margin, last 10 pages and back cover. 6. Foxing to covers. 7. Foxing to covers, noticeable on back. 8. Back cover has a flattened fold. 9. Foxing to covers, stain to top margin last 10 pages and inside back cover. 10. Noticeable foxing to covers. Small top corner fold to front cover. 11. Some spotting to spine. 12. Back cover rather soiled. 13. Foxing to covers and first few pages. Top of spine bumped.

Price: £250.00 plus postage