With the closure in September of the Edward Bawden exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery, which was seen by over 39,000 visitors, I was delighted to be able to once again leaf through some of the treasured books that I had lent, including East Coasting, a wittily illustrated booklet with text by Dell Leigh, published by the Curwen Press in 1931 for the London and North Eastern Railway. The title page, with its vignettes of prancing prawns, girls en déshabillé, old salts and a mermaid dragging an unsuspecting tourist to a watery grave, encapsulates so much of Bawden’s humour, which was always droll and often slightly macabre.
Edward Bawden (1903–89) was involved with illustration and the art of the book from student days. As a precocious schoolboy, he delighted in copying Louis Wain’s drawings of cats in The Girl’s Own Paper, which he much preferred to the equivalent for boys. When he progressed from the Quaker school