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WH Smith Archive Of Maps And Signs Goes Under The Hammer In Gloucestershire

A collection of items, including signage and illustrative maps, went under the hammer at Chorley’s modern art and design sale, held at Prinknash Abbey Park, Gloucestershire, earlier in April.

WH Smith is an old newsagent, signage and book retailer that’s been operating in the UK more than 2 centuries.The company was founded back in 1792, and has since grown into a icon in the country, with its store front design and eye-catching signage becoming commonplace on streets nationwide. The company was at its peak back in 1930-40s, when its expansion across the country was at its fastest, and it was bringing in notable artist and designers from across the country to design materials, illustrative maps, and signage for it.

Among the items available for auction at the WH Smith Archive in the sale is work done by the Gill brothers, Eric and MacDonald. The latter was known for being behind the design of several typefaces still in use today, like Perpetua and Gill Sans, as well as creating signage for WH Smith. Meanwhile, MacDonald painted a scale map of Britain and Northern Europe which showed the location of Smith branches, which was then hung up on the company’s boardroom, with an estimated value of £20,00-30,000.

Other pieces that were part of the sale were three framed sheets bearing Eric Gill’s hand drawn lettering, other signs used by WH Smith, like seven iterations of an enamel ‘Newsboy’ hanging since which was designed for the company in the early 1900s by Septimus Scott, with each variant fetching a different price due to their condition.

On top of all of that, WH Smith also put up for sale a set of four pictorial tile panels made for them by Carter & Co. of Poole, offered as individual lots.

The WH Smith Archive is a separate entity from the retail chain, run by the WH Smith family. The trust’s purpose is to acquire, receive, retrieve, and preserve the historical collection of items relating to the WH Smith family and company, including letters, materials, artifacts, and documents, as an archive for the benefit of historians, and scholars, as well as the general public.


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