Let’s Eat! The Double Crown Club Dinners

Food is never ‘just food’”, writes Pat Caplan in the introduction of the book “Cooking Cuisine and Class”, Furthermore, “it is intimately bound up with social relations, including those of power, of inclusion and exclusion, as well as with cultural ideas”. Caplan’s observation allows us to dig deeper into the social meaning of eating together and drinking together in some societies. In this case, printing societies in 20th century in London.

These societies established magnificent dining clubs where dining played a wider role than merely gathering people around a plate of roasted duck or cooked salmon. The research for “Eat.Drink.Print” has shown that the dining table was a place for networking, promoting ideas and sharing knowledge.

In this post we are focusing on the Double Crown Club dinners, a predominant printing club, and trying to answer when, why, where and, most importantly, what was served. Yummy!

A typical club dinner. Image from Charles London Pickering archive

A typical club dinner. Image from Charles London Pickering archive

So where did this is all begin?

According to James Moran the Double Crown Club was founded on 1924 by Oliver Simon. Simon discussed the idea of a dining club of people interested in what he called “the Arts of the Book”.

The Club held his inaugural dinner on 31 October 1924, and at the second dinner got down to the business of dissecting printing with a discussion on “Type-faces of Today”, a natural subject considering the background of those who formed the club.

The club members set a list of rules that delineate its nature and structure of the meeting. For example, Rule number three states that: The Club meets at dinners to be held not more than six times and not less than four times a year.

The Double Crown Club Rules list. Object from Charles London Pickering archive

The Double Crown Club Rules list. Object from Charles London Pickering archive

More interesting is rule no 7:

“Every dinner two persons from among the members of the Club be invited by the Committee to be respectively Chairman and Designer. “The duty of the Designer shall be to Provide a specimen of printed matter, which must include an invitation card and a menu and which may be criticised in the course of the meeting”.

Charles London Pickering’s archive includes a wide collection of well-designed invitations and menus. Exploring these invitations was like taking a glimpse of graphic designs trends and styles from the twenties to the nineties. Color printing, type faces, illustrations, binding and folding: it is all there.

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Invitation to the Double Crown Club 4th dinner.

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Back to the dinners:

For each dinner a theme was chosen, presented by a club member or a guest speaker. There were clear rules about inviting guests to the club’s dinners.

Some themes of the lunches are documented in Moran’s book “Stanley Morrison” from 1971 in a chapter that is dedicated to the Double Crown Club:

At the 25th dinner, in 1930 Stanley Morrison (one of the most influential type-designers of the 20th century, designed the Times New Roman type face on 1931) spoke on “The Newsletters of Ichabod Dawks”, the results of some individual researches; Ten dinners later, in 1931, he spoke on the “Old English Newspapers and “The Times” New Roman”, reflecting both his preoccupation with newspaper history at the time and the new type designed for “The Times”. With Ellic Howe at the 75th dinner, in 1944, he discussed unusual pieces of printing, and a year later, at the 82nd dinner, he took up the problem “What is pamphlet?”.

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The Double Crown Club accounts of the year 1987

At the Club’s 134th dinner in 1956, Morison joined with Meynell and Lynton Lamb to speak in memory of the Club’s founder, Oliver Simon, who had recently passed away.

Other themes are shown in the dinner invitations in the archive: The 3rd dinner was dedicated to “Book Illustration” with the guest William Rothenstein; The 4th to “Period Printing” The 90th dinner discussion was about the club’s future.

But what did they eat?!

The clubs’ meeting took place mostly in restaurants, which served fixed menus that included 4-5 dishes: appetizer, soup, salad (sometimes) meat or fish, two side dishes and a dessert. The critical component in these meals was wine. Sometimes a small wine menu accompanied the food menu.

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Invitation to ATPAS dinner

Eat.Drink.Print exhibition will include a modern version of a print society meeting.
Stay tuned!

 

What is Going on Here?

Welcome to the resonant world of Charles London Pickering. CLP – as he is now fondly known – collected. His theme was print, his habit was lunch; for a skinny guy he ate a lot, and we are talking a lot, of lunches.

CLP (OBE, 1908-1998) kept box after unordered box of material associated with his professional life – bureaucratic paperwork related to his role as an inspector of print, design and typography colleges; samples of print and typography for education; trade press; newspapers; photographs and lunch menus.

He was a member of several professional print industry societies – each one had up to four lunches a year. For each lunch a society member produced a menu – showing off their technical ability, taste and creativity. Collectively the menus trace the development of design from after World War Two to the late 1980s – and they are delightful. More than that, the menus give us an insight into a circle of, almost exclusively, men, gathering to talk and eat and learn and do business.

CLP’s boxes are now stored safely on the steel shelves of the London College of Communication Archive and Special Collections Centre.

At the Archive. Photo by Tara Emad Aldughalther

At the Archive. Photo by Tara Emad Aldughalther

 

As part of our Masters Programme, MA Culture Criticism and Curation at Central Saint Martin’s, we were given access to the uncatalogued material, with the aim of producing an exhibition at the University campus in Kings Cross, London. We discussed many themes the objects in the archive suggested; the position of women in the industry during the period (we only found one! But she, Beatrice Warde, is a paradigm example of a woman rising to the top of a male dominated profession); changing technology; the development of graphic design and typography and more.

Image From Charles London Pickering archive

Image From Charles London Pickering archive

A lot of this history is well-documented and all of our conversations came back to the lunches – so we decided to produce an exhibition that reflects on the circles of influence that operate in the print world, which, as in other professions, are often situated in semi-social networks, making change and maintaining tradition. Whether you call the lunches an Old Boys Network or peer support groups, the industry cliques, then as now, eat together, drink together and print together. The wider social influence of the print circles is something we are thinking about – particularly in the context of two overtly political objects – print is not innocent, design is not innocent, what do those bloody lunches reveal?

Charles London Pickering

Charles London Pickering

This blog will relate our experiences of producing the exhibition, look at some of the star objects and some aspects of our research. Skinny, smart, serious old CLP didn’t change the world, but he made a difference in an industry that has underpinned the development of modern human history and continues to be powerful. So, please raise a glass to CLP, and wish us luck for the project.

Eat.Drink.Print exhibition take place on Central Saint Martin’s College of art and design from April 29th to May 5th.