“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!
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.
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.
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?”.
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.
Eat.Drink.Print exhibition will include a modern version of a print society meeting.