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Christmas c1950: Harry Carter’s ‘Circus’

Philip Marriage writes:  Harry Carter was HMSO’s first Head of the Typographic Design & Layout Section (swiftly renamed ‘Layabouts’ by their Printing and Binding colleagues) when set up in 1946. Their studio was situated on the fourth floor of HMSO’s Headquarters in Keysign House, not far from Oxford Circus. This photo shows the team beneath Christmas decorations with a paper carousel lettered ‘Harry Carter’s Circus’.

This first design team was made up of some remarkable people. At the back, left to right:

David Napthine who joined in 1946, made an outstanding contribution for well over thirty years working under Harry Carter, Alan Dodson and John Westwood, and even continued as a freelance following his retirement in 1975. He was recognised for his meticulous design work for Queen Elizabeth's Coronation, receiving a Coronation Medal and an invitation to the ceremony with a seat in the triforium of the Abbey.

George Sewell, finished artist, a superb retoucher well able to handle the finest sable brush and at the same time chain-smoke with drooping cigarette ash almost touching his drawing board.

Harry Carter, linguist and distinguished writer on typography. Oxford educated and subsequently read for the Bar at Lincoln's Inn before an interest in printing took him to the Monotype Corporation, The Kynoch Press and The Nonsuch Press. Following the war he was appointed by Sir Francis Meynell (HMSO's Honorary Typographic Adviser) as the first Head of Layout where he laid the foundations for sound design of government publications for the next fifty years. He was awarded the CBE in 1951 and moved to Oxford University Press in 1954. He is the father of Matthew Carter, the world-renowned type designer.

Syd Stead, the always jovial illustrator. He also worked on material for the Coronation as later recorded by his colleague Arthur Phillips, '. . . recognition for the Invitation Card did cause some amusement. H G Hyde pasted up the wording set by Laytons, but it was given some further treatment by Syd Stead in extending swash characters. Syd took the finished artwork to the College of Heralds and arrived at the same time as a Press Conference was in progress. As a result he got the credit with Joan Hassall for the design and dashed out to buy a quire of Evening Standard's   which included the relevant paragraph.'

John Pitson followed David Napthine in joining the new studio at war's end. He eventually rose to Deputy Head and was awarded an MBE for his work at HMSO. He emigrated to Australia in 1964 to found the studio of the Australian Government Printing Service in Canberra. In 1966 he led the production of the classic Style manual for authors, editors and printers   which greatly influenced official Australian publications.

Seated, left to right:

Norman Akehurst, quiet with a wry sense of humour. Smoked with an elegant cigarette-holder. He handled design work for the Palace of Westminster, dealing with the Serjeant at Arms at the House of Commons. Mid-afternoon he would often depart announcing that he was 'going to the House'.

Herbert Grosvenor Hyde, known to all as 'Albert' the most colourful member of the team and an enthusiastic amateur photographer who almost certainly set up this photo. His colleague Arthur Phillips noted that 'Albert's official reputation was often adversely affected by his ubiquitous kindness' which held him back at numerous promotion boards. However he was eventually successful in obtaining the post of liaison between HMSO and MoD a situation ideally suited to his affable, jovial, and outgoing personality.

Arthur Phillips trained as a Compositor and joined the design team at war's end staying nine years before moving into HMSO's Technical Development area where he produced his seminal work Computer Peripherals and Typesetting   in 1968 followed by many other technical publications. He was awarded the OBE on retirement

(Photo from GD Archive)

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