THE IDEA of presenting motoring history pictorially is not new; the late Toni Rolt compiled such a book, for instance. But the outcome is invariably fascinating, especially as one comes all too infrequently upon pictures of the towns and villages, country lanes and main roads, as they were in the motor-car’s infancy. Now another volume of browse worthy and informative photographic reproductions is available, in the form of “Roadside Camera-1895-1915″ by Michael E. Ware, who needs no introduction, as he is the well-known Curator of the National Museum at Beaulieu. This book is published by David & Charles Ltd. of Newton Abbot. Devon, runs to 112 art-paper pages measuring 9½ in x 7¼ in”, and its UK price is £3.25. Instead of just selecting suitable pictures and writing captions to them, Ware prefers to write a proper if brief history of the motoring movement as it was from the steam-carriage days to the outbreak of war and illustrates it with uncaptioned pictures. The result comes off very well, for the -great majority of the pictures has not been seen before, although some of the earliest ones have, and they have been well-chosen. That the book is all-embracing is seen from the chapter headings, which show that it covers motoring prior to the 1896 Highway Act, the 1,000-Mile Trial of 1900, the cars and bodywork of 1896-1914, family-cars and costumes down the years, roads and road services, social motoring, early motorcycles, and a brief coverage of sporting events. As this is essentially a pictorial work there is also passing reference to early cameras and the “white-sheet man” who blanked out backgrounds to publicity pictures
In most cases Ware names the vehicles and localities depicted, which adds much to his book. From truly pioneer things like the Knight, 1896 Lanchester (seen at Evesham Regatta that year), Coventry-Daimler and Lutzmann, etc. we progress past Some very rare shots of the 1896 Emancipation Run to all manner of delightful scenes, of ladies and their early cars, cars being repaired, cars photographed with penny-farthing bicycles, horses, a tricycle and even curious infants, cars which have collided, have run away. are at a Club meet, have broken the speed-limit, are in the stable-yard of a stately home or using quiet country roads or the congested town streets. Steam-waggons and traction engines, too, seem a perfectly natural adjunct to the cars of the pre-war years. As is usual in books of this kind, it is fun to Study the backgrounds of many of the pictures. In a few cases Ware has not allowed for the fact that a picture is either too small for details he refers to in the text to be seen, or is not sufficiently well-reproduced for them to show. Perhaps full-page illustrations would have avoided this. The majority of them, however, are delightful, notably the circa-1898 Daimler in a Sussex village and a 1904/5 Panhard. crossing the River Stour by ferry. Ballooning and flying are not neglected but for some reason the many activities at Brooklarids are not dealt with. I like the idea of a lady driver of a converted Steellite van delivering Barbers bread in the Redhill area during WW1 and wonder how the .driver and mate of a 1907 Hallford lorry could have sat quite so calmly beneath a heavy roped-on load of hops overhanging the -driving compartment. The is written for general assimilation hut should also hold the interest of more knowledgeable readers—W.B.