The Art of the Tin Toy

"The Art of the Tin Toy" by David Press-land. 224 pp. 10 3/4 in. x 12 3/4 in. (New Cavendish Books, 65, Marylebone High Street, London, W1M 3AH. £19.50.)

This is perhaps the most magnificent "correctable" book of them all (but if a table is for coffee why load it with tomes ?). It is alluring, beautiful, a splendid piece of publishing and top-class art-work. But beyond that, the accuracy of the information which the long captions to the hundreds of colour and black and white pictures convey about toys of all kinds, nationalities and periods, is truly commendable. Our interest is in the cars, naturally, but I confess to glancing at the aeroplanes, boats, and trains on the way. .. .

It is fascinating to find how many toy cars, from very early times, were available, racers as well as the more prosaic sort. Even more astonishing to discover how many have survived, in specialist collections, for the book producers Carole Montague and John B. Cooper to arrange and photograph for our delection—and what an enormous task that must have been!

I was delighted to find reference to little-remembered and previously-unknown toy cars, commercial vehicle and 'buses now made available in this so attractive manner, and to find that old favourites, of which I own a number, such as the tin-plate Citroens, the Citroen Six chassis, the Meccano sports car, the covetable P2 Alfa Romeo and the big clockwork models of vintage cars, etc. have not been omitted. I was surprised to find the latter attributed to Jep and while I remember, and have owned, their Delage tourer, and knew of their Renault and Panhard-Levassor models, I am interested to find that their best model is depicted as a Rolls-Royce tourer, so perhaps my similar H6 Hispano-Suiza is by another toy-maker ? Curiously, the author makes it plain that he prefers the freer interpretation of the German factories, compared to these products of the Carette factory. Personally, I put these bigger tin-plate French cars as second only, in their class, to the P2 Alfa Romeo, but perhaps we are thinking of different toy-makers?

The several pages devoted to the tin-plate Citroen models is sheer nostalgia, inasmuch as I vividly recall going just before Christmas (1924?) with my mother to the real Citroen showrooms in Piccadilly, to buy my 10s. 6d. 5 cv. clockwork two-seater. I can still remember the pleasure its detachable disc wheels, realistic radiator, mudguards, and dashboard, etc., and its central handbrake, gave a car-mad boy, and also how much carpet-dust and hairs its clockwork-mechanism attracted! (I fear I cut the saloon-top off a later Delage, in order to turn it into a tourer stripped for Brooklands—trying to ignore the fact that a 14/40 didn't actually race there....). When I say that this great, heavy incomparable tome on tin-toys even has a chart of sales for these tin-plate Citroens and a view of them, and the Citroen pedal-cars, standing with real Citroens in the Strasbourg showrooms in 1926, you will see what you will miss if you are a miniature car fan and you fail to browse through it. There are Land Speed Record cars, motorcycles, and much, much more besides, even unto badges and pockethistories of many of the toy makers whose diverse products are so beautifully depicted in the book—although I wonder whether the Bassett-Lowke Company will be flattered to find itself included among the makers of tin-toys? (After all this, I find there is no reference to that excellent Model-T Ford trio that I used to buy at Woolworths, presumably for about 1s. 6d. each. . . .)

If this one is too expensive for you to buy, your local librarian must be cajoled into obtaining it for you.—W.B.