Friday, 31 July 2009

Illustrated book of the week - The Street Markets of London



It will come as a surprise to absolutely no-one who reads this blog that we at The Curious Eye are big fans of street markets.  There's nothing we like better than digging around a brocante, a souk or an all-American flea. Local colour, potential bargains, weird objets...What's not to love?


So we were very excited to come across Mary Benedetta's accounts of London street markets of yore. Interestingly, it is illustrated with photographs by Lazlo Moholy-Nagy,  clearly taking time off his day job as hardcore member of the Bauhaus to take a few snaps to make ends meet. (Fun fact: Moholy-Nagy had such a tough time financially throughout the thirties that he even resorted to working on window displays of mens underwear to keep the wolf from the door).


Benedetta's descriptions of the 1936 markets seem both familiar and completely dated - it's interesting to discover how much has changed in the course of a single generation. Back then, Portobello was a small fruit and veg market, Brick Lane was so insignificant it barely gets a mention and the jewel in London's market crown was Caledonian Market - a massive bi-weekly event that Benedetta describes as "famous for silver, antiques, curios, junk-stalls, amusing characters, and every phase of market life".  If only I had a time machine.


Indeed, a lot of the market fare sounds very interesting - even if she doesn't quite appreciate it.


Sounds like the interior design schemes of every design-savvy hipster in Williamsburg and London's East End.

Some of the characters mentioned are certainly amusing, take this for example:


Details may change, but the spirit of the markets stays the same - I can imagine a scene like this still happening in London on any day of the week (factoring in decimalisation, of course)


Too true!


  1. Wow...Weeping Willie, that's a good looking book.
    I love the rabbits too!

  2. wow, im using this book as part of my final degree research project. its part of my university library special collection, its so old it is not allowed to be photographed or scanned, meaning i could'nt use the photographs which i needed. So thankyou - you just saved me a lot of time and hassle...