Boys of all ages yearn for the motor cars of yesteryear. Collecting the books and magazines that went with them brings the dream a step nearer.
There are many different items associated with cars which can form interesting collections in their own
right. Apart from printed material such as magazines, adverts and books, there are car registration plates, mascots, badges and other items of hardware from great cars around the world.
Although the motor car has been with us for just over 100 years, the machine and everything associated with it has always aroused keen interest. Not everyone can
afford to buy classic or vintage cars, let alone run or insure them; consequently there is a great deal of interest among collectors in all the paraphernalia that went with them.
In the days of Victorian and Edwardian motorists, cars had not yet gone into mass production, so technical books about car repair would not have had a wide enough readership to be worth publishing. Instead there wer plenty of travelogues and general interest books which captured the air of excitement, adventure and romance that motoring had in those early days.
Books like Through Persia in a Motor Car by Claude Anet, which appeared in 1907, were extremely popular. This described a journey from Bucharest to Constantinople by ten people in a 4OHP Mercedes, a 2OHP Mercedes and a 16HP Fiat. Pekin to Paris by Luigi Barzini, first published in the same year, told the even more romantic story of Prince Borghese's adventures during a race from China to France in an Itala motor car.
These dramatic accounts were very appealing to the early motorist struggling along the poorly made (if empty) roads of Britain in vehicles that were still extremely unreliable. Stories of man and machine are still of great historical interest to the modern collector.
By around 1910, the motoring craze was booming, and magazines like Motoring Illustrated and The Car Illustrated began to appear. These were often sent to the publishers to be bound every six months, but unfortunately the covers and advertisements were often thrown away in the process.
Most of these early advertisements were fairly straightforward, often with quite detailed illustrations of the vehicles.
It was not until the 1920s that advertising copywriters really found their stride. But one particularly famous creation of the marketing moguls dates from as early as 1898, when the Michelin Man was born in Lyons. He appeared on posters that were lithographically reproduced and often signed.
CAR COLLECTOR'S NOTES
The great beauty of collecting books, magazines and Sc forth to do with motor cars and motoring is that they can cost anything from next to nothing upwards, and so anyone can afford to take an interest. You could start by collecting photographs from postcard auctions, although those that are historically important may cost more than you'd think. It's a sad refection on human nature that photographs slowing accidents are among the most popular with collectors.
Books can still be found at jumble sales or, appropriately enough, at car boot sales. First editions car be extremely expensive, though, so this is an area for the specialist.
'Association copies' of books are those with written comments or corrections in the margin, either
by the author or the owner, or with an author's inscription in the front. These are particularly popular and very collectable.
CAR MAGAZINES AND ADS
Because of their flimsy construction, good early copies of motoring magazines are rare. Half-year bindings that still have their covers and
advertisements intact are often worth twice as much as those without. One special collector's
item worth looking out for is the edition of the first British weekly The Autocar that was printed to celebrate the repeal of the Locomotives on Highways Act. A half-year binding with covers and advertisements would be the envy of many and could fetch a fair bit.
Before the motoring press really got going, manufacturers like Benz, Daimler and De Dion promoted their cars using broadsheet advertisements posted unsolicited through likely letter boxes, exactly like today's junk mail. Since (like today's) most found their way straight into the bin, these advertisements are now extremely rare and thus very valuable.