Sunday, 26 April 2015

Raymond Sheppard and Wide World magazine 1956

Wide World October 1956 pp354-355
The Sadhu's Secret by Peter Hall

By my calculations Raymond Sheppard's work appeared in 17 issues of George Newnes' Wide World magazine between the dates October 1956 and July 1958 (unfortunately Sheppard passed away the following month). He would have been in his element illustrating tales of derring-do from the British Empire and beyond. Wide World was a fairly unique magazine in that it had, what it called a "brotherhood" (people who had similar interests could connect in a fellowship and share experiences such as camping, cycling etc.) and it also encouraged pen-pals in an age when the widespread British Empire was on the verge of shrinking. Interestingly, it told the true stories of people who submitted their own typewritten manuscripts. To read one now, one wonders about the sexism and imperialism but it's easy to be critical when looking back! I have shown the complete double pages for the first story to demonstrate how these images were published.

Wide World October 1956 pp356-357
The Sadhu's Secret by Peter Hall
As stated on the contents page:
“The Editor is willing to consider Articles illustrated with curious or remarkable photographs, and also Stories of Adventure. These must be STRICTLY ORIGINAL AND TRUE IN EVERY DETAIL.” - interesting capitalisation there!

Every month this statement would appear below the unique contents page which took the form of a map showing from where the stories came

Wide World October 1956 Cover
Artist unknown

Wide World October 1956 Contents page
On the basis that the names of several famous authors of the time appeared I guess the submitted ideas had to be re-written sometimes. The Brotherhood had an enamel button badge (brooches for ladies). As stated in the monthly "Wide World Brotherhood" section, many requests came from 'brothers':
"The Wide World Brotherhood is a fraternity of men (and women) of goodwill linked by the common bond of a love of travel and adventure. It has only one rule - a solemn pledge to treat fellow members as brothers and, if need arises, give them any help possible" (p. 387, October 1956)

Wide World Oct 1956 p.389
Example requests from 'brotherhood' members

Wide World began life in 1898 with its Diamond Jubilee being celebrated in 1958 and it ran until December 1965. When one thinks of Wide World covers one is likely to see W. C. Nicolson's handiwork from the post-WWII era. Other interior artists in the period of my interest included Frank Grey, Cyril Holloway, Neville Dear, Edward Osmond, Stuart Tresilian, Edgar Spenceley (who had a very ornate signature) and one of my other favourites Mike Noble. When I interviewed Mike for a book many years ago, he didn't mention this work at all, but he is easy to identify, and the thing that first led me to Wide World was my interest in another artist, Frank Bellamy. The art reproduction appeared very crude and I have never seen any original artwork from these magazines so wonder whether they were thrown in a skip during one of the many Fleet Street takeovers and mergers in the late 1950s / early 1960s. Often photographs would appear alongside illustrations, which were always black and white, even in the 1960s when photography took over all together. To read more about Wide World head over the Greg Ray's excellent article.

Further illustrations from Wide World 1956 by Raymond Sheppard:

Raymond Maufrais was lost in French Guiana in 1950 and this story - told by his father - comes from the son's diary, found by Indians in the jungle. There's lots of information on this story (mostly in French) on the Internet. It was serialised in Wide World from November 1956 to March 1957 and the following shows the first parts drawn by Sheppard.

November 1956:
"Manhunt in Green Hell" [Edgar and Raymond Maufrais]

Summoning his last ounce of strength he managed at last to re-float the precious canoe pp.6-7

"The unseen enemy" [Edgar and Raymond Maufrais]
I found myself on the ground entangled in my mosquito net.
One tree pinned my legs and the other lay across my belly
Add Meirelles gave a shout and pointed.
We saw the vestiges of a human camp scattered all over the place...a human skull...a second...all that remained of Barbosa's expedition
December 1956:
"The swallowing swamp" [Edgar and Raymond Maufrais]

With bleeding feet and hands I staggered from rock to rock in the roaring rapids,
Bobby gamely following behind me
pp. 80-81
There was a rending crack and the cross-piece gave way,
plunging me into the river
pp. 84-85
The wind blows like artillery fire in the tops of the palms;
dead branches and whole trees come tumbling down,
bringing other trees with them, pp. 88-89