Edwin Chater Jack of Thomas Nelson and Sons met Edmund Blampied for the first time, in London in October 1919. Before they met Jack asked if Blampied could develop some more ideas for children's books. Blampied must have shown him some drawings because Jack wrote early in 1920:
At your convenience I should like to see the book of jolly drawings, a rough-out of which you submitted to me when I was in London.
Blampied wrote to say that he had begun work on a
Blam Jolly Book. However he was busy with other commissions at the same time, so it wasn't until 9th March 1920 that Jack wrote with a more specific request:
I think . . there would be room for a book of rather different type if instead of working the humorous vein you could give us a number of similar pages devoted to children at play. It should include all kinds of subjects interesting to children. Children with dogs, with cats, with dolls. A lot of subjects particularly suited to the smallest children. The book should aim, indeed, at the very little child of about 6 and the drawings in both books should be of in all shapes and sizes. It would add a fresh note to the books too if there were a good many silhouettes. I should like to see one or two pages of each book and to know what your fee would be for, say, 64 pages in all i.e. 32 pages in each book.
Frontispiece of Blam's Book of Fun (click to enlarge)
Blampied wrote to Jack on 11th March 1920:
In answer to your letter of 9th you mentioned a book of amusing pictures. This is the book which you suggested (I believe when I last met you in London) should be called The Blam Book. It would consist of drawings similar to The Jolly ABC, end papers somewhat like a well arranged scrapbook with say perhaps 2, 3 full page illustrations in colour etc. The whole to be as full of novelty and variety as possible. In any case I’ll do my best to make it a very presentable book for very young children. Unfortunately I have not had time to prepare a definite scheme though I have put by a few ideas and sketches. The second book, of a rather different type of children at play, also appeals to me. In this you mention the introduction of silhouettes. This should be a welcome variety. You write that you should like to see one or two pages of each book. Do I understand from this, a rough scheme of say any two pages? I have not yet thought over the question of a fee but hope to let you know some time later. I am at present working on Les Chouans and you probably wish to see rough sketches of this book first.
Jack to Blampied on 16th March 1920:
I have to thank you for what you say about the Blam book and the companion volume to it. I think that we ought to have in these books four coloured pages and a cover in colours. On consideration I think it would be a mistake to have pictures only without any letter press. The letter press which we shall supply to your drawings would be of the simplest description - a rhyme here and a few lines of letter press there and in some cases mere a legend perhaps. I think the best plan of procedure would be for you to rough out the two volumes of parts of them and let me see them. Roughly speaking I think that one half of the book should be left letter press or, say, from one third to one half. It would be of great matter however to make the pages as varied as possible. One or two might be full pages and the drawings on the other pages might be of all sorts of shapes and sizes so to make as varied a looking book as possible. One important thing to keep in mind will be that the drawings should appeal to the youngest children. At your convenience I shall be glad to hear further from you about these books and as to the fee you would propose to ask.
Blampied proposed a fee of 80 guineas, which Jack accepted:
I have to thank you for the rough out of the Blam book. We should be glad to have this book from you and pay you the fee you name viz. 80 guineas. I should, however, like you to make certain alterations in it.
1. Our book will contain 32 pp of letter press independent of coloured plates, cover and end papers. 1 page should be arranged as a title. The back of the title may be blank so this leaves 30 pp to fill up apart from end papers. I do not think it is necessary to make more drawings than what you have included. You could with advantage leave more space for letter press description. I think indeed that it would add to the interest of the book if space were left at least for a outline description of pictures in each case. There are, perhaps, one or two exceptions to this, for instance, page of toys.
2. There is no necessity for a coloured picture on the back of the book I think, but we should require to have six coloured pages in the book independently of coloured cover. I am sending you herewith a dummy of the size of volume we propose to adopt. Cover design should be made to reduce to 11” x 8⅜”. Size of paper in the book is 10¾” by 8¾” and the area of type is 6½” by 6 ⅝”. The coloured plates should be drawn to reduce to 7” by 9”. We shall reproduce these and the cover in flat colour.
Will you, therefore, let us have drawings for the black in the first instance. It would be a great advantage to us if you can conveniently make all the line drawings for book and the outlines for colour drawings actual size, and for this particular process we should require to have the drawings on a thin paper.
Drawing by Blampied, verse by Amy Steadman (uncredited)
from Blam's Book of Fun (click to enlarge)
I also enclose a sample of paper suitable. It is Whatman’s paper. If for any reason this paper is not suitable from your point of view kindly let me know. For reasons of economy in these days of expensive paper we must print the book on very rough paper. I am a little doubtful, therefore, whether we can get a first rate result or even a second rate from some of your drawings. I refer particularly to drawings number 24 and 14. The other black subjects should come all right although I am a little doubtful about 28. It might be advisable therefore to treat these subjects in a different manner.
I have been thinking about the title of the book in the event of our commissioning the second book, as I hope we may. I think the two titles Blam’s Funny Book or Blam’s Book of Fun and Blam’s Nursery Book for the one not yet commissioned would make good companion titles sufficiently descriptive of the books.
The text for the book, which Jack called the
letter press, was written for the book by Amy Steedman. She was sent Blampied's drawings and wrote little stories and verses to suit. She wrote to Jack that she had avoided temptation to call the strange four-legged creature on page 18,
Pussyfoot. She called it a
Grislygrump and wrote a charming verse (see above).
There were no end papers to Blam's Book of Fun. Sadly, the second book was never commissioned.
Bibliography code: NEL-21.4
Publisher: Thomas Nelson and Sons
Series: not named but same as Little Chums and Hush-a-bye Baby
Binding: printed boards backed with cream cloth; plain rear boards
Size: 284 x 226 mm
Cover: not signed
Dust jacket: possibly issued in one, but not seen
Internal illustrations: coloured frontispiece and five full page illustrations in flat colours printed on one side of glossy, unnumbered paper, bound in; decorated title page; five full page line drawings, and 27 other line illustrations of different sizes, some as silhouettes
Source of illustration: Original for this book
Printing history: None
Printed by: Printed in Great Britain at the Press of the Publishers
Cover of book (click to enlarge)
Blam's Book of Fun