Vintage Values – this is the title given to the just-published collection of 100 striking covers from a series of pamphlets published by the Catholic Truth Society (CTS) between the 1920s and 1970s.
They really don’t make them like this any more, but then again, it is unlikely there’s much of a market for parents seeking pamphlets called Shall My Daughter Be a Nun? or for the general public, wondering Does Communism Threaten Christianity?
The CTS (now Veritas), which published some 5,000 of these pamphlets between 1922 and 1972, was founded in 1899.
Its core mission was to “make God known and loved”.
The society urged those who bought a pamphlet to “place it in the hands of somebody who needs it.
“Don’t neglect to do so if you can. If you can’t, leave it behind you on a park seat, in a bus, in a theatre and Providence will guide it right.”
Their print runs were astonishing: in 1951 alone, a truly staggering 1.25 million CTS pamphlets were published.
Many of the illustrated covers in this collection have a distinctly modern style, with some covers so arresting they could double as film posters of the era.
One of the illustrators, George Altendorf, was a colleague of Harry Clarke, and later became art editor at the Irish Press.
Other illustrators (all men) include Alfred Monahan, George Monks, John Henry and Karl Uhlemann.
Part of the joy of the pamphlet covers is their extraordinary titles, which read like headlines from tabloid newspapers.
Many of the pamphlets were written by priests, as indicated by either “SJ” with their names, or “Rev”.
Priests wrote The Girl Worth Choosing (1955); Grow Up and Marry(1947); Divorce is a Disease (1944); Shall I Be a Nun? (1945); Fashionable Sin (1957); Hell and its Punishments (1948); Don’t Swear Like That!’ (1948); Shall I start to Drink? Decide for Yourself’ (1953); The Young Lady Says ‘No’!, (1946); What Not to Do on a Date (1960); and Why Leave Home When It’s Such Fun to be There?’ (1944).
Then there are the pamphlet titles that are, frankly, mystifying, but wonderful.
The Goat Burgler (1935); Mad Dog (1944); The Man With the Wounded Hands (1946); Heavenly Hide and Seek (1946); The Girl Who Was Frightened of Cows – Extreme Unction (1953); Jack and the Wishing Gnome (1946); The Beefy Saint (1922); Sister Felicitas Wins a Bicycle (1952); and Sister Camillus Goes to Gaol’ (1944).
The Vintage Values exhibition is at the National Print Museum, Beggars Bush barracks, Dublin 4, until November 24th.