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Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Odhams Reference Books of L. Ashwell Wood

The Odhams Reference Books of L. Ashwell Wood
by Jeremy Briggs

Eagle cutaway artist Leslie Ashwell Wood began his career in publishing with Amalgamated Press in the late 1920s and by the 1930s he was providing diagrammatic and cutaway illustrations to a selection of AP’s weekly titles including weekly part-works like The World Of Wonder and The Romance Of The Nation which were later compiled and published as books. By 1937 he then moved to Odhams with the Look and Learn style weekly magazine Modern Wonder (which was renamed Modern Wonders and then Modern World later in its run). Modern World (as it was then) was cancelled due to the wartime paper shortages of early 1941 which also forced DC Thomson to cancel their humour comic The Magic and boy’s adventure comic The Skipper. However during the war, as well as providing artwork for the Ministry Of Information, L Ashwell Wood also provided illustrations for Odhams books, work which continued throughout the rest of the decade and only seems to have come to an end when he became the main cutaway artist for Hulton's new weekly comic, Eagle, in 1950, and which, ten years later, would become an Odhams title.

The original list of these books dates back to an early issue of the Eagle Society’s Eagle Times fanzine when Barry King listed the majority of the black and white reference books along with the numbers of Wood cutaways in each - some have many, others have only a few. Without Barry's initial article there would have been no starting place for this list and, while Steve Holland here on Bear Alley and myself in Eagle Times have updated that initial list over the years as more information was come to light, this version of the listing is the most complete yet.

These Odhams books can be hard to define as they cover such a wide range of topics. The majority are the little black and white adult reference books that include Britain’s Merchant Navy which regularly turns up in eBay or ABE searches for Wood as it is the only one of these to credit him on its title page. It is worth pointing out that Wood is not the only cutaway artist in most of the books as work by artists such as L. G. Goodwin and R. Barnard Way appears in them as well. However recent research shows that he also worked on a set of junior books, the annual-size Children’s Wonder Book In Colour series, which combined fictional text stories and comic strips with factual information in a highly illustrated format. Wood provided all the illustrations for one chapter on a technological theme for each of these books some in painted black and white colour and some, as the book titles suggest, in colour.

All these books originally had illustrated dust wrappers, few of which have survived intact down the years. The dust wrapper illustrations included here are of highly variable quality as they have been culled from many different sources. For those books that I have not yet found images of the dustwrapers, I have included an image of the title page.

This list deliberately does not include the Eagle spin-off books published by Odhams that include Wood’s work as these were normally black and white reprints of the cutaways published in the weekly comic. However it is quite possible that there were more non-Eagle books published by Odhams that feature Wood than are included in this list, so if you know of any Odhams books with his artwork in them that are not included here then please leave a comment.

(The photo of L Ashwell Wood at the head of this feature is from Eagle Volume 11 Number 7, dated 13 February 1960, and shows him at the wheel of the tugboat Stackgarth which he illustrated as the cutaway in Volume 11 Number 20, dated 14 May 1960, under the title 'Tugs For Milford Haven'.)

Britain's Wonderful Fighting Forces by Captain Ellison Hawks RA
"The book that will give you confidence in Victory"
London, Odhams Press, 1940

Advert for Britain's Wonderful Fighting Forces in Armchair Science magazine vol. 13 no. 1, June 1940, published by Odhams Press. "This month Armchair Science invites every reader to accept the greatest and most marvelous War Book the world has ever known."

Britain's Modern Army
“An authoritative account of the daily life of a modern soldier and of the work, weapons and machines of the Army”
London, Odhams Press, 1942

Britain's Wonderful Air Force, edited by Air Commodore P F M Fellowes DSO
Foreward by Air Chief Marshall Sir Charles Portal KCB, DSO, MC
London, Odhams Press, 1942. 

Britain's Glorious Navy, edited by Admiral Sir Reginald H S Bacon KCB, KCVO, DSO
Foreword by Admiral Sir Edward R G R Evans KCB, DSO, LLD
London, Odhams Press, 1943


Britain's Merchant Nav, edited by Sir Archibald Hurd
“With more than forty explanatory drawings specially prepared by L Ashwell Wood”
London, Odhams Press, 1944

The Secrets of Other People's Jobs
“The story of Great Britain's industries and the workers who man the machines”
London, Odhams Press, 1944.

Warfare Today
“How modern battles are planned and fought on land, at sea and in the air”
Joint Editors:
Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon KCB, KCVO, DSO
Major-General J F C Fuller CB, CBE, DSO
Air Marshal Sir Patrick Playfair KBE, CB, CVO, MC
London, Odhams Press, 1944

Railways, Ships And Aeroplanes Illustrated
“Their construction and working fully described in words and pictures”
Railways by Cecil J. Allen MInstT, AILocoE, FRSA
Ships by J V Stone (with the assistance of the editor of Shipbuilding And Shiping Record)
Aeroplanes by Captain Norman Macmillan MC, AFC, AFRAeS, FSRA
London, Odhams Press, 1945.

Miracles Of Invention And Discovery
“What modern life owes to progress in science and engineering. The story of invention and discovery vividly described and illustrated.”
London, Odhams Press, 1945

The Children’s Wonder Book In Colour
London, Odhams Press, 1946

The World's Railways And How They Work
“illustrated with numerous photographs and specially drawn maps and piuctures”
London, Odhams Press, 1947

Physical Science: Man’s Conquest Of Matter And Space (The New Educational Library)
“A general course in astronomy, chemistry, heat, light, sound, mechanics, electricity, wireless and television”
The New Educational Library advisory editor Lord Gorell CBE, MC, MA
London, Odhams Press, 1948

The Children’s Wonder Book In Colour Number 2
London, Odhams Press, 1948

The Children’s Wonder Book In Colour Number 3
London, Odhams Press, 1949

The Complete Book Of Motor-cars, Railways, Ships and Aeroplanes
“The fully illustrated story of power and speed in modern transport”
London, Odhams Press, 1949

The World's Airways and How They Work
Forward by Sir William P Hildred CB, OBE, MA (Director General, International Air Transport Association)
Editorial Advisers Captain J W G James OBE (Flight manager and Chief Pilot, British European Airways Corporation) and John Stroud
London, Odhams Press, 1950

Odhams History of the Second World War
Editor H. C. O'Neill
London, Odhams Press, 2 volumes, 1951

(* Originally published  16 September 2013; updated 22 February 2014)

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