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Saturday, February 14, 2015

L Ashwell Wood’s Two Worlds Of Wonder

L Ashwell Wood’s Two Worlds Of Wonder
By Jeremy Briggs

For some time now Bear Alley has been running pages from Look and Learn’s sibling title World Of Wonder. This was a colourful educational magazine edited by Bob Bartholomew that was published weekly by IPC Magazines and ran for 258 issues between 1970 and 1975.

One of the artists featured in World of Wonder was L Ashwell Wood who painted cutaways for the title in the style he used for his then contemporary Inside Information series of children’s books, a style which was less detailed than the style he had used in Eagle comic. These cutaways in World Of Wonder are the last known published works by Wood before he passed away in 1973.

However this was not the first magazine entitled World Of Wonder that Wood had worked for.

An earlier World Of Wonder was published by IPC’s predecessor company Amalgamated Press (AP). This was also a weekly educational magazine, edited by Charles Ray, which was published as a part-work over 52 issues between 1932 and 1933 under the title of The World of Wonder with the rather grand subtitle of “10,000 Things Every Child Should Know”. Due to the printing capabilities of the day this was a black and white magazine with a cover which each issue used the same limited colour image. This cover was designed to be completely removed to allow the interior of the part-work magazine to be bound like a book either at a local bindery or by sending the full set of magazines off to AP themselves.

This publisher’s binding was available either for the complete set of 52 issues bound as one volume or as two volumes of 26 issues each and to get it readers had to send their magazines to somewhere with a very familiar name - the real Bear Alley.

Wood also provided cutaways for this version World Of Wonder signing them either as ‘LW’ or as ‘L Wood’ rather than his “L Ashwell Wood” of later years. While he had provided some simple cutaways to the weekly story paper The Modern Boy in 1930 and 1931, The World Of Wonder was the first title in which Wood regularly illustrated the type of intricately detailed cutaways that he would become known for in Modern Wonder in the late 1930s and Eagle in the 1950s and 1960s.

The earliest signed cutaway by Wood that appears in The World Of Wonder is a two page black and white cutaway/exploded diagram of an industrial electricity generator in issue 14 from February 1933 that is signed ‘LW’.

Remarkably some of Wood’s original pencils for these 1930s cutaways still survive including this one of what was, even then, an old-fashioned municipal gasholder.

Once complete as a 52 week part-work of 1460 pages, The World of Wonder was published as two books of some 700 pages each by AP subsidiary the Educational Book Company although, confusingly the first book was labelled as Volumes 1 and 2 while the second book was Volumes 3 and 4. These books were reprinted several times over the years including one updated edition with references to nuclear power stations that would have been unheard of in the 1930s.

Once its year’s run was complete World Of Wonder continued into a second series, simply dubbed New Series, that ran for 26 weeks. The orange tones of the original series cover were replaced by yellow for this second series with a similar image of two children surveying the wonders of the world in front of them.

When this second series concluded in 1934 editor Charles Ray moved onto a similar though more historical based 52 issue part-work entitled The Romance Of The Nation taking many of his World Of Wonder artists, including Wood, with him.

Wood’s illustrations continued on in Amalgamated Press publications until he moved over to Odhams in 1937 and their colourful educational weekly Modern Wonder which was a 1930s equivalent of Look and Learn’s other 1970s sibling magazine, Speed and Power, a magazine which has also been covered here on Bear Alley.

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