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Mail Steamship Routes

  • Author: GILL, (Leslie) MacDonald (artist)
  • Publisher: General Post Office (GPO)
  • Date: 1937
  • Dimensions: 123 x 99 cms


MacDonald Gill’s stunning 1937 map poster depicting the international steamship routes of the British Post Office, the GPO.

About this piece:

Mail Steamship Routes

Colour-printed map poster printed on thick paper stock and in fine bright & fresh colours. Some very minor creasing and some minor nicks & short tears (reinforced on verso) along top sheet edge in blank margin. Slight raggedness & unevenness to sheet edges at upper right corner. Generally a fine example.

Commissioned by the GPO in 1937, MacDonald Gill’s striking map poster depicting the impressive international steamship networks & global reach of the British inter-war postal service. Framed by attractive everyday vignettes in the upper corners depicting the whole delivery process via the traditional red Postbox and High Street post office through domestic Royal Mail delivery vans and international merchant navy steamers.

The unusual semi-circular map projection depicts British colonial outposts (in pink) and shows the principal steamer  routes around the globe. Curiously the map includes Antarctica twice in the lower left, below South America, and in the lower right, below Australia.

An attractive series of eleven roundel vignettes along the bottom of the image allows Gill to indulge his passion for drawing early galleons and sailing ships. These vividly depict the maritime development of sailing vessels over 10 centuries, from the long ships of King Alfred in AD 900 through to the most sophisticated  passenger liner of the day, the R.M.S Queen Mary, launched in the previous year, 1936. Gill had himself been closely involved in several aspects of the interior design of the Queen Mary, most notably in the creation of the huge Art Deco mural relief map of the Atlantic Ocean (23 x 13 feet) which filled one wall of the Main Dining Room and incorporated electrically lit sun rays & a moving crystal model of the ship showing the its location and progress to passengers.

The GPO’s new circular logo with Royal Crown and initials, also designed by Gill, is added at either end of the top title. The poster is also signed by Gill and dated 1937 in a small scrolled banner in the lower right. Just below in the lower corner outside the printed border, the poster bears the publisher’s imprint “P.R.D. 182”.

Gill himself also mentions his work for the Post Office in a December 1944 article entitled Decorative Maps which appeared in The Studio Magazine (p.166):

For the General Post Office I designed one (poster) showing the Radio Telephone Services of the World (with the wave lengths in diagram), one of the Steamship Routes (which offered an opportunity to display chronologically the shipbuilding up the ages) and another of the Wireless Stations of Great Britain…

The map is also illustrated in the same article.

In all a fine example of this striking decorative map poster.

Refs: David Rumsey Collection; MacDonald Gill: Decorative Maps (in The Studio Magazine, Dec 1944, pp.161-169)