THE WEMBLEY LION.

By

Alan Sabey.

I thought members might be interested in the following article which appeared in 'The Bookseller and the Stationery Trades Journal' July 1924.

There is no emblem of the present year which is more universally seen, or which possesses deeper significance, than the Wembley Lion. It will therefore interest our readers to know that it was originated in the studios of our printers, Messrs. Saunders Phillips & Co. Ltd., at The Baynard Press, Brixton, S.W.9. who since their removal from the site of the old Baynard Castle in Upper Thames Street, four years ago, have captured with a rush a reputation for designing and printing of the very first order.
The lion himself may be treated pictorially in many ways, but the one for the British Empire Exhibition was intended to express strength, firmness, and a serene confidence. This it does, and although they may not consciously realise it, thousands are impressed and inspired by this masterly conception of what the British Empire is.
Criticism of anything entirely new is easy, and the Empire Lion has not escaped. A correspondent of a daily paper, rashly daring, suggested as an improvement what would actually have been a fall from the sublime to the ridiculous. His letter was noted by that scholarly commentator, 'The Londoner', and criticised in its turn. The comments on the design are so true and informative that the following extracts may well be placed on record here.
"Yet I am still living and learning. Yesterday I gained something which I had not known before. I took it from a letter to the editor of the Daily Mail. "Sir" said a gentleman, addressing himself to the Editor, "the lion shown on the Wembley advertisments has its tail down, like a Belgian lion. The British lion always is depicted with its tail up. Is it too late to alter it ?
The answer to that question must be, yes. That picture of the Wembley Lion must have gone all round the world and back again. No lion in all the world is now more familiar to the eye than this one, which is badge and ensign of the great Wembley Exhibition of 1924.
And I would say that it were a pity to change him for another lion whose tail should point upward to the skies. For he is a noble lion, haughty and valiant as any in the tales of the old books. I fancy that the artist who imagined him, who did not copy him out of a picture book, must have been well pleased to see his work when, with a few strokes of the brush, he had made such a lion, so thick of mane, so mighty and terrible.
As for the British Lion, I am almost ready to say that the Wembley Lion is the first British lion. Therefore, if you would know how a British lion should carry its tail, look about you for the Exhibition posters, and see a lion with much dignity in its sweep.
Patriot artists learned that a shaggy lion was Britannia's household pet, to be pictured as sitting beside her knee, they drew the lion's tail in the fashion that was most to their taste. And now you have the British Lion set out by authority. He is indeed a noble scion, as a despairing poet said, but his tail does not point upwards like the tail of my pussycat when she comes stepping delicately into a room whose door has been opened at her command."

© Exhibition Study Group 1992

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