Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Denis Gifford and his collection (1985)

Here's something I noticed on You Tube recently. It's a short item from a TV programme called Thames News from October 1985 featuring comics historian/cartoonist Denis Gifford, filmed in his house with his huge collection. 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HiYe6VdtOx0

I'd heard how Denis had so many comics that some were even piled on top of the cooker and if you watch the film you'll see the evidence. I must admit my own house is getting pretty full of stuff (although I don't keep everything these days) but the kitchen is still comics-free so far! 

Of course Denis put his collection to good use as it served as research for his numerous books on comics. The one shown in the news item is The Complete Catalogue of British Comics which I bought back then and has been invaluable in my own research.

The Catalogue featured nearly 100 pages of small cover images of comics from over the decades, plus a 112 page listing of almost every British comic title published up to that point. It provided dates of each comic's launch, key issues, final issues, mergers etc, plus notable artists involved. It also served as a price guide, although most of the prices soon became way out of date of course. (£20 - £50 for Beano No.1?!)



Denis' books had the occasional error here and there, which really was inevitable when researching so much material, but they were essential for those of us interested in the history of British comics. I've often used them for reference in checking facts for this blog. In fact this blog wouldn't even exist if such books by Denis and other comics experts hadn't stimulated my fascination with comics history. 

Sadly Denis passed away in the year 2000 but others such as Ray Moore, Steve Holland, Alan Clark, Derek Marsden, Mike Morely, Phil Clarke, Mike Higgs, Paul Gravett and more have continued to write about British comics history from the early days to the present. And long may such books continue!

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Sadly Denis passed away in the year 2000 but others such as Ray Moore, Steve Holland, Alan Clark, Derek Marsden, Mike Morely, Phil Clarke, Mike Higgs, Paul Gravett and more have continued to write about British comics history from the early days to the present." ... including a certain Mr Lewis Stringer!

Credit where credit's due, Lew. ;)

Lew Stringer said...

Ha. Thanks. I was only thinking of the ones who'd written books on the subject.

Raven said...

Interesting how he had incredibly rare comics seemingly just lying around! A bagger and boarder he seemed not to be. You could imagine opening his fridge and the first issue of the Beano casually tumbling out.

Lew Stringer said...

I think it did, as that's where he kept his free Knockout toffee bar or whatever it was from 1939. :)

I must admit I don't have most of my British comics bagged either, and there's a pile of 1940s comics in the room I work in that I really should put in a box.

paddykool said...

Ha ha ...We are amateurs by comparison . I suppose that had i not married and had children, all my income might have gone this way. Either way , i'd probably be divorced by now had the "bug" gotten its teeth in quite so deep!. That said i have floor- to- ceiling shelving units on thee walls in different rooms , plus a glass floor to ceiling cabinet stoked to the gills with comics , books on comicsand what not ...not to mention my slightly now mouldering large shed full of boxes of comics and books....so i can't really pretend that something very odd took hold of me in childhood too.the thing is , I love this stuff and can even look at every frame of Denis's film with awe. That's the kind of "bookshop" or museum I could easily get lost in for days.I used to have dreams of finding an old boarded up room in a house ...just like this!!! I had to stop buying this stuff because I realised somewhere along the line that I would soon have nowhere to put it all. Mad or what?

Lew Stringer said...

You keep some of your comics in a shed? Isn't that risking them getting damp or chewed by insects etc? I left some mags in my shed to put in the recyling bin at a later date and snails ate the lamination off the covers. It must appeal to them for some reason.

In my spare time I'm still sorting out comics to get rid of that I no longer want. Also need to tidy up my collection. Boxed up most of them now. About half of my collection are comics I've worked on over the last 32 years as I have at least one copy of each one.

Anonymous said...

What happened to Gifford's collection?

Simon said...

I wonder if anyone knows what happened to Denis Gifford's collection after he passed away? Was it sold or donated somewhere? He's an inspiration, in any case, and I use his Complete British Comics book often.

paddykool said...

Yes Lew ..some of my stuff is in a large shed .I have to say that there electricity in it and I used to trade a lot of comics on ebay in my down time for several years ..out of that shed .The stuff in it is not my best stuff and i no longer "live" in it . I've noticed that without me being there these past few years , some dampness is setting in and just today I invested in a little de-humidifier to combat that. Other than that , I try to keep it well sealed and ventilated with a couple of insect grills high in the eaves...It's a constant struggle though!!!

Lew Stringer said...

Ah I see. That sounds better looked after than some people's houses Paddykool. :)

Simon, Denis' collection was auctioned off so it's spread far and wide now amongst various collectors.

Ray Moore said...

Denis was never averse to tackling 'the great project' whether it was the cataloguing of the history of a century of British comics or a century of British films. His work rate was positively Victorian.
When I tentatively decided to embark on my own 'great project' the cataloguing of as much of the D C Thomson comic output as I could manage the work that Denis had already done was a great help and an inspiration.
It is hard to imagine how the history of British comicdom would have been so well recorded without
Denis' pioneering work.

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks for commenting, Ray. Yes you're absolutely right. Denis' books (and his slideshow presentations at conventions) were excellent records of the early days of comics. And you continued that research superbly. I always have a couple of his books, and your wonderful comic indexes beside me at the computer for immediate reference.

Hibernia Comics said...

That a great video Lew, I have read of Denis's book more often for the mistakes that the value of the actual contents which is unfortunate. I have the book pictured, The Catalogue of British Comics. I got it in Dublin when I was a teenager, and its invaluable. Always on of the closest books to hand.

Lew Stringer said...

I think it may have been Denis who started that thing of claiming a comic was published on its cover date, but I think we can forgive him for that, given the education his books gave us in other ways.

Kib Lloyd said...

Yep, hats off to Denis Gifford, the Bill Blackbeard of UK comics. And, as has been mentioned around here a few times, he was also a pretty decent cartoonist in his own right.
Here's something by him (far from exemplary - I prefer Steadfast McStaunch) from 1951:
Simon the Simple Sleuth.

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