A pleasure of being in Devon is that it gives me an opportunity of studying the Shell Guide to Devon, written by Ann Jellicoe, with photographs throughout by her husband, Roger Mayne, of which I have A.L. Rowse’s review copy, with his caustic annotations, including the comment on the title page ‘arch in style throughout’.
There had been two previous versions of the Shell Guide to Devon. The first was by John Betjeman, the seventh in the series and Betjeman’s second (he had already done Cornwall), first published in 1936 (I think of Shell Guides as a phenomenon of the 1950s, but not so). The second was by Brian Watson, ‘a Devon man’ and was published in 1955.
Mayne is known mostly for his street photographs of London, but after graduating from Oxford and making his reputation as a photographer on Picture Post, he had spent time in St. Ives in 1953. He was commissioned to do the Devon Shell Guide by John Piper, who himself had a good eye for photography, and maybe wanted him to undertake Devon as a documentary project. The result is unusual: anti- picturesque, all black-and-white in high tonal contrast, full of dark photographs of medieval wood carving, more 1950s in style than 1975, when it was published. Rowse wrote ‘Ugh’ on Mayne’s photograph of the beach at Teignmouth.