Turnbull & Asser and the Prince of Wales Feathers


Dating from the fourteenth century and Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince, the royal symbol of three ostrich feathers endures today as the official badge of the Prince of Wales. The badge also in effect serves as a modern logo for venerable Jermyn Street shirtmaker Turnbull & Asser as a result of its role as royal warrant holder for Prince Charles.

Black Prince EscutcheonEdward, Prince of Wales and heir to the English throne, was considered the beau ideal of English chivalry. Edward also was a military prodigy, distinguishing himself against the French at the Battle of Crecy at the age of 16. His nickname The Black Prince developed after his death in 1376 as a result of his armor color. He adopted the symbol of ostrich feathers with the motto “Ich Dien,” or “I serve,” during the mid-fourteenth century. The badge endures on Edward’s effigy at Canterbury Cathedral.

An adaptation of his feathers would be used by future heirs to the throne as the Prince of Wales’s Feathers, the badge of the heir apparent. The Prince of Wales is able to confer upon merchants a Royal Warrant, a designation for official suppliers of goods to the prince. Warrant holders are allowed to use the feathers badge in the promotion of their business. The Prince’s shirtmaker, Turnbull & Asser, was granted a warrant by Charles in 1980, and has since used the feathers with gusto.

Prince of Wales Feathers - T&A

Carved Feathers at Turnbull & Asser, picture via milanstyle.co.uk

Prominent feathers on a T&A sweater label.

Prominent feathers on a T&A sweater label.

The Prince sporting feathers, but not the Prince of Wales Feathers.

The Prince sporting feathers, but not the Prince of Wales Feathers.

That leads to this Prince of Wales Feathers cummerbund I came across recently. Made by Turnbull & Asser for New York’s Bergdorf Goodman, the traditional black cummerbund is enlivened by the Prince’s badge embroidered throughout. An homage to a traditional royal symbol, certainly, but also a de facto symbol for Turnbull & Asser itself.

cummerbund T&A

Turnbull & Asser is famous for having its shirts thrown about by Robert Redford’s Jay Gatsby and making James Bond’s cocktail cuff. But those cinematic icons are but Johnnys-come-lately when compared to the feathers of the Black Prince as borne today by Prince Charles and conferred upon his Royal Shirtmakers.

Bibles at The Cambridge University Press Bookshop

Cambridge window

Cambridge University Press has long been a stalwart of fine Bible publishing. Names like Cameo, Concord, Pitt Minion and Clarion can inspire drooling. I had the chance to stop by the official Cambridge University Press Bookshop and took a few snapshots to share.

CUP sign

Bible Display IMG_9298 IMG_9299 IMG_9300 IMG_9301 IMG_9302 IMG_9303

Cambridge Display Window

Cambridge Window Street

Then the next morning when leaving town I discovered that the headquarters is right beside the train station. Through the train window as we rode by:

Cambridge Press HQ

Book Shopping in Cambridge: The Haunted Bookshop & G. David, Bookseller

Cambridge Evening

When one finds himself in Cambridge, home of higher learning for over 800 years, the sensible thing seemed to be to look for a used bookshop. With only a couple of hours to spare before a supper appointment, G. David Bookseller seemed to be the best target.

Ryder & Amies

David’s had the charming address of 16 St. Edward’s Passage, but—and this may come as a bit of a surprise—cab drivers don’t often know exactly where used bookshops are off the top of their head. Still, he got me close, and after a brief stop in Ryder & Amies, University Outfitters, I found an alleyway that seemed like the right spot.

Books signMy eye quickly caught a sign with that magical word “Books” on it. This wasn’t G. David, but a place called The Haunted Bookshop. Now with a name like that it can go one of two ways. Either it’s a kitschy unserious sort of place, or it’s filled with all kinds of awesome. The books in the window indicated awesome, indeed, awaited. A Haunted Bookshop in Cambridge? I couldn’t help but think it was the sort of shop Russell Kirk would have loved.

The Haunted Bookshop was the proverbial hole in the wall with books everywhere, double stacked on the shelves. They were heavy on children’s books, and there are few things more fun than old British children’s books.

Haunted Bookshop

Haunted Bookshop Window

I was browsing away when the proprietress asked if I was looking for anything in particular. Usually I giving a smiling “just looking around” at this point, but there was something that I had been keeping an eye open for since my trip to Charleston last year. I missed out on a cheap, albeit ex-library, copy of C.S. Forester’s Poo Poo and the Dragons at an outdoor library book sale. So now I asked, and was told, “Oh, I know it’s around here somewhere.” Thus began a search through the piles and double-stacked shelves for the Forester.

“Is the bookshop actually haunted?” I asked.

“Oh, yes. We have our own ghost.”

“Is she a happy ghost or an unhappy one?”

“She seems to be pleasant.”

“I suppose one ought to be content with one’s lot in life.”

“Or death.”

Meanwhile, I was dispatched up the narrow stairs to check the shelves there. Finally a shout of success from below. It had been on the desk all along. Having gone through all of that I felt somewhat obligated to buy it, and after my hard swallow upon seeing the price, she rang it up.

Haunted Books

Haunted Books 2

Haunted Stairs

Haunted Upstairs

It was then I turned to see the C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot volumes in a previously unexplored bookcase. It was like being a kid in a candy store, but I had to pace myself. A first edition of Lewis’s Miracles seemed like the best bet, and at a price I could stomach. Who could resist buying a Lewis first edition in Cambridge where he finally received his academic due? (Clearly I had made an unconscious decision only to buy books by authors whose first initials were “C.S.”.)

Lewis & Forester

I finally extricated myself before more pocketbook damage was done, and was pointed around the corner to G. David, my initial target. David’s stock is mostly remaindered books. And while not a bad thing—quite good in its place, actually—remaindered wasn’t what I was after. Then I found the rare book room. I looked at my watch. I wouldn’t leave until closing time.

G. David

Old leather bound volumes dominated, many from centuries ago. It was a pleasure to stroll through the shelves, examining the occasional volume. Most prices were well beyond reach for me, but far too many were just on the outer edge to where one might stretch. It was not a safe place to be. There were early editions of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, including leather bound versions. Affordable and tempting were volumes of the Annual Register from the 1760s back when a young Edmund Burke was associated with the publication.

Old Leaves

The area that finally caught my attention was the large island where old maps and prints were kept. I sorted through a picked over stack of leaves from a seventeenth century Bible, only £10 each. Most “popular” passages were gone, but I grabbed the opening page of Habakkuk, a favorite of mine. I added to this a small late eighteenth century map of Asia, including India from where I had just flown.

Finally closing time came. I wish I could have returned, but time and finances did not allow it. I am sure there were many more treasures to be discovered in Cambridge, but I am more than happy with the gems I uncovered.

Cambridge Dusk

My Visit With Ian Metcalfe of R.L. Allan Bibles

Allan's - Ian

Don’t miss my guest post, ‘A Visit to R.L. Allan’, at J. Mark Bertrand’s always excellent Bible Design Blog. Some weeks ago I mentioned to Mark that I would be in London over a weekend while traveling back from India. He asked if I would be interested in paying a visit to R.L. Allan’s new London warehouse where new owner Ian Metcalfe had set up shop. As the owner of three Allan’s Bibles how could I turn down a chance like that?

The logistics behind the visit became a bit of a comedy of errors. For some reason I could not receive Ian’s emails (although he received mine with no problem), and Mark had to act as intermediary. Then on the trip from my hotel at Euston Station out to Tolworth where the factory is, it turned out that the regular train service had been shut down on that line for Sunday. I ended up on a bus that delivered passengers to the train stations the dormant train normally would have taken minutes to do. An expected one hour journey turned into a two-and-one-half hour one.

Eventually I arrived and had a great visit with Ian. And he was kind enough to drive me to the nearest (operational) Underground station when we were finished. I hope you enjoy the post, and here’s that red goatskin Allan’s journal I left with.

Allan's Journal