Thursday, 19 April 2012

Streets Ahead – The Famous White Pamphlet

Streets Ahead is the occasional column from London Walks' Pen David Tucker





It goes by a lot of names: leaflet, brochure, flyer, pamphlet, programme.

Often prefaced with the phrase "the famous white" (or "the distinctive white").

So you takes your pick...

And if I can take mine today, I'm going to plump for "the famous white London Walks pamphlet".

Going to plump for pamphlet because it's right in so many ways.

How so? Well, let's do some London Walks digging. And some London Walks connecting.

Like archaeologists, London Walks guides work with fragmentary evidence - a street name, a patch of cobble-stoning, a flush (with the wall) window frame as opposed to a recessed one, absences (of a mews, for example) and what they tell you, extremely tall north facing windows, the pock marks of shrapnel damage, the line (or slope) of a street, etc. etc.

The alchemy of a great walking tour is that that fragmentary evidence mainlines you straight into a different time and different place. Into the past.

So what's the "fragmentary evidence" here?

It's the phoneme ph in the word pamphlet.

Come on. Swirl it around in your mouth. Wine taste it.

Got it? Yup, it keeps company with the ph in the words Anglophile (love of things English) or philoophy (love of knowledge).

Ok, now we take a little phlight back to the 12th century. Enfold ourselves in the arms of the erotic poem "Pamphilus, seu de Amore". And, yes, that's Latin. It translates to: Pamphilus, or on Love. (The marquee name itself - Pamphilus - is a kind of palimpsest inasmuch as it's derived from the Greek for "beloved by all".)

Anyway, the poem was the 12th century equivalent of "I will always love you" - though it was a bit racier.

Following that iron bound lingistic law of foreshortening, the name of the poem contracted to Pamphilet.

And since everybody was packing it - a few unbound sheets of manuscript - "get your Pamphilet out, man, I'm in the mood for some declaiming", well, one of those magical linguistic transferences took place. The word jumped from the contents - the poem itself - to the vehicle that carried the contents - those few unbound pieces of paper on which the poem was printed. (Well, not printed in the 12th century because printing hadn't been invented yet, but you get the idea.)

Pamphlet. A love poem. Which is what the London Walks pamphlet is. (Same goes of course for the London Walks website. As we put it in the site dedication - "This is the London Walks website. But it's something else as well: It's also a love letter to the greatest city on earth.")

Anyway, goes to press next week. It's had by far the longest gestation period of any London Walks pamphlet. Started it on January 3rd - nearly two months earlier than we normally start. That's a lot of extra work, extra care - and it's borne fruit. Right across the board: the writing, the subbing, the design, the friendliness, the stylishness, the ease-of-use, etc. It's a thing of beauty.

Coming up, a look at some of the particulars. They're design matters but also of course programme matters.

And major - and majorly good - changes coming to the website as well. Stay tuned.


POST UPDATED 17/5/16

A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at www.walks.com.









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