Searle's "London" book, used as a starting point Henry Mayhew's 'London Labour and London Poor'. Above is the artwork for the original edition released through Searle's own publishing outfit Perpetua.
The sketch below, in blue ink on the title-page, illustrates an elderly man up a ladder, pasting up a poster (the printed book title), inscribed "Embellished by Ronald for Jean, the right hand of Perpetua."
(From the collection of the late Jean Ellsmoor, who acted as Searle's secretary from 1956 to 1977.)
(The Big City or the New Mayhew, FIRST EDITION, AUTHOR'S PRESENTATION COPY, WITH ORIGINAL ILLUSTRATION, on the title-page, inscribed by author and illustrator, illustrations, publisher's cloth, dust-jacket, 4to, Perpetua, 1958)
'Alex Atkinson came up with the notion of inhabiting the style of Henry Mayhew, one of the Victorian founders of Punch, and producing a modern equivalent of his London Labour and the London Poor. There being less outright shocking squalor in mid-Fifties London-less interesting squalor, perhaps-Atkinson concentrated instead on a class more characteristic of the age: those pathetically defiant strugglers of inner-suburban bedsitter-land, where ambition finally learns to die . . .
. . . With few but striking exceptions, such as a most wondrously innocuous vicar, Searle's character-studies have in common a projecting lower lip that tells of stubborness giving way slowly to misery . . .
. . . The 'New Mayhew' pieces, later to be collected by Perpetua under the title The Big City, operate right on the line between humour and melancholy; textually and graphically, they tread it with a delicacy that now seems to belong as securely to the long-ago as Mayhew himself. To be made to laugh at the 'type', and yet feel sorry for the reality it stands for, is more than one expects from such a book'.
Ronald Searle by Russell Davies
A moving picture girl/page 25 The Big City/Budding actress'
Punch, 2 May 1956.
Alex Atkinson and Ronald Searle, The Big City: or The New Mayhew, Perpetua Books, London, 1958, p25
Punch, 23 May 1956.
The Big City: or The New Mayhew, Perpetua Books, London, 1958, p.41
pen and black ink and grey wash
Punch & The Big City, London, 1958, p. 54
'A seller of ice-cream, nuts, etc.'
pen and brown ink and brown wash
The Big City: of the New Mayhew, Perpetua Books, London, 1958, p. 81
Punch, 15 February 1958 issue.
(Thanks to Elliot Elam for contributing scans)