Lost propaganda poster that became a modern icon

THE discovery of a long-forgotten wartime poster has proved a profitable find for a second-hand book dealer in Northumberland.

Stuart Manley with the poster

THE discovery of a long-forgotten wartime poster has proved a profitable find for a second-hand book dealer in Northumberland.

Bookseller Stuart Manley found the folded poster in a box of books he bought at auction in 2000.

Eight years on the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ message – printed on the eve of the Second World War but never displayed – has become a symbol of the 21st Century.

Celebrities including Top Gear presenter James May have been spotted wearing a “Keep Calm and Carry On” T-shirt, and Stuart has sold the poster to embassies across the world and even to 10 Downing Street.

Mr Manley, who runs Barter Books in Alnwick, has now sold more than 40,000 copies as well as hundreds of mugs, T-shirts, mouse mats, tea towels and postcards.

There is only one other known original copy of the poster in circulation, but little did Mr Manley known that his discovery would lead to the constant production line of copying, wrapping, posting and invoicing.

Mr Manley, who owns the shop with his wife Mary, said: “I showed it to my wife and we both thought it was quite wonderful so we had it framed and put up in the shop. As soon as we put it up, a lot of people wanted to buy it off us.

“It was in excellent condition even though it had been folded. I can’t believe it survived 50 years without being damaged. I love the Britishness of it, we just thought it was lovely. It is resonant with modern life.”

The Manleys have had hundreds of offers for the poster, including one for £1,000, but said it will never be leaving Barter’s Books.

The poster was just one of hundreds produced by the Ministry of Defence designed to steady the public’s resolve and maintain morale when war against Germany was looming.

They featured the crown of King George VI on a bold red background, and three slogans – “Freedom is in Peril”, “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory” and “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

Mr Manley added: “It was only after a couple of hours of research that I realised it was produced by the Ministry of Information to influence public opinion during the war.

“This particular design was never distributed. I’m guessing they were going to use it if it got really bad and the Germans invaded.

“We are up to our eyes at the moment, everyone wants their own copy – schools, doctors and embassies around the world. When we first saw it we didn’t see it as a thousand pound note at all.

“We keep thinking the interest will drop off but it has become iconic, it was rescued from obscurity.”

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