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Map measure of the month: the Royal Automobile Club ‘scale rule’ bookmark

Royal Automobile Club Guide & Handbook, 1933-34. With bookmark scale measure
Royal Automobile Club Guide & Handbook, 1933-34. With attached bookmark scale measure

Simple scale rules were included with some road atlases published by the Royal Automobile Club. These acted as both bookmark and map measure.

The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) was founded in 1897 as a ‘Society of Encouragement’ for the motoring movement. As well as acting as a roadside breakdown and recovery agency, the RAC also carried out many functions, not least the publishing of motoring guides and road atlases. These often included bookmarks, either in the figure of a uniformed RAC roadside officer or more frequently, a simpler, almost plain card marker. Publishers were wise to the opportunity however and most potentially blank space on a bookmark could include a calendar, or, more lucratively, advertising.

Of more help to the motorist however, was the bookmark measure shown here. The RAC included a bookmark with an inch scale in a very small number of their self-published volumes that could be utilised with the scale maps inside the volume. This appeared in their 1932-33 and 1933-34 Club Guide and Handbook. The bookmark is identical both years. The RAC’s thirtieth edition of their club Guide and Handbook, for 1933-34 is shown here. The RAC bookmarks included with their club guides and handbooks in years 1929-30, 1930-31, 1934-35 were different designs and did not include a scale rule. It is possible that the only scale bookmark the RAC produced is of the design shown here and that it was just the two years such a scale measure was produced. The 1933-34 Guide is a small volume, measuring just 189mm x 123mm x 37mm.

RAC bookmark with 'saluting patrolman'
RAC bookmark with ‘saluting patrolman’. This did not include a scale measure

In addition to advertising for British Goodrich tyres, the RAC bookmark measure also has a six inch long scale measure printed on each side that could be used with the scale maps in the Club Guide and Handbook. The six inch graduations have quarter inch increments with eighth of an inch inter-increments. Printed scales are slightly off however. When checked against an accurate engineers steel inch rule, the verso paper scale has an error of minus 1/32″ over six inches and recto scale an error of minus 1/16″ over six inches. The retaining cord attaching the bookmark to the volume is also very short, just four inches (101mm). This hampers its use as a measure and it is best to cut the cord. This has no doubt frequently happened and the bookmark measure is an uncommon survivor as a result. There is a small metal ring on the card to prevent the cord tearing its way through.

If the bookmark measure were detached from the RAC Guide and Handbook, there is nothing on it to identify it as an RAC product. Each side of the RAC bookmark/measure carries an advertisement for British Goodrich tyres. This was part of an advertising campaign reinforcing the availability of British made tyres.

RAC Bookmark and measure, recto
RAC bookmark and measure, recto

Created in 1924, British Goodrich Rubber Company was a wholly owned subsidiary of the U.S. manufacturer B.F. Goodrich Company. Two British works were purchased, including the former Ajax Rubber Works at Leyland, Lancashire. British Goodrich commenced domestic manufacture and sale of tyres to the British market, becoming independent of their U.S. owner in 1934. Then changing their name to the British Tyre and Rubber Company. This was part of a subsidiary of ten separate UK companies. In 1956 they changed name to BTR Industries, ceasing tyre manufacture the same year.

RAC Bookmark and measure, verso
RAC bookmark and measure, verso

“the coloured Atlas is not intended to meet all the map requirements of a motorist, as some correspondents on the subject seem to think, but it is a useful companion to the Directory, which gives reference to it. The Touring Department provides maps for general purposes”

The Editor- Royal Automobile Club Guide and Handbook, 1933-34
RAC bookmark measure with Club Guide & Handbook
RAC bookmark measure with Club Guide & Handbook, showing 1″ to 16 mile scale map

The bookmark measure is quite thin card, measuring 168.5mm x 64mm x 0.5mm. There is just the one reference to the Club Guide and Handbook on the bookmark measure itself, repeated on each side- “For detailed index see end of book”. There is no mention of the bookmark measure in the volume itself. The handbook includes many simple town maps throughout the Directory, printed to various scales. Each of these was prepared by Ed. J. Burrow and Co. Ltd. There are 31 pages of colour road maps of the British Isles in the RAC Club Guide & Handbook for 1933-34. These were also produced by Burrows and are quite accurately printed to a scale of 1 inch to 16 miles. An advertisement for the Burrow’s R.A.C. County Road Map & Gazetteer appears on the inside rear cover of the Handbook.

This is amongst the simplest of measures that has appeared as Map Measure of the Month. An equivalent bookmark measure produced by the Automobile Association was also looked at previously. Links for that and other more complicated analogue mechanical instruments can be found here.

Royal Automobile Club Guide & Handbook, 1933-34. With bookmark scale measure
Royal Automobile Club Guide & Handbook, 1933-34. With bookmark scale measure

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