Evans, Idrsyn Oliver

So let us chat, first of all, about I. O. Evans. or to give him his full name Idrisyn Oliver Evans. He was born in 1894, in South Africa, in the Orange Free State, but was brought to England as a child. In 1912 he became a civil servant. 

I will start with the two part auto-biography, of sorts, in our magazine "The Cartophilic World", because that proclaimed him to be “Twenty Years a Cartophilist”. The first part was published in November-December 1953 (v.10, no.108), and it starts with his admission that he was a schoolboy collector, but tells nothing about his collection. In fact it sounds like he had forgotten it. 

I O Evans world of tomorrow

His re-introduction to cartophily came in a very odd way; he was asked, by a publisher, Messrs. Denis Archer, if he knew anything about cellophane, because they wanted to produce a children`s book using that instead of paper. They must have also known of his interest in science fiction, especially that of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, whose works he actually translated, because they asked if he could gather some subject matter on the possibilities of the future for them to have a trial printing. This was very successful and resulted in an almost three-dimensional effect, and so the book was begun, with Mr. Evans as the author.

He spent many happy hours going through the files of the weird and wonderful that were stored by many of the press agencies. America was an especially rich source for these, and he developed a great liking for the American popular magazines of the time. And in 1937 he actually wrote a letter to one of them, "Weird Tales",  gently complaining that their depiction of Cornish scenery in a recent story was incorrect. 

The book was published under the title of “The World of Tomorrow - A Junior Book of Forecasts” – and we have great pleasure in showing you the cover. Now it must be said that it was ahead of its time, and not all the reviews were positive, he speaks of one saying it “looked less like a book than a box of chocolates”. But copies do still exist, though they are very rare.

Anyway, because of this, he suddenly had a call from Mardon, Son and Hall, printers, especially of cigarette cards. They had seen his book, and liked it, they could tell he had a certain flair for the subject, and they wondered if he would like to help them produce a set of cigarette cards on similar lines.

In fact they also took the same title as the book and “World of Tomorrow” was issued by Stephen Mitchell in December 1936. Our original World Index calls them "steel blue" in colour, and tells us they measure 68 x 36 m/m. However our British American Tobacco Reference Book (RB.21) calls it "greenish black" Why it is in this reference book is because it was also issued in South Africa, twice, and both in 1938 - by Westminster Tobacco and by United Tobacco Corporation. Both these were based in Cape Town and the special album for both sets gives the same address - P.O. Box 78 Cape Town. .

Now this brought him firmly back into the card world, and he started to think of collecting them again. He soon realised how popular they were, and he wondered if a little article might be picked up by one of the national papers. With this in mind he went and had a chat with Colonel Bagnall at the London Cigarette Card Company. Whilst there he realised that it was much too big a subject for a little article, and so he wrote a book.

This book was published in 1937 by Herbert Jenkins of London, and it was called "Cigarette Cards and How To Collect Them", though trade cards were included too.  Inside were sections on how cards were made and distributed, and how the subjects were decided on, things that he knew from experience. His chat to Colonel Bagnall provided when cards began, details of rarities and curiosities (Col. Bagnall`s great passion), plus ways to store and to classify them, and a brief insight into "The Cigarette Card Trade". He then speculated on their uses and how they would develop into the future. It is getting scarcer as a book, and there ought to be a dustjacket in white, which is often missing - but you can read it as an e-book now, through most of the popular sources.


  • 10.108 nov dec 1953



A bit of a rifle through popular book stores will find almost thirty works, some of which you might not find without a nudge. He was, for instance, responsible for three of the popular "Observer`s" Books, namely "Flags", "Geology" and "Sea and Seashore". His final book, "Science Fiction Through the Ages", was published in 1966

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Biographical blogs - I.O. Evans
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very much a beginning!