The story of the Google Birds – the books and paintings that adorn our walls
A particularly stunning feature of the interior décor at the Sun Street Hotel are the six original watercolours in reception area and The Bar depicting idiosyncratic ‘Google Birds’ such as the Poggle and the Swank. These were first seen in ‘The Google Book’ – copies of which can also be found in the Library and other rooms in the Hotel.
The Google Book
The book itself is a world of colourful, imaginary creatures and verse created by an extraordinary Victorian character, Vincent Cartwright Vickers – for his own children, and described as ‘a chronicle of incongruities’. According to Vickers, “Upon the uncharted Island of Imagination in the middle of the Lake of Let’s-Pretend lives the ghastly Google and his retinue of gorgeous Google Birds”.
Vickers was an economist, Deputy Lieutenant of the City of London, director of British engineering company, Vickers Limited, a Governor of the Bank of England, and President of the Economic Reform Club and Institute.
The design theme
The Theme of the Google Birds was introduced by Bespoke Hotels’ Art Consultants Tomkinson Churcher working with the Hotel’s interior designers Bowler James Brindley. The six watercolours were then acquired by the Hotel’s owners to form part of the décor and as a theme to inspire the design aesthetic of wall coverings, menus and other materials around the Hotel featuring birds and other animals.
The book features some remarkable colour effects that we have imitated, and can be seen reflected in the stunning, vivid blues and crimsons of the Hotel décor.
The author Vickers himself described his method for obtaining these remarkable colour effects using 30 or 40 bottles of coloured waterproof inks of the kind used for tinting maps, achieving in the words of one reviewer ‘an almost indefinable quality which re-kindles the spark of childish imagination that lies dormant in all of us’.
A note on the word ‘Google’
The web search company Google derives its name from a mis-spelling of the original planned name for the company – ‘googol’ – which is a mathematical term for the number one followed by 100 x zeroes, thought to have been coined in the 1930s by an American mathematician.
As far as we are aware, the word ‘Google’ as used in the title of the book, was a word invented by the author, Vincent Vickers – certainly, he was an incredibly creative and inventive man – and the book was first published in 1913, pre-dating the Californian company by some 85 years!