By: Mortons Motorcycle Media Hardcover: 179 pages Dimensions (inches): 8-1/4 x 8-1/2 x 5/8 Publisher: Mortons Motorcycle Media Ltd. UK (2001) ISBN: 0953835723
Mortons of Horncastle (Lincolnshire) is a relatively unknown publisher, at least to U.S.-based motorcyclists.
This is unfortunate, because the Mortons Media Group is one of the leading publishers of motorcycle magazines in the world; albeit the world’s most popular motorcycle magazines that you’ve probably never heard of.
They also sponsor three of the best motorcycle shows found anywhere on earth, including the yearly Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show, the Bristol Classic Motorcycle Show and the International Classic Motorcycle Show, now about to experience its 27th year.
Mortons also publishes some relatively obscure (or maybe just plain obscure) enthusiast publications — magazines like Old Glory, which is “Britain’s best selling steam and vintage restoration magazine”, Heritage Railway and Tractor and even Towpath Talk (“a tri-weekly newspaper covering life and leisure around UK’s extensive canal network”).
Believe it or not, all of these magazines are available for sale — and are also very popular — in my local Tractor Supply store right here in Maryland.
I have to give Mortons a lot of credit for providing an incalculable resource for historians and restorers of those old machines. It’s probably fair to say that there must be some real motorcycle enthusiasts at Mortons, who seem to publish these magazines for love and not for money. I just can’t believe there are enough readers of Old Glory, for example, to make it profitable in a way that would keep a magazine like that alive by a more profit-minded publisher?
But no one, not even Mortons, can make a profitable business model from selling Towpath Talk. The very popular Mortons magazines that are probably more immediately familiar to motorcyclists, with their more widespread distribution, include Classic Bike Guide, Classic Racer, The Classic Motorcycle, Old Bike Guide, Classic Motorcycle Mechanics, Scootering, TAG, Motorcycle Sport and Leisure and more.
So what’s all this have to do with Classic Images – Isle of Man TT Races? Well, Mortons has been around since the latter half of the 19th Century, and as such, has collected a huge library of images. Mortons and contracted photographers were a regular feature at the Isle of Man TT races throughout the 20th Century, and Mortons decided to sift through their vast collection of glass photographic plates and reproduce them in this mini-coffee table book.
The publication of this book is just so typical of Mortons, and it’s yet another reason for me — and for you — to love their bones for bringing us yet another obscure chapter in our rich motorcycle history, again with passion for the sport first in mind and profit second.
Every one of the 170+ pages of this book are chock-filled with black and white photos of some of the greatest TT riders and motorcycles the world has ever seen. It’s a fascinating look back in time and most of the photos are sharp as a tack and beautifully exposed.
But, there are a few problems…
First, the book is physically small, and the prints from the large format camera plates have been shrunk down to a size that is way too small to really enjoy. A high-quality magnifying glass will be necessary for readers who really want to see all the details. The problem is compounded on the many pages stuffed with more than one photo.
There are also many engineering studies; that is, side view photos of the TT bikes themselves. But again, a magnifying glass is needed to uncover all the details. This may be too inhibiting for motorcycle restorers and historians who will make up the bulk of the market for this book, unfortunately.
The other problem is that Mortons may have out-obscured themselves, if you get my drift, with the topic. I guess I find it hard to believe that there’s anything but a tiny audience who will be interested in, for example, the outcome of the 1950 Clubman’s TT race. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t recall seeing Classic Images – Isle of Man TT Races on the New York Times bestseller list.
So I’m of mixed minds with this book. I heartily applaud Mortons for having the fortitude to actually publish it in this era of mega-publishers whose sole focus is the bottom line and not quality. But it’s just too bad that the book wasn’t spiced up a bit with a storyline threading through or a much bigger format that might have led more than the tweed jacket types to buy a copy and study our motorcycle racing heritage.
If you’re a huge Isle of Man TT fan or a rabid British bike historian or restorer, you’ll probably find this book a valuable tool. If not — and I’ll be frank here — I’m afraid that it just may be too boring. Sorry Mortons!