By Mark Irwin (mark@afinemess.org)

If you’re of a certain age, you’ll recall picture postcards of a group of pipe-smoking dogs playing poker. You may not know that the artist was an American named C. M. Coolidge nor that his series of “Dogs Playing Poker” paintings were originally commissioned to adorn cigar boxes. I think I was six or seven when I first saw one—I won’t say it planted the seeds of pipemanship at such a tender age, but who knows?

There’s another great piece of pipe-smoking art that has been knocking about in various places over the years that no one seems to know much about, a story without words of two extremely competitive pipemen, each out to best the other in the magnitude and grandeur of their smoking devices. You may even have seen it in recent publications of a certain pipe-affiliated press.

I first saw the cartoon five or six years ago, a tiny little squib of a reproduction on the internet, and thought it was hysterical. As you can just see in the reproduction, it captures the multi-faceted nature of our hobby at so many levels: on one level as a battle of the briars—and who has not felt the sting of some other, more deeply-pocketed pipe collector’s prizes? Or on the level of the increasing size of pipes themselves in recent years—not that there haven’t always been magnums and house pipes around, but the artisan movement that began with the freehands of the 1970s has established larger pipes with ever-larger chambers as something of a norm. And then there’s the reading of the cartoon as a cautionary tale against the dangers of P.A.D., which I and so many others have so gladly suffered and so vainly striven against.

In an idle moment and with a magnifying glass, I finally began trying to decipher who the artist of this whimsical paean to pipe smoking was from the all-but-illegible signature, going through a number of vowel-consonant combinations until at last I hit on “Bateman.” Had I been born on the other side of the pond just a generation or two earlier, doubtless I would have known the work of H. M. Bateman, the modern master of British cartooning, without a second glance. But such are the vagaries of time and a sorry education that I didn’t.

I was just smart enough, however, to get in contact with the granddaughter of H. M. Bateman, Lucy Willis, who had, in January of 2011, just assumed the task of running her grandfather’s estate. She did indeed know the cartoon I was talking about, “No Briar Without A Thorn,” and promised to let me know when she ran across it in cataloguing his works. There the matter dropped for over a year. In March of 2012, Lucy wrote me out of the blue to say that she had found the original and was I still interested in obtaining a print of it? How many ways can you say “THANK YOU, YES!!”? So it is with great pleasure that I have the honor of introducing formally to the pipe-smoking fraternity the authorized reproduction of Bateman’s work. He was, as Lucy writes, “a devoted pipe smoker” all his life, and it shows. Only one of the briar brotherhood could know us so well with all our foibles and pride, whimsy and folly.

The print is available from HM Bateman Designs Ltd at www.hmbateman.com in two sizes: A4 size 21cm x 30 cm (approx. 8 1⁄4 " x 12”) for £12 or A3 size 30 cm x 38cm (approx. 12" x 15 1⁄2 “) for £20.00. Shipping & Handling is £6, and payment can be made through PayPal. The print, on art stock paper, is mailed rolled in a tube, and it’s a pip. Whether you use it to alleviate your P.A.D. or just add a dose of levity to your daily life, think about adding this essential icon of the smoking life to your man cave, study, shop, pipe den, or wherever you do your smoking.

Oh, and if you happen to live in London, don’t miss “The Man Who Went Mad on Paper,” the first major retrospective of Bateman’s work, at The Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell St., London, until July 22nd. More information can be found at www.cartoonmuseum.org. You might also check out www.hmbateman.com—I understand there’s an extensive catalog of his work now available.