Sunday, September 30, 2007

Beardsley: New to Me

In amongst this huge lot of books I have bought recently, there are very few which interest me personally, but there are just the odd one or two which are forcing me to be all stern and dealer-ish with myself in order that they don't end up on my shelf. Beardsely is not one of my primary interests but I am, of course, very aware of him as one of the great contributors to the 1890s.

So it was a very plesant surprise to come across this book in the current rummaging, which I had not heard of before. Bon-Mots by R. B. Sheridan and Sydney Smith (J. M. Dent, London, 1894, limited to 100 copies. It is illustrated many many 'grotesques' by Beardsley: tiny little line drawings inserted into the text and, in many ways, quite different to what we are used to seeing reproduced from The Savoy, The Yellow Book and the productions of Leonard Smithers. I love these little drawings, and it is a testament to Beardsley's enduring influence just how modern they continue to look in many ways.

Sorry about the slightly dodgy pictures but I daren't flatten the book on the scanner as I am being strong and putting it up for sale this weekend so I had to use the camera.

Working on a New Book

Some time ago I read, in a Victorian magazine, an article about Sarah Bernhardt, not concerned mainly with her as an actress but as a sculptor. I was intrigued by the article and by the slightly understated 'let the reader understand' tone of the piece which said, 'we may love this woman but she's a real diva!'. The article was part interview - on the day after Bernhardt's first performance of Lysanne - part biography, part art criticism and with a large dose of descriptive writing about Madame Sarah's interior design.

I decided to reprint the article and have been working on it most of the day. The pictures here are of the unsewn proof copy. I was particularly pleased to find the completely over-the-top printer's ornament on the cover and title page. R has suggested that it looks very like the work of Christopher Dresser and he may well be right.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Between the Pages

I have just bought about 1000 books. They are currently covering just about every spare inch of floor space in the flat and it has been a whole weekend's work just to go through them and sort out the good stuff from the chaff.
There has indeed been some good stuff though. Among the treasures are a couple of shelves-worth of naval history and biography, a selection of books by and about Churchill and T. E. Lawrence, large numbers of British topographical books, a selection of 'books about books' and individual items such as an 1845 edition of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and an early edition of Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet... and others too numerous to mention.
It transpired quite early in the process of going through them though that the household from which they came was one for putting things in books. It put me in mind of a recent post on the excellent Feuilleton blog by John Coulthart, who is kind enough to comment here occasionally. So, without wishing to get into a "mine's bigger than yours competition", I thought I'd follow his lead and focus on some of the things which have fallen out from between the pages. Where something is clearly related to the book in quiestion I have left it alone but this is the detritus so far...
Some edited highlights follow... article from the 1936 Hampshire Telegraph about bookseller Mr George Seaford. It makes quite an interesting read and can probably be read from the screen here if you click on the image to enlarge...

...a real photo postcard of actress Gertie Millar...

...a 1912 Church Lads' Brigade certificate...

...two steel engraved prints of Portchester Castle and the windmill on Wimbledon Common...

...two enormous panoramic postcards of Fareham in Hampshire... albumen print photograph of the King as a naval officer surrounded by other officers...

...Tickets for The Fleet Air Arm Museum, Mottifont Abbey and a Portsmouth Corporation bus ticket...

...and finally, bookmarks by the bucketload: embroidered, photographic, hand-painted, retro, advertising and so on...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sweet Little Thing

This etching is only about 6"x4" but quite lovely - it's another of R's ebay finds which he is currently auctioning off but which I rather whistfully hoped we might be able to keep... no such luck!

The signature is indecipherable but there is a monograom in the print which appears to include M, C and a backwards S. It has a pencil notation on the verso 'Knowle Park, Sevenoaks'

R on the Ebay trail

Regular readers of this blog will know that some time ago R started in on a £5 Ebay challenge. I would give him £5 - he would buy something sell it on Ebay and he would buy another thing with the profits he made... and so on.. and how long would it take to have £100 in the bank. The challenge fizzled out as the second and third items failed to make a decent showing. However, the man is making a come back. Recent sucesses include, this Longwy pot (top) bought for 50p in an antique shop, badly chipped, sold for £31: and this Burmantofts jug (2nd picture) bought in a charity shop for £2.99 and not yet finished but at the time of writing at £41: and this mahogany inlaid pipe-rack which has been hanging around the house forever as an uninteresting part of a larger lot bought at auction (so effectively free) sold for £22.99. All of this has been done under his own Ebay moniker 'oneateachend' (which, he assures me, is a reference to the two-way communication involved in an Ebay transaction!!). So, of course, now he is convinced that my ebay account, which he had used to sell things previously, is jinxed in some way.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Round the clock again...

Well, 3 a.m. has come and gone once again. Why am I still up? As much to justify it to myself as to anyone who might pass by here... I have been typing out a rather cool article I have found recently from an 1898 publication on 'Madame Sarah Benhardt as a Sculptor'. I thought it would make a rather good publication and it has some great illustrations to accompany it which should scan okay. Also, have been proofing the fifth in the Raven series of monographs about Frederick Rolfe. Also, putting the acetate covers on and bundling up the first tranch of orders of The Colt and the Porcupine (see below) ready for the Post Office tomrrow. I have a pile of books on Sussex which are going into the stock of a small shop in Arundel which I've been pricing up and on top of all that I have begun to get stuck in to a re-read of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. So, THAT'S why 3 a.m. has come and gone again.

That, and the fact that 'wanking boy' woke me up several times last night! (wanking boy is the guy in his late teens/early twenties who lives next door and who gets his name because his bedroom window is about 12 feet away from my study window and when we first moved in here, he hadn't quite got the hang of closing his curtains when he wanted a 'private moment' - fortunately he has now mastered this trick, but the name has stuck) Last night at 4 a.m. he woke me and R by climbing over his own back gate and falling, presumably stoned, over the scaffolding poles in their garden. R tells me that when he got up again at 6 a.m. wanking boy was still sitting in the garden, mumbling quietly to himself, having completely failed to rouse anybody in his own house to let him in. Ah well, I suppose we've all done it from time to time!

PS. Thank you for birthday wishes - always nice! Jim D. lovely to see you still popping in from time to time and good luck with the new job. John C. Don't get me started on the fate of the small bookseller. I know, as a mainly internet trader I'm part of the problem and there's no way that any bookseller in their right mind today would start their business by looking for shop premises but still. In Portsmouth we have lost 4 secondhand bookshops in as many years. And as for the charity shops! what a lot of people don't realise when they trot into Oxfam is that they have a policy of thowing away any books which they don't think they can put their minimum price of £2.49 on! Arghh! Thev. Hope we can get that webcam link across the Atlantic sorted out one day :-)

A few photographs

Just to continue the birthday theme as long as I decently can... on my actual birthday - the day after bookshop haul related below we went to a regular but infrequent Antiques and Collectables fair in Chichester where I normally find quite a decent bundle of bits and pieces to come away with. Unfortunately on this occasion it was not to be, which might be just as well given how much I'd spent the previous day. However, among the small items I found were these three rather fab photographs.

and one of the above again after a slight digital clean...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Birthday Trip

Birthdays are great and, I think, even better when they are nondescript numbers which don't apply any pressure to celebrate/comiserate in style. The day before my birthday R and I went to Winchester where, in one of the second hand bookshops I was able to shop as I liked and put it all down to birthday expenditure. Remarkably, the shop I was in appears to have recently bought someone's collection of gay literature and I could have bought twice as many items as I actually did. Instead I came away loaded down with:

4 hardcover Gay Mens' Press books. The GMP was mostly known throughout the 80s and 90s as a publisher of gay paperbacks and whilst I'm aware that it is possible to buy their much scarcer hardcover editions online, I've never seen one in a real live bookshop before. So it was something of a treat to find four in one go and all in near fine condition. A particular treat was that one of the four, The Carnivorous Lamb by Arcos-Gomez is one of my all-time favouite books. It is a sultry and claustrophobic tale of love between to brothers in Spain, influenced heavily by Les Enfant Terribles by Cocteau, the relationship becomes an incestuous one. I think perhaps one of the reasons I love this book so much is that I first read it in a battered GMP paperback, ex-library copy as a teenager (I still have that copy) and the claustophobic and rather hothouse atmosphere chimed very well with the introverted struggles of a young gay man to come to terms with a bursting sexuality.

I once tried to start the project of creating a bibliography of the GMP but, although one-time editor Peter Burton was kind and helpful, I could raise no interest from other figures in the history of the publisher and so the project foundered as they still held the majority of the company's records. Burton was the life-partner of the late author Robin Maugham which brings me neatly to the next couple of books. Maugham, nephew of the much more popular Somerset, was a fairly prolific and I think underrated novelist and I have been gathering his first editions unto my collection for some time so it was nice to find another two in my scavenging through Winchester. Search for Nirvanah is an autobiographical travel book which I haven't yet read. The Wrong People is an incredibly powerful if slightly overblown novel about a young English school master who gets caught up in the world of powerful ex-pats in Morocco and falls for a beautiful and capricious Arab boy. This is Maugham at his best and I already had the rather salaciously decorated Pan paperback version of this book. And to finish, two other books, the Aldo Busi, I know nothing about (and likewise the author except by reputation) the Joseph Hansen is going to be my introduction to his writing too. Hansen is the author of probably the first series of crime novels with a gay protagonist, the Brandsetter novels, this book is not in this series but I had long thought it would be good to read the crime books so when I saw this one it seemed a great opportunity to try out the author.

A good haul.

Sweet Memories

When love was young...

Digging through a box of old memorabilia I came across a hand-painted card that R gave me at the very beginning of our relationship. He was 18, I was 24. Those were the days...

A Creative Silence

It has been a little while since I have posted here. Much of this pause, of course and as usual, has been generated by the simple but encroaching pressures of real life and work. I aim to do better and, as I am constantly saying, be a better email correspondent to all those kind enough to write from time to time.

The silence hasn't been entirely unproductive however. Callum James Books has let loose another title on the world. Thanks to the tireless researches of one of my most prolific colleagues, I'm today publishing a series of four letters from a chap called John Holden to A. J. A. Symons, author of The Quest for Corvo. Blurb and pictures below...
The Blurb

Dear Friends,

I am writing to inform you of the publication of The Colt and The Porcupine. Four Letters from John Holden to A. J. A. Symons edited and introduced by Robert Scoble. These letters were written to Symons in 1933 when he was engaged in research for The Quest for Corvo and give a fascinating account of Rolfe's personality and the events of Rolfe's tumultuous stay in Hollywell in North Wales, which is when the young John Holden knew Rolfe and collaborated with him on a number of projects. Portions of the letters were printed in The Quest but, as Robert Scoble points out in the introduction, they were effectively bowdlerised by Symons who apparently felt no compunction about changing names, details and events to suit his purposes. This edition is the first time the entire and correct text of the letters has been published. Robert Scoble has also unearthed two previously unpublished photographs of John Holden and these are also reproduced.

Those who have read these letters agree that in many ways they present a far more intimate and personalised account of Rolfe than can be found in any of his biographies and furnish a real sense of what it was like to know Rolfe as a person.

This title is not a number in The Raven Series and is being published in a strictly limited, numbered edition of 70. Numbers 1-12 comprise a special state being casebound in marbled boards on Zerkall paper, signed by the editor: and numbers 13-70 published in stiff card covers. If pre-publication interest is to be judged correctly, it is likely that the demand for the special state will outstrip supply, as happened with Raven 4, so it is important that you let us know quickly if you would like a copy of the special state.

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