Thursday, January 31, 2008

Helen Jacobs, Illustrator

Isn't it nice when you have your 'eye' confirmed. I picked up this little softcover childrens' primer in among a load of other books which, superficially at least ought to have been more interesting. However, something about the front cover and a quick flick through to look at the illustrations in the rest of the book made me think that it would be worth hanging on to for a better look.

It turns out that the illustrator, Helen Jacobs (1888-1970), was rather good, although, as the only real internet information I can find about her points out, working on these educational books (and full-time as a primary school teacher), made her style more boldy graphic than it had been before. She was involved in illustrating a number of these Riverside Readers including:

The Water Babies
Alice in Wonderland
Tales from Old Greece
Legends from the Norse

Certainly, the images from The Water Babies which are exibited at the link below seem particularly good. The Riverside Reader I have is only 48pp long. I was struck, certainly by a certain willowy, camp sexiness in the picture on the cover of Orpheus but as ever with the Greek myths it seems to be the story of 'Psyche and Cupid', also in this collection, that makes an illustrator reach for their best - so it is the illustrations for that I have reproduced below.

If you would like to own the original then you should go to this gallery. However, even for a good artist like Jacobs I think probably the £900-£1000 price tag for what are, after all, reasonably small pen and ink drawings is pushing it more than a little.

PS. artything, sorry to hear you've not been well, I think we've both had that here too. Actually the photos didn't come from the Hornet nor from the Market - I have my own little secret stash of antique/junk shops in Chichester. We keep meaning to go to the Pallant but never seem to get there on a day when it's open. John C. you are an absolute star with those Corvine photos you sent, I may well do that post on his relationship with photography at some point. Jim D. I hadn't seen the fully realised painting of that sketch but I think you are quite right. I'm sure if I'd just seen the painting I would have loved it but as it is the sketch has just as much raw power and is somehow beautiful at the same time. Miles, welcome. Lovely to see new faces. I hope you weren't too disappointed by the lack of lots of information about Gwenda Jones. I can't claim to know much about her. The images of the lantern slides were taken while the slides were on a light box - not perfect but it gives a pretty good idea I hope. Do drop by again sometime.

Helen Jacobs, Cupid and Psyche

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

More Felim Egan

Delight! Yesterday R found a second of these strange and highly unusual etchings by Felim Egan. This on the heels of being in touch with the artist who confirmed that these were indeed from his time in the early 1970s as an art student in Portsmouth. Although he hasn't numbered them, they were, he says, only printed maybe 4 or 5 times and given to friends and family when they had served their purpose as works by a student learning about printmaking.

The series from which these come drew its inspiration from his exploration of the imagery of The Book of Durrow, and are possibly the only currently known figurative work by this artist - utterly different from anything in his present oeuvre.

Of course, we also ran the first one by a specialist at Bonhams and suffice it to say, their auction valuation has put a smile on our faces.

Jacob and the Angel.

I don't want to ever be the kind of blog which just finds things that other people are selling and shows them off but I thought this exceptional. Far too expensive for me but just beautiful.

The listing with details of the artist, Jon Corbino, is here.


This is one of those finds which only just just falls within my area really, in the sense that I usuallly say, when asked what I deal in: "anything made of paper". But these were too good to resist. A wonderfully made box full of some 70 black and white glass slides - not negatives, slides - of China. They were originally made and produced for some kind of missionary operation and just a very few of the slides relate specifically to missionary work. The vast majority however, are the most wonderful pictures of Chinese people, places (including the Shanghai waterfront), domestic scenes, landscapes and so on...

From the buildings in some of the photos - but only a few - I would say these were from the thirties perhaps, for the most part however, the photos are all fairly timeless. I think one of the things which makes them so appealing is the box with its leather strap, felt lining and partitions - it makes the whole thing feel like treasure.

Clearly, photographing glass slides isn't very easy. These were taken to give the best possible image by photographing the slide whilst they were laying on a light box. Held to the light and looked at by eye they really are much clearer and lighter than these photos show.

Only Just Missed...

I've been trying since New Year to post at least once every other day. Unfortunately I'm just now recovering from a catastrophic computer failure and I suspect it will be tomorrow before I am able to get back to trying to live up to the resolution (and to responding to your good selves).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cute Lads, Queens and Posh Frocks

It would be nice to think that this could be one of those cutting-edge, urban, streetwise, creative blogs that you come across from time to time but truth be told, I ended up today in Chichester - perhaps one of the most genteel and provincial Cathedral cities in the country. But, I did fill my pockets to bulging with CDVs and Cabinet Cards including a couple of her ex-Majesty Queen Victoria, some wonderful examples of Victorian fashion and one or two cute lads as well...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Felim Egan - Crucifixion

This is the kind of thing we love. R goes to our favourite junk/antique shop the other day and sees this print. Something about it piques his curiousity so he remembers the name of the artist who we then discover is a pretty well known and respected Irish artist but whose current work is nothing like this at all. Neither, in fact, is any of the work we can find represented on the Internet. Nonetheless we went back and bought it - obviously. Titled 'The Crucifixion' in a style redolent of celtic Christianity we think it's an aquatint although neither R nor I are the best judge of different kinds of printing. So, we've emailed a few places to see what we can find out about it. I'll let you know here if anything exciting comes of it.

PS. John C., there is, in fact, to be a book of Rolfe's photos but I'm not sure at this stage how much I'm allowed to say about who's publishing/editing and so on, as I understand it though, the text has now been written and I think the plan is for it to be out this year and I'll certainly be posting about it when it's available. In the meantime I may well make my own contribution by putting some of the copies of Rolfe's photos which I have in a post here. I would dearly love to see scans of the one's you have in theV&A catalogue in case they are one's I haven't seen before. Jim D., I'll get back to your email about the Dumas book very soon I promise.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Frederick Rolfe Baron Corvo: Some Notes

Frederick Rolfe, a.k.a. Baron Corvo is, as many of you will know, the major focus of my publishing venture and a personal collecting and research interest. It's in the nature of that kind of research that one comes across small pieces of information which, although probably new, would have an interest for only a very limited number of people and even then would be considered ephemeral to the central study of a person's work or biography. It strikes me that a blog is actually quite a good place to put observations of this sort as anyone who shares my interest in Rolfe, if they are googling around the internet, is likely to come across this blog at some point.

One of the first publications I ever put out was a new edition of Rolfe's first published work, Tarcissus. The Boy Martyr of Rome. Rolfe paid for and arranged for the original publication himself whilst he was a school master in Saffron Walden. At the front of the poem was a list of some 22 sets of initials representing 22 boys, mainly pupils of Rolfe. Cecil Woolf in his edition of Rolfes Collected Poems, identified a number of them and, almost in the way some people do soduko, I have been digging away at the others now for some years. This work has included at one point reading the entire census return for Saffron Walden for boys of the right age and checking all their initials against the list. There have been some notable triumphs in that research and I won't go into the details here as I may yet write something on the whole dedication of the poem: the little note I want to raise here is slightly different. The top of the dedication is "To the memory of Thomas Reardon. (R. I. P.)" who was one of two boys from The Staioners School - Rolfe's previous school - who had died by drowning in the Thames. Rolfe was obviously very affected by this event as he kept the in memoriam card for Reardon and it still exists in one of Rolfe's commonplace books in the Boldeian Library in Oxford. Trying to discover more about the accident I searched in all kinds of newspapers and drew a blank. However, I was fascinated to read the following in the letters section of The Times which, although it can't be referring to our accident was nonetheless, I thought, a fascinating piece of background to the event:

"Sir, It may be hardly known by the authorities what danger exists through boys being permitted down the steps leading to the water, and there not being any precaution in the shape of a rope or lifebouy for immediate use in case of accidents. Last evening, near the Temple pier a boy was drowned by falling from the steps, and though gallant efforts to save him were made by two passengers in a steamer passing at the time, yet they were too far off to render effective help."
Aug 28, 1880, The Times, p.7

The other piece of Corvine ephemera I discovered on the same day trawling the archive of
The Times is actually, now I think of it, a new piece of writing by Rolfe which is about to be republished here for the first time. It is known that Rolfe would occasionally advertise for work in publications like The Times and The Tablet, indeed, on occasion it was a good strategy which did bring him work. Some of these adverts have been found and mentioned in the definitive bibliography of Rolfe but this one, I believe, was not previously known:

"BARON CORVO desires EMPLOYMENT. Has studied medieval literature and art, domestic and ecclesiastical, in England and Italy. Understands photography and original design."
Fri Jun 26, 1891, The Times, p. 16.
PS. I have added a rather sexy little piece of web-nonsense to the blog, right at the very bottom, a gimzmo which tells me not just how many people are visiting this blog (183 in the ten days I've had it turned on), but also what posts they have looked for, what pages refered them here (usually a google search) and what cities/countries they are in (UK, US, Poland, Australia, NZ, and I think one from Finland so far). This is not just fascinating stuff but is, of course, also rather reassuring to know that people are actually coming here.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Blond Thoughts

I have often heard that the gene for blond hair is not as strong as those for other colours and certainly, every now and again one hears something on the radio to that effect. Today I was flicking through a book on stage make-up published in 1905, interestingly I noticed that the author, when talking about wigs and beards makes the observation that blond and brunette hair are pretty much equally distributed. Amazing what a difference 100 years makes. Walk down the road outside here and you'd be hard-pressed to find a natural blond. The last I heard, I think, was that the 'experts' expect blond to be pretty much extinct in the UK in the next 70 years.

PS. John C. I have no idea what Endymion is up to! However, John Buckland-Wright is definately one of my favourites in this group of first-half 20thC printmakers. Ironically Clifford Webb was the one I hadn't heard of. And while we're on the subject of illustrations for greek myths, I must look out that little book I found the other day... hmmm... where did I put it? Oh, and thank you, I had a feeling you would rise to the challenge of Lefeuvre!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Christopher Sandford Chooses Wood Engravings

I have spent most of the day listing/cataloguing a small collection of 'books about books'. That is, books about publishing, bookplates, bibliography, bookbinding and so on. A rather unassuming looking title among them was An Illustrated Guide to Old and Rare Books edited by Reginald Horrox (1951). The book is a collection of articles on everything from Australian bookplates to Collating the first three Shakespeare folios. And tucked away in the middle is a short article by Christopher Sandford entitled, 'The Progress of Wood-Engraving in Current Book-Illustration'. Now, as Sanford was a co-owner of The Golden Cockerel Press, you would expect him to know a thing or two about wood engraving. In fact, the article is little more than a plea for some public funding to be directed towards supporting newer (then) artists working in the medium. In an otherwise fairly dull book, in illustration terms, the woodcuts he chose to illustrate his article leap from the page.

John Buckland-Wright. One of my favourites and a great friend of Sandford.
Online Exhibition of items relating to Wright

Dorothea Braby: " A former pupil of John farliegh at the Central Schoo and who also studied in Italy and France, by diligent research and a wedding of her own personality with the subject matter on which she is engaged, produces work which, although original and new, brings us an authentic vision of peoples living faw away and long ago." - Christopher Sandford
A Bibliography of Work Illustrated by Braby

Clifford Webb
Brief Biography from The British Council
Google Image search for "Clifford Webb"
Peter Barker-Mill: "A painter who all too rarely lays down his brush to seize his burin, shaps out of natural phenomena composite designs in black and white of quite astonishing beauty." Christopher Sandford. This chap was actually quite local to me here and left a legacy of philanthropic trusts and so on.
A Selection of books featuring his work.

Geoffrey Wales:
A reasonably recent monograph about this guy and his work from Oak Knoll Press

Clifford Webb Again
Short Biography Again!

Gwenda Morgan
A little biography
A little bibliography

Friday, January 18, 2008

More Everyman

While we're on the subject of pocket-sized books and The Everyman series in particular, here is a rather great little number from the Everyman series which I sold just the other day. A literary and historical atlas of Europe. I know there's some who visit here who have a bit of a fetish for old maps so I thought it would go quite nicely.

PS. Clive, how fantastic to hear from you again. I had kind of decided to leave you alone a little while, I hope that's what was indicated. Anyway, I can't begin to tell you how exciting it would be to see anything which betoken first stirrings on the 'equestrian' thing! How cryptic is that! John C. I'm obvioiusly going to have to pay more attention to these pocket-sized things. I actually have a dealer friend who I could always rely on to take piles of them away with her whenever we met as she has a small shop and said coyly, 'oh, I can sell a few from time to time.' - little did I know they were so avidly collected. However, a little like Penguins I have a definite feeling that there's a lot to learn about which Everyman books and other pocket books are collectable and rare and which are common and uninteresting to the collectors. The book above for example got to something like £12 I think. Jim D. I work part-time in someone else's bookshop and there's a huge range of pocket-editions which I haven't combed through thoroughly. I shall have to have a look for you and see if there's a copy of Dumas' The Queen's Necklace in the Collins Series. Having said that I can find 13 copies for sale online, ranging from £4-£15.

Mystery Picture

It's perhaps a good job I didn't see this little art postcard for sale on Ebay until it was sold as I might have been tempted to bid on it. This would not have been good since our car is currently in the garage after breaking down on Sunday and so far the bill is £700! However, I wondered if anyone visiting here with better Googling skills than me could come up with a colour version...? and as I was typing that I thought to myself perhaps I had better have another try myself and I came up with this somewhat poor image from an auction in 1998. Can anyone find a better one. The title given in the auction catalogue is, Enfant jouant dans les calanques

The back of the card is quite helpful - so it's not so much of a mystery picture really - telling us that the painting is by Jean Lefeuvre and that it is titled, 'A Capri' and was exhibited at the 1914 Salon of the Soceite des Artistes Francais.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Collins Illustrated Pocket Classics

This is today's find and it doesn't bode well for the pocket nor the strain on the shelves. I don't normally pay much attention to 'pocket-editions' of classic or not-so-classic novels but I recently became aware for the first time that there is a significant collector base out there for The Everyman Series of pocket-sized editions, published by J. M. Dent in a number of formats these were the original and, some would say, the best of all the pocket editions. So, as I was looking through a few Everymans, with a view to putting them up for sale, I'm come across this pocket sized edition of The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. It actually takes a little bit of searching to discover that the series is in fact the Collins Illustrated Pocket Classics because they don't actually mention the illustrated bit except on the back flap.

So this one has the most delightful woodcuts by Helen Monro, a name I couldn't discover much more about. This title is no. 91 in the series so obviously, first order of the day tomorrow will be to see if I can find any more and see what the illustrations might be like.

One of the nice things about the series is the way that Collins paid attention to detail and obviously attempted to create books of some distinction even though they were only 'pocket-editions'. Hence the description on the back flap of the jacket: "Now, in deference to changing tastes and standards, we are issuing the library in a new format. Still in the handy pocket size, the books will be bound in natural-finish fadeless cloth, with real gold titling and blind ornament. Endpapers designed by Eric Gill, coloud jackets and coloured tops complete this dignified binding, which should appeal to all who appreciate the finer points of modern book production" - oh yeah! ::sigh::

PS. Good to see you back Jim D. hope you can keep up :-) ! John C., I hadn't seen Felix D'eon's Flickr sets that you pointed out and I think I'm going to have to do a bit of 'highlighting' of him at some point given the extremely sexy nature of some of those pictures. Karl, thanks for being in touch about Willard Price and I'm sorry I couldn't help more.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Miscellany

I have spent much of today trying to sort through the ridiculous number of pictures on my hard drive - dump many of them and burn others to disk so as to give this hard labouring computer a bit of a spring clean. So, today you get the fruits, or perhaps rather the sweepings, of that process.

PS. John C, I'm not sure what happened with your comment on the Gollancz post, I'm afraid the blog isn't busy enough for me to be able to judge from other people's comments if there's a specific problem with posting. I know exactly what you mean about the connections made though.

Misc 1: Two Sketches

It's just possible that I've uploaded these before at some point but I couldn't remember and every time I see them I think how lovely they are - two small ink sketches, Victorian in date, done on very rough paper, presumably as illustrations for something.

Misc 2: Henry Scott Tuke

One of the things I love about old (well not that old) auction catalogues from the likes of Southeby's and Christie's is that they print pictures of paintings and artwork that may not ever have been published in a public forum before. Hence, when I found these three Henry Scott Tuke's I scanned them thinking I would do some learned post on the man and his painting and introduce the three pictures at the same time. They probably haven't been published before as the catalogues are usually very good at noting when they have been and in these cases there was no mention. Anyway, the full-blooded, blog-post never came to pass, so here are the pictures nonetheless.
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