Wednesday, December 30, 2009


This lovely piece of bookish ephemera fell today from between the pages of a late 1950s copy of the Association of Scientific Workers' Journal (yes, it's heady stuff here at Callum James Books) that I was cataloging for Abe.
There's nothing that booksellers love more than bibliophilic ephemera. I had never heard of Collets but it transpires that many people remember a somewhat rambling "tatty and esoteric" empire of shops on the Charing Cross Road very fondly if this series of reminiscences is to be believed. Always left wing, the owners had links with both the Marx and Engels families and it was to Collets that you would wend your way if you were a communist from the provinces in need of improving literature, postcards, posters, pamphlets and books to take back to the other workers on your communal farm.

Cruising in the 1950s... with Cunard stupid!









Regular visitors will know that I have a weakness for 1950s graphics so imagine the squeal when I found this promotional booklet for the new Saxonia "the first of the new 22,000 ton liners for service to and from Canada". Everything in it looks like it's fallen from the shelves of the Ideal Home Exhibition. I'm not one of these people with a passion for transportation items but the colours and design here are just wonderful.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Boxing Day Walk


Actually this year, the traditional Boxing Day walk was postponed to the Sunday and among other things took in the rather beautifully lit and coloured Ryde Sands on the Isle of Wight. We had a quiet, chilly and sunny couple of days on the island with my parents. I hope this shot gives a sense of the clear and crisp conditions. Happy Christmas to you all and best wishes for the New Year...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Life on Mars: Fenton Ash








In 1877 the talented astronomer Schiaparelli observed what he believed to be canals on the surface of Mars. Today we know that these were in fact the result of an optical illusion but for a lonf while around the turn of the Twentieth Century, there was a fascinated regard given to the possibility of life of Mars which was derived, in large part, from the drawings of these canals. In particular, the astronomer Percival Lowell took the notion much further than Schiaparelli and proposed that these were in fact irrigation canals made by intelligent life-forms. He drew his own version of the canals which Schiaparelli thought was largely imaginary. In 1907-8 Lowell published, in serial form, a book which was eventually a single volume later in the year called, Mars as the Abode of Life and, although it had begun before most notably of course in 1898 with The War of the Worlds, it was in the wake of this book that a large number of early science-fiction books were written focussing on the encounter with alien life forms on Mars.




One such author was the pseudonymous Fenton Ash, actually Francis Henry Atkins, who wrote a great deal of lost world/fantasy/science fiction aimed largely at an adolescent market and who is remarkably collectable today. So I was delighted to find the other day this bound volume of the Young England magazine from 1908 with the whole of the novel, serialized, A Son of the Stars by Fenton Ash, which is a story about schoolboys travelling to Mars to meet the natives. The plot seems to be extremely close to that of Ash's novel, A Trip To Mars (aka The Sunday Circle) but a cursory examination of the Google books version of A Trip to Mars and the text of the magazine story makes me think they are actually quite different - but it is possible there's a relationship - the book may be a thorough rewrite of the magazine publication, I'll have to spend more time with them to be sure. The Young England story does have some fabulous illustrations and you can see above the fold-out colour frontis to the whole volume which should give an idea of the kind of Mars that is drawn in the story.


The serial versions of famous novels, when they constitute the first publication of a particular title, are never quite the same in the eyes of a book collector, as the first single volume publication in book form (with the possible exception of Dickens and his ilk). However, I remember doing very well when I found once the two volumes of Pearson's Magazine which contained the whole of H. G. Well's The Time Machine, serialized before book publication, and it is sometimes still possible to find these kind of volumes and turn a tidy profit.

Bookbinding: Gavin Dovey







Gavin Dovey is a bookbinder in New York running Paper Dragon Books. I can't remember how I stumbled upon his blog but I do know that he has just completed a quite remarkable project. He was challenged to created 25-30 full leather clam shell boxes in just two months, some of which you can see above and all of which, I think, you can see on his blog beginning from this post, and carrying on from there. I think they are beautiful. And if they are to contain a collection of first editions then, judging from the titles, it would be a very significant collection indeed.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sometimes...



...you know a book's going to be a gripping read just from the title...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Vintage Photos: some odds and sods











What I love about vintage photos is the sheer variety and the delight of wondering about the people, places and stories which must surround them. So, here are a small handful I picked up at the weekend:


1. An old man mending what I assume are lobster pots

2. An elephant being used to pull a crashed truck back onto the road (look at the way the elephant is holding that rope!)

3. A rather energetic game on board ship

4. Mother and baby on the beach

5. A smartly dressed boy who looks like he may have some real attitude about him.






Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mrs John Lane on Collecting



In the same wondeful edition of Pearson's Magazine, mentioned below, pictured above, Mrs John Lane writes about collecting and collectors:



"Collecting is a safety-valve for the passions. I do not believe that a
collector every commits suicide or dies of a broken heart, nor, indeed, is it
possible for a lover to be a collector.

To collect, from buttons up, is to give yourself over, heart and soul, to a
fierce, engrossing passion, which exceeds in dynamic force every other passion
in the world, for it contains them all. You may get tired of the most
frantically beloved one, but you never get tired of those delightful things you
have gathered together with such infinite patience. You may hate a rival, but
you will never hate him with the double distilled venom the collector feels
towards the other man who has carried off what he himself wants."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Frederick Rolfe, Born on Cheapside


Cheapside is one of the most characterful streets in London. It's also were Frederick Rolfe was born, his family had a piano making and tuning business there. He lived at a couple of different addresses on Cheapside but was born almost opposite St Mary le Bow church, clearly visible above on the right of the street. I love to find pictures of places related to my authors, as close to contemporary as possible. This one is a bit of a treasure. It's a tinted photograph which has been 'framed' by being pasted to one side of a piece of bevelled glass (which is why the reproduction here isn't great). This was a common enough form of displaying a photograph at the time but obviously extremely fragile and when the glass was broken the photograph most often went too. So it's lovely to have found this one with its original stand-up back as well.

There's something a little ironic about Rolfe being born within the sound of Bow Bells, in fact, almost next door to them, which is, of course as Cockney as it is possible to be. Love him as a Corvine might, there's no doubting Rolfe's social pretention and desire for upward mobility and it's amusing to think he was a Cockney, perhaps the stereotype of the poor but contended working classes.

"'I do not know'
Says the great bell of Bow."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Heath Robinson in Pearson's






I am a little unconventional in my tastes at times and here collide two such preferences. I prefer Pearson's Magazine to The Strand every time: I think the decorative binding much superior and the content universally more interesting. And I prefer the early work of Heath Robinson to his later and much more famous 'contraption art'. So how delightful to be able to liberate four Heath Robinson illustrations from the Pearson's Magazine of 1907 - admittedly a little later than the 1890s black and white work I like most but I think they show a really nice half-way point. They illustrate "Gwendoline's Burlgar" by Frank Savile.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Book Trade

"...While observing the behaviour of the feather patrons of our
bird feeder, it occured to me that, in its great variety, it paralleled that of
the book trade. First, there is the bird which arrives at the feeder a minute
after it has been freshly stocked; there is the bird in bright plumage which,
with shrill cries, streaks up to the seed bin; there is the quiet bird which
carefully extracts the choicest morsels after a quick and expert glance at the
stock' there is the large fat bird who seats himself in the feeder and prevents
others from entering; there is the bird which, while feeding, splashes the seed
about; there is the bird which furtively takes the seed and flies off; there is
the bird which stuffs itself beyond normal capacity and takes off with
difficulty; and finally there is the little bird which sits at the bottom of the
feeder awaiting the occasional dropped crumb. Any resmblance to book-dealers,
living or dead, is intentional." -
Richard S. Wormser
Quoted in G. F. Sims catalogue no. 73 and prompted by the first of what promises to be a fascinating two part post about Sims by Nigel Burwood at Bookride.
 
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