Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Paint Chart of Books

I know a couple of blogs have highlighted this recently but I couldn't resist. I think it was originally excavated from the archives of Gallerie Fons Welters by Letterology. An installation from 2005 in which sun-bleahced library books were hung on the wall. I think the effect is great and reminds me some of those colour charts you get for decoration from the paint companies, or perhaps an artists watercolour pallette with loads of slightly messed up blocks of watercolour.

Venetian Stock Cubes!

I just loved these. A complete set of trade cards for OXO and a couple of other extrait de viande products. Probably 1940s or 50s but just so vivid. So I now own them - but not for much longer methinks!

I-Spy type publications from News Chronicle

These are peculiar little things. They are produced in the same way and by the same people who published, originally, the I-Spy Books that I have blogged about before. These are little booklets of quizzes set by this character Hubert Phillips, and as ever you can read all about him on Wikipedia, but the most remarkable thing about these quizzes is just how boring they are...

[For answers run your cursor over the white space]

On Shakespeare...

Approximately a century of English history is continuously covered in Shakespeare's series of historical plays. Which plays are these?

ANSWER: King Richard II; King Henry IV (in two parts); King Henry V; King Henry VI (in three parts). These four reigns cover the period 1377-1471. [yawn]

On The Bible...

Who are the three "major prophets" of the Old Testament? When (so far as is known) did they live?

ANSWER: (1) Isaiah. His active career extended from about 738 BC to perhaps 690 BC (2) Jeremiah... [oh yawn, yawn, yawn]

On London...

What is the Stock Exchange? What are its functions? How long has it been in existence?

ANSWER: [somebody kill me now]

So, on the one hand we have Hubert Phillips's cracking quizlets, and on the other the colourful, innovative and fun I-Spy books, not much of a choice I'm afraid.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Water Babies: Janet and Anne Johnstone

This battered old copy of Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies was illustrated by the twin sister team of Anne and Janet Johnstone. There are actually eight colour plates in the book but, as ever, it's the black and white work with resonates with me more. I'm fairly sure there's a strange bibliographical quirk to be sorted out here. When I was Googling around this book I saw illustrations which were clearly not in my copy (The Heirloom Library, no date) and Wikipedia tells me that Anne produced illustrations for The Water Babies in the 1980s, on her own after the death of her sister, and yet this copy is clearly credited to both of them. I'm pretty sure it must have been a re-release with a few extra illustrations and that the original set were created by the both of them before Janet's death.

The sisters were best known for their illustrations of Dodie Smith's 101 Dalmatians and I think it's possible to see something of their influence even in the Disney-fied cartoon. Their style was so very 'of the period', the elfin faces and big eyes, one has to wonder if there is any connection between this 1960s/70s style of illustration (not just from the Johnstones) and Japanese manga style characters.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Retro Graphics: Meccano Magazine

Oh the vintage goodnesss... these are simply as juicy as Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles... Unfortunately not a single one of the 1930s Meccano Magazines I found at the bottom of a box the other day are in good enough condition to sell but the covers are just fab.

The other day, and I wish I could remember where, I heard or read someone reflecting on the fact that the Second World War pretty much stopped all progress in design for a decade and is why it can sometimes be difficult to tell immediately, at first glance, whether something is from the 30s or the 50s. I thought that was really insightful and made me realise why it's sometimes difficult to intuit a date on much of the vintage ephemera that comes through my hands.

Vintage Swim: Vintage Question

It's been a beautiful morning in Portsmouth today: a bright sun behind an all-consuming mist making the harbour and sea look almost ethereal. So, I've enjoyed not being far from home at a small, local postcard and ephemera fair. The above took my eye. The first, and it's not the first time I've seen this, for the rather interesting question on the back "what do you think of it?" - like email, it's sometimes difficult to decipher 'tone' in an old piece of writing but I'm sure this is a kind of fishing for compliments.
The second card I thought was almost Sutcliffe-esque it's just a shame it wasn't taken by a photographer as good as Sutcliffe who could actually get his subjects properly in focus.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Catalogues #5: A 1970s Burton Collection

In our ongoing exploration of old book catalogues, this is perhaps one of the most interesting I've picked up for a while. Published by Spink & Son Ltd., in 1976 it catalogues an astonishing collection of material by and about Sir Richard F. Burton. With three exceptions there are all of Burton's published works represented here: nearly all in first edition, often association or signed copies, some titles in several early editions. That in itself would be an astonishing collection - this catalogue contains also a second section of manuscript material, some of it not just unpublished but previously unrecorded.

Of course, it's always interesting to think about the way books have appreciated, or not, over time. From the illustrations above we see, for example, item 55: A New System of Sword Exercises - the first edition of 1876 and this one containing Burton's card. This is regarded as one of the great Burton rarities and in 1976, a hundred years after its first publication you could buy it from Spink for a mere £650. There are only four auction records since the year 2000, which show ordinary copies of the first edition selling for between £1,250 and £3,000. (A Zaehnsdorf bound copy managed nearly 5K), but God help you if you want to buy a copy retail - three first editions I found currently online are between £5,000 and £10,000. So, the 1976 copy is beginning to look like something of an investment.

What about item 37, the little green pamphlet published for the author by William Clowes in 1865. The Guide Book. A Pictorial Pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina? Well, not so many auction records for this one but two copies I've found in 1995 and 2005 for about £10,000-£20,000. If you want to buy a copy from Abebooks then you should be thinking of writing a cheque for either £12,000 or £25,000 depending on which of the two copies you fancy. The Spink copy? It was, after all "A strikingly clean copy": £475.

One more? How about that seminal piece of travel writing, First Footsteps in East Africa, issued by Longman in 1856. This is item 16 in the Spink catalogue and has a little bibliographical frisson to it. When Burton was in Somali country in East Africa he noted that infibulation was prevalent and so, having made copious notes as he travelled, he wrote them up as Appendix IV (much of it in Latin). However, his publisher got cold feet about that and the appendix was suppressed. The appendix is present in this copy and Spink speculates that perhaps only those copies destined for the author ever had the suppressed appendix, perhaps six, says Spink. Today, a good copy of the first edition at auction looks to be costing you a few hundred pounds, and it's not that uncommon either. However, in 2009 a copy was sold by Sotheby's with just the first leaf of Appendix IV and that raised £5,000. With that in mind the copy currently on sale by Buddenbrook's for about £15,000 in immaculate condition, in the same beautiful binding as the Spink copy and with the rare appendix, seems quite reasonable. In their description, Buddenbrooks note the information from the Spink catalogue and it strikes me, looking at the available images that it could even be the same copy - although Buddenbrooks don't say that it is. In 1976 you would have paid £750.
In an interesting footnote, when I looked up the catalogue itself on Abe, I discovered this very amusing copy which came from the estate of Philip Jose Farmer, the SF and fantasy writer. Farmer was well known as a big Burton fan, using him as a character in To Your Scattered Bodies Go. This copy includes Farmer's order for some substantial items from the catalogue.

Sam Steward - The Secret Historian - Tattoos

Back in August last year I blogged a little about an ephemeral publication I had found which contained a poem I liked by Sam Steward (aka Phil Andros). In a strange moment of synchronicity, it turned out that I was wondering aloud about that just as Secret Historian: The Life And Times Of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, And Sexual Renegade by Justin Spring was being published. Alongside that, The Elysium Press was producing a limited edition of 1,000 copies of another book by Spring, An Obscene Diary. The Visual World of Sam Steward. Despite numerous hints around Christmas time, I haven't been blessed with either of these yet although I hear great things about both of them and I expect it won't be long before I have to dig into my pocket for one or both of them.

Interest in Steward continues to grow, and I was delighted to find there's a really interesting and well illustrated interview with Justin Spring over at East Village Boys which presages an exhibition of material relating to Steward in the near future.
The pictures above are from my collection. Not of Steward but of some of his work on the bodies of young men from 1957.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Quark /#1 Frontispiece

Following on from my earlier post about Quark/#1...for a quarterly of speculative fiction, from people who were comitted to raising the literary bar when it came to SF in the 1960s and 70s, hardly surprising that they should choose as a frontispiece illustration something so bookish...

Standing Man

It must be art week! I'm still trawling through the lot of artwork I bought last October by an art student in the 1930s/40s called Barbara Long. This rather handsome and well-built young man I thought might go well here...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Charming sketch

I was rather pleased to find this pen and ink sketch this afternoon. I guess, from the pin holes in the top corners, that this was student work but I think it's rather charming.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Samuel Delany - Quark - Russell FitzGerald - New Wave SF

This is Quark/#1. my rather tatty copy, published in 1970 and edited by Samuel R Delany and his then wife Marilyn Hacker. I've been looking through a lot of the books in my Delany collection thinking, ruefully, that it might be time to move on and dispose of the collection. Then I find something like this tatty little paperback and my resolve falters.
In the late 1960s SRD was one of a number of young SF writers who were tagged with the label 'New Wave' and there was a great deal of posturing around this label which, very loosely, seemed to stand for attempts at experimental fiction, a higher doctrine of language, a attempt to raise the literary quality of SF and generally a more modern(ist) take on the genre. That being said, most commentators agree that by 1970 the debate was over and the New Wave had crashed against the shore and retreated. It probably is true that the writers most associated with the New Wave were iconoclasts regardless of 'movements', many went on to have successful careers in SF but often ploughing a very individual furrow - a little like SRD.
So it's delightful to find in Quark/#1 an anthology full of the most New Wave of New Wave material. There's still something very vibrant and exciting about the combination of authors and techniques represented in Quark. The series of quarterlies lasted a year - four issues obviously - but they really ought to be on the shelf of anyone with a serious collection of counter-culture books from the 60s and 70s. Only ever published as paperbacks, very good condition copies are becoming increasingly hard to find.
The cover of this edition was painted by Russell Fitzgerald and, inside the same artist has a series of drawings reproduced under the title 'Twelve Ancillary Animations for the QUARK/ Cover Called Appomattox' I have absolutely no idea what that means, but I like the illustrations, a few of which I have reproduced above. One can't help wondering if the somewhat African-American looking figure was based on Delany himself who, at this time, was a devillishly handsome 28-yr old. Apart from some more work in later issues of Quark, I can find nothing else by Fitzgerald: it would be nice to do so.
UPDATE: I finally discovered the contributors' bios at the back of the book. Doesn't tell us much about FitzGerald, " a painter, designer and writer. He lives in New York with his wife and twin daughters" Also, we now know he was responsible for a couple of memorable covers for The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, as well as the paperback editions of some of Delany's books.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More Manicule Love

Readers will know the love felt here at Front Free Endpaper for the venerable and ubiquitous printer's ornament that we have come to know as a Manicule...

What joy then to find the above examples in a type specimen book of 1897 from the American Type Founders Company.
Hat tip, of course, to John Coulthart for pointing the way.
Who links to my website?