Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vintage photos with no swimwear in sight!

There might be something of a skew on this blog for a little while in favour of the vintage photo side of things as I have been doing a fair bit of buying in this department recently. And here, just to prove that the charm of vintage photos isn't entirely predicated, for me, on the appearance of attractive young men in vintage swimwear: these photos from an American source, dating to around 1920, really took my fancy. They are all taken inside a pharmacy, presumably in the back room where all the drugs are stored and the glare from the ceiling light and the slight lack of focus in a couple has given them a real sense of atmosphere.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vintage Basketball Players

These Hunky-Monkeys were in a photo album I bought recently from the USA.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Best Colophon Ever...?

This is a curious book, a digest of peridical articles originally from 1807 and this published in 1886/7 and bound in a way which includes a cross stitch label on the front and a cross stitch bookmark sewn in.

But what I liked best was the 'statement of limitation' or colophon, possibly one of the best I've read (actually, this is a paragraph from the end of the introduction, but it is where the statement of limitation directs you to look):

"An edition of three large-paper copies of THE FOLLIES AND FASHIONS OF OUR GRANDFATHERS is printed on brown paperr, price ten guineas each. It seems that the British Museum has the legal right - a right always rigorously enforced - of demanding one of the most expensive copies of any book published. The writer has suffered before, and he takes this opportunity of getting even. He had intended only to print one copy on brown paper, but, before going to press, elected to have an edition of three - the first copy to the British Museum, the second for himself to take home and chuckle over when out of sorts, and the third for anyone who likes to pay for it."

Missing Treasure Map

In a copy of the boys' newspaper Chums from October 1894, I read the following:

"Mr R. L. Stevenson was once trying to turn a room at Braemar into a picture gallery, by means of a shilling paint box, for a boy of his acquaintance. Among the pictures painted by him was a map of a marvellous island called by them 'Treasure Island'; and from this incident sprang the famous book that made his name"

Could such a thing still exist? Perhaps it is tucked away in a museum somewhere, well-known to RSL aficionados (of which I am not really one): or perhaps it is languishing in someone's attic. Maybe it bore a resemblance to the published map (above), or maybe it was nothing like it, providing just the seed and not the shape of the idea that came later... in any case, there is a certain irony that, given the things that RSL went on to do after painting this boy's bedroom, the map itself is surely something of a treasure...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Outlines of Ornament

First of all, a big thank you to Michael H, who came up with the goods on the Oakham School Memorial in my recent post. One of the wonders of this place is the way that no matter what I post here, there's someone who's able to help me out. Thank you Michael...

Today has been an auction day, zooming through a couple of counties to get to two auctions in the course of the morning and afternoon and, I have to say, I'm pretty chuffed with the results. No doubt some of those results will be featuring here. Regular readers of this blog though will be very unsurprised to hear about my glee when I pulled this large folio-sized book from a box when I got home: pages and pages and pages of printers ornament and designers' patterns... yummy...

It seems that by 'leading styles' in the title they mean Japanese, French Modern, Egyptian, Medieval and so on. These kind of pattern books - and their typographical variants - were popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and enjoyed a resurgence during the 60s and 70s when companies like Dover Publishing reprinted them all. But that was the age of the photocopier and cut-and-paste clip art that didn't just arrive down a broadband cable. These days the Victorian and early 20th Century books have a collectors value but just because they are such nice physical objects, not because they are of great use any more.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Pickwick Exhibition

The literary exhibition seems to be something, with the exception of The British Library, that we have lost the knack of. I'm sure I'll be told otherwise by some learned reader of this blog but I don't recall much by the way of literary exhibition outside that library of libraries who seem to be the only ones keeping the flame alive. Of course, I'm aware of the Centenary exhibition of Corvine books and relics that took place in Marylebone library in the 60s but not much else...

The postcard above is of one corner of the 1907 Pickwick Exhibition of Dickensian relics and ephemera which was put on by the Dickensian Fellowship in the Dudley Galleries in London...

Handsome Carte de Visite

Although, I suspect he may have been more handsome still if someone hadn't tried to ink in his eyebrows when they didn't come out very clearly in the print!

Indian Photographs

It was October last year when I first started posting about this collection of Albumen print photos from India - and I am still working my way through them. They were, every last one of them rolled up tighter than a cigar: I had them under a hot press numerous times and no difference did it make, seconds after emerging from the press they would curl up again. We're not talking a gentle curl, it was more like having a bundle of pencils in the bag rather than sheets of paper. So, given that in such a condition they had no value to anyone I opted for something one wouldn't normally do and I've being slowly laying them down, or backing them if you like, with acid-free tissue paper. This seems to do the trick, providing with the tissue and the bonding tissue, just enough strength to hold the photos flat.

Above all the technical shenanigans though, what I love about these somewhat faded images is their representation of pattern. The painted pattern on the walls of the image at the top for example are, I think, breathtaking: click it to enlarge.

War Memorial: Oakham School

This is the First World War Memorial at the Oakham School Memorial Chapel. It came to me just like this, as a page torn from a book, in a pile of ephemera which included a couple of blank subscription forms towards the building of the Chapel. I have no idea who the artist was behind this memorial but it is of striking quality and with a Christ who is unusually finely muscled: almost more naked than nude. If this artist did more work elsewhere I would very much like to see it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

She Looks Happy...!

...and who can blame her!

W Heath Robinson Strikes Again

Not exactly unknown WHB but it was a surprise to me, leafing through some sheet music which is not something I usually do, this cover just shouted the master's name even before I saw his signature and the 1916 date. Being a musical clutz I rushed home to R, who is a very talented keyboard player as it happens and had my first introduction to the music of Walter Carroll. I was pleasantly surprised, this is a suite of pieces in the fairy tradition of English illustration, writing, art and now, it transpires also music. Quaint, haunting, simple and rather beautiful in their own way. We don't have the technology for recording R playing it so you'll have to put up with this chap I found on Youtube:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Actually by Gleeson White

Okay, so this is what happens... you buy a pile of books at auction and you get all excited and you forget yourself. I've only been working on elements of Gleeson White's story for two or three years now after all...! By way of correction to the post below I am compelled to confess that I got myself confused. In fact, GW worked for the publisher George Bell doing design work and it was the Bell family who were present in Christchurch in the 1890s along with GW and, of course, Frederick Rolfe Baron Corvo.

Anyway, by way of apology for misleading everyone, the book above is known to be designed by GW.

Possible Gleeson White

This book came out of a box I bought at auction today and as soon as I saw it I thought of Gleeson White, the art critic, designer and encourager of young talent who thrived at the turn of the last century as the editor of The Studio. One of his other jobs was as a designer of books for J M Dent, a publishing company that he, no doubt, came to know because members of the Dent family lived in White's home town of Christchurch in Dorset. So, when I discovered that this book was indeed published by Dent, and in 1896, just the time that White was working for them, I think it's a fair guess (although probably unprovable) to say it's by him.

Sadly, the book isn't worth much, but it's nice to be able to add a little more to the limited pool of information about this influential character who should really be much better known and celebrated for his contribution to the 1890s and beyond.

Friday, June 17, 2011

New Vintage Photos

Apologies for the oxymoronic title... I blogged a photo a short while ago that I saw in ebay and thought one of the nicest vintage swim photos I had seen: the one above comes close to usurping it and has the added bonus inasmuchas it does actually belong to me. As does the rather charming young man showing off his boxing moves.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Callum James Books: Short List #2

Today sees the publication of the second Short List of books and ephemera from Callum James Books. If you are on the mailing list and don't receive your email within the next couple of hours, please do let me know. If you are not on the mailing list and would like to be, likeswise, drop me a line using the email link to the right.

If you are not on the list you will be missing the chance to buy from a wide range of items; this list has everything from a book previously owned and annotated by John Addington Symonds through to a 1964 Athletic Models Guild film-club calendar and a 1950s catalogue of conjuring tricks. The aim has been to offer a wide range of material in terms of both subject and price and to begin to tailor the items on the list to the people receiving it. However, as a general rule, if you are familiar with this blog then you won't be surprised by anything on the list. Being on the mailing list isn't an onerous situation: one email every month or two with a text list of items and a link to a fully illustrated version online, each one will contain between 15 and 25 items.

54th International Antiquarian Book Fair At Olympia

It's been a busy few days here at Callum James Heights. On Friday I was all day in the hallowed halls of Olympia at the above fair where there are books for sale which cost the same as my house! Book fairs like this are great for a number of purposes: obviously, for the buying of books, also, for the networking but one purpose they serve which is sometimes overlooked is the educational. Attending a fair of this calibre gives a humble bookman the opportunity to see and handle a large number of books which might not otherwise have crossed our paths. So, what did I learn?

Well, for example, where else in the world would it be possible to examine three copies of the uber-rare High Street by J. M. Richards and Eric Ravilious. Nearly every copy printed was, at some point in the 20th century broken up for it's lithographic illustrations and so, to see a single copy would be exciting. Since a complete copy of the book retails for £2-3K, to be able to examine three in one day, and to have the oppotunity to note a binding oddity in one of them which bears further investigation is an opportunity that doesn't come along every day...

I learnt too, that The Savoy, the 1890s 'magazine' that tried, for a while to maintain the decadent atmosphere of The Yellow Book, was issued with a dust jacket. I wouldn't have known this unless I had access to piles of catalogues picked up at the fair and read on the train home. The survival of the jacket on the copy I saw for sale in one of these catalogues must have been nigh-on unique...

A hundred little points like this are picked up at a major fair if you give yourself enough time and exercise enough curiosity. It was, of course, also delightful to meet all manner of lovely people: new friends and old...

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Poor, Poor, Lucy Moore

Professional Fat Folk were regulars on the carnival and 'freak show' scene of Nineteenth Century America. I recently came across this extremely fragile piece of ephemera, two folded sheets of newsprint, giving some sparse details about Moore's life. How much of it can be trusted is open to debate and investigation but it claims she was born in Lexington, Kentucky in the US of a white Englishman and a American black woman. She was born a normal size but weighed 100lbs at 12 months, 15 stone 4 lbs at the age of ten and so on, up to her weight at the time of the pamphlet at 40 stone and 7lbs. I have seen postcards of her on which her weight is given as up to 48 stone.

From the age of 17 she was 'on exhibition' first with Avery's Museum in Cincinatti and then on tour in Europe, particularly in Germany the UK where she, of course, caused a 'sensation' and 'appeared on several occasions before Royalty; She was said to travel with her own bedroom and living room suite.

"In a good many cases of fat people, you find the flesh soft and flabby, cause by disease - dropsy being the most common complaint. If you have not noticed the solidity and firmness of Miss Moore's flesh, pay a return visit and convince yourself that she is in reality a mountain of solid humanity"

She is billed here as 'The Jersey Lily' which might be slightly disingenuous as this was also the nickname given to Lily Langtree, a far more famous figure on whom Moore's promotion might be coattailing. There is a website out there with a little information about her but it doesn't provide any sources. It claims she was also known as Alma Moore and that her real name was Anna Chelton, however the information about her birth and death dates on that website is exremely confused. According to this pamphlet all we know is that she is 20 or older at the time of publication and that her first visit to the UK took place in 1898 around the time she was somewhere between 17-19. Thus, her birth is put at about 1880.

This is such a brilliant and rare survival and, like all good ephemera, leads you into the story of a person's life: one which seems somewhat sad by modern standards, but who knows how Lucy Moore herself experienced it...

Friday, June 03, 2011

Sylverne and Olga

Regular readers will know that I like, where possible, to do a little research into the images that cross my desk. I would love to know more about these two but have drawn a blank. They appear to prancing around in someone's living room! ;-)

Heath Robinson at Chris Beetle's Gallery

There is a new exhibition of the work of William Heath Robinson at the Chris Beetles Gallery. I haven't been yet, but I have a copy of the catalogue and can recommend it. Of course, there is a large contingent of nonsense machines and so on, but my fascination with WHB has always been in his slightly earlier black and white work. I honestly don't think that there is any better turn of the last century exponent of black and white illustration. He is the master of the use of solid black and of the balancing of extremes in one image.

Highlights, for me, from the catalogue therefore are the many images from his illustrations of Rabelais, also of Kipling's The Song of the English. I am also enthralled in a booky kind of way by the pen and ink design for the title page of his illustrated version of Hans Andersen, published by Constable in 1913, not least for the fact that all the lettering on the title page is done by WHB's own hand.

The catalogue is online but is also available in book form from the gallery.

Boy Returning Water to the Sea by Andrea Selch

The 60th Birthday Retrospective for Clive Hicks-Jenkins at the National Library of Wales is still going strong and I wrote a while ago about how honored I was to be included in the festivities as one of 'the poets' who had fallen into Clive's orbit in the last few years. One of the best things about the weekend I spent in Aberystwyth at the exhibition opening was the opportunity to meet so many very creative people. Among them were Andrea Selch and her partner. Andrea very kindly gave me copies of a couple of her books and I have been lapping them up ever since. A friend of mine on the interweb sometimes says, of books she has been overwhelmed by that she 'inhaled' them... I feel a little like that about Boy Returning Water to the Sea, Andrea's 2009 publication out of North Carolina with the Cockeyed Press.

Not only have I enjoyed and been inspired by the poems, I have also, through it, been introduced to the work of Kelly Fearing, a American artist who died in March of this year at the age of 92. Each poem in the book is a response to one of his paintings, and Andrea said, in particular to the titles of the paintings. And you can see why. The titles of the paintings form the titles of Andrea's poems and what poet wouldn't die to have come up with titles like:

Boy Returning Water to the Sea

Night of the Rhinoceros

Large Bird Listening to the Sound of Purple


Owl with the Secret of the Enneagram

to name just a few... The poems are all quiet and precise and understatedly spiritual, in exactly the same way as the paintings. I enjoy the way that the poems go just outside the frame of the paintings, taking their suggestive visual imagery and adding some small new piece of myth or fitting them into a wider world of legend and symbol. For example in the 'Large Bird Listening to the Sound of Purple', a very short poem, Andrea essentially is just describing, in not much more than a sentence, the story of the painting but she begins with the words "Nine years he stood, neck curved." which, to my mind, is a brilliant way of adding a kind of fairytale aura or epic significance to both poem and painting. I am particularly fond of the painting Poet and Bird Before an Open Cave and I wish I could find a juicy image of it on the Internet somewhere but it turns out that Fearing is not heavily represented on Google images (and I'm sorry but I'm not ruining my copy of Andrea's book for you all by pressing it flat on my scanner!)

Well worth looking out this book and indeed, Andrea's other publications too.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Socialist Ephemera

Whatever your politics, it has to be admitted that the far-left and the far-right both have a history of the use of amazing design and artwork in the pursuit of their aims. These two pamphlets came to me recently. Both are very left-wing pieces of ephemera, both are no more than 20 or so pages, printed on newsprint and stapled together, flimsy survivals. Obviously, the first impact of both comes from the fantastic black and white images on the covers.

The Spirit of Invergordon is perhaps the most interesting being a pamphlet by Len Wincott (self-published), one of the leaders of the Invergordon Mutiny in September 1931 by the ratings of HMS Norfolk. Wincott was one of the hundreds who were dismissed as a result of the mutiny and, helped as they were by the Communist Party many, like Wincott, went on to become left-wing activists. In fact Wincott went immediately to work for The International Labour Defence and joined the Communist Party of Great Britain and ended up in the USSR in a labour camp for 11 years.

More Vintage Goodness

On Monday, one of the antiques fairs we visited was in Winchester and there was one dealer in paper ephemera who isn't often there, visiting from the Midlands... it was great fun to be able to rummage in a 'new to me' box of photos and pick a few interesting bits and pieces.
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