Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Our India by Minoo Masani illustrated by C H G Moorhouse

Every now and again in this business you pick up a book of no particular value or, to be honest, interest and are led into it by something striking about the book as an object: the binding, the illustrations, the patterned endpapers... something about it physically which makes you stop and pay attention. The copy of Our India by Minoo Masani that I picked up today dates from 1945, is tatty and tired, a paperback without much of its spine left and curled, dog-eared corners. But, as the cover tells us, it has over 100 illustrations. The illustrations appear to be woodcuts (and what a labour of love that must have been) and are thickly redolent, in places, of the kind of heroic, idealised imagery used by Socialist art in the first decades of the twentieth century. They immediately strike you as perhaps a little too interesting for a book of such humble production values, they are printed with wonderfully thick black ink that you can feel under your finger. 

It begins to make sense when you know that Our India is something of a twentieth century classic in India: a prescribed textbook in Indian schools and a runaway bestseller that was reprinted in its hundreds of thousands over many years. It's author was, in the 1930s, an admirer of Soviet Communism, an admiration which didn't survive the Stalinist post-war purges, and following Stalin Masani had to rethink his socialism. Perhaps one of the reasons this book was such a success was its breezy optimism about India's future. Masani carried on in Indian politics most of his life but became disillusioned and by the time of his death in the 1990s he believed he belonged to a generation which had made a complete mess of India and failed to live up to their post-war aspirations. There is a fascinating short biographical piece about him on the liberalsindia website on which he is described as India's post prominent Liberal.

The illustrations are by C. H. G. Moorhouse, about whom I find precious little, except that this wasn't the only one of Masani's books he illustrated and, if the images on this bookseller's page are anything to go by, he had a fair talent when it came to colour as well as black and white illustration.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Byron Before Bedtime

Came across this little gem from Byron's Childe Harold (Canto iv, verse 178), at the ever-beautiful Loverofbeauty tumblr. It's the kind of thing I'd like to learn by heart and seemed a great little nugget to take in before heading off to bed...

 There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
 There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
 There is society, where none intrudes,
 By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
 I love not man the less, but Nature more,
 From these our interviews, in which I steal
 From all I may be, or have been before,
 To mingle with the Universe, and feel
 What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.
 Lord Byron

ONE Archive Gets Proactive

One of the most popular posts I've ever written on this blog was about the digitization of the ONE Foundation's Lesbian and Gay archive of photographic material. A lot of that popularity seems to have been for the two handsome rockers having a snog in a photo booth, a photo which was tumbled, tweeted, flickred, wordpressed and blogged all over the place. However, there was a lot of interest too in the heartrending story of the anonymous gay couple whose wedding photos (from the 1950s!!!) were never returned to them by the manager of the photo shop they took them to for developing because he deemed them inappropriate.

Now, however, it seems that the archive is going proactive about this and has been trying to whip up some press about the photos in the hope of identifying the couple concerned. In these days of tension about equal marriage in both the US and the UK it seems an appropriate quest to be on. There's more on this at Philadelphia Gay News. If you have a blog, or a twitter account then why not help out by getting the story out there as best we can... If you have any information about the couple then please contact the archive, or me if you would prefer, and I will happily pass it on for you.

Thank you to Bob for the heads up...

Royal Naval Exhibition 1891

This is a rare thing: which is why I don't mind its somewhat parlous condition. This is the official catalogue of the Royal Naval exhibition at Chelsea in 1891. If nothing else, it gives us a brilliant insight into the difference between an exhibition in Victorian England and an exhibition now. There are no games to play, interactive displays or personal testimony to listen to. This is an exhibition made up of things - over 5,000 things in fact - and they are all listed here. 

Just the categories into which they are divided are instructive. Who now is interested in plate silver object and yet, a whole section of this exhibition is given over to plate. There is another section devoted to Official Papers! And another in which a display is made of a vast array of naval-related snuff boxes. But by far my most favourite category is the 'Relics' category. It contains such wonders:

  • A sample of the spirit in which Nelson's body was brought home.
  • A bullet in a piece of copper which Captain Bligh used to measure out his daily meal ration
  • A green silk scarf presented to Francis Drake by Queen Elizabeth
  • A bottle of wine recovered from the wreck of the Royal George
  • A fragment of the Union Jack from HMS Victory which was carried in procession at Nelson's funeral and was intended to be lowered with him into his grave but was, in fact, torn up and distributed by the sailors.

 Oh for exhibitions with lots of 'stuff' in them...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

More Free Books

Yes, we're back to FREE BOOKS again. All the books scanned and illustrated in this post are available to you free. I am having to clear some space on the shelves here at Callum James Heights and it seems only fair to spread the love a little. Many of these books have featured here before, either for their kooky subject matter, their cool cover designs or both. All of them are paperbacks this time and although their condition varies from good to fine, there is nothing here that is falling apart or that you wouldn't be able to read. So, if there's anything that tickles you it's available on a first come, first served basis. You may request as many of them as you genuinely want and all you have to be able to do is to pay the paypal invoice I will send you for the postage, at cost. To give you an idea, in the UK, postage for one book will be £1.20. So, simply click on my email address: callum@callumjamesbooks.com and let me know what you'd like. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Beautiful Plaster Horseman

I don't know anything about the statue but this is a Victorian photograph of a beautiful piece of sculpture. Knowing the well-informed and artistic bunch that you are, I'm certain someone will be in touch to let me know what it is and where it can be found today... ;-)

UPDATE: And indeed, MichaelH has kindly IDed the statue in the comments section of this post.

Monday, February 18, 2013

New Blog from Nigel Burwood

Nigel Burwood, the mogul behind Any Amount of Books on the Charing Cross Road in London, and their charming if occasional blog, Bookride, has launched a new blog. It looks to be a very eclectic mix of things that cross the desk of a busy member of the London book trade and I've already found three or four articles that taught me new things or pushed my 'ooh, shiny!' buttons... It's called Jot101 and this is a recommendation.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Microscope Art

This amazing photograph was reproduced in photogravure in a series of 'Pictorial Encyclopedias' in the 1930s that I've been flicking through. You are looking at microscope art as each of those blobs is an insect egg, deliberately arranged in a pattern. For the etymologists among you, the large central egg is of the Red Underwing Moth, it is surrounded by the fluted eggs of the Swallowtail Moth and the long white eggs on the outside of the group were laid by the Common House Fly.

Isle of Wight Book Buying

As those of you who follow me on Twitter (@CallumJBooks) will know already, I spent the day on the Isle of Wight, and whilst most of day was very happy social time with a friend, I did find time for a quick run around the Mother Goose Bookshop in St Helens who have no end of wonderful and interesting books on their shelves. Spoilt for choice really, it was this small handful of Angus Wilson firsts that I came away with, one signed and one with letters from the author laid in, all in really nice condition with great jackets. One of the nice things about Mother Goose is that you can look through their shelves and see that every book has been carefully chosen to go there: no dross, no space fillers...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Vintage Male Nude Photo

I bought this photograph recently. It has a little age to it but perhaps not as much as some that I have in my collection. Clearly, the image is lightly out of focus but, to be honest, I think that's why I like it so much.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Derek Jarman at Poole

One of the nice things about a provincial museum is that you just never know what's around the next corner. So in Poole Museum at the weekend it was a delightful surprise to be confronted, out of the blue, with this huge 'artwork' by one of my heroes, Derek Jarman. This is, in fact, a decorated door from sometime in the 1960s which Jarman did for his school art teacher's house in Wimborne. The text is from Chaucer's "The Parliament of Fowles". A remarkable survival.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Poole, Pottery and Museum

I mentioned that this weekend just gone has been something of a Tale of Two Museums for R and I, the first was Portsmouth Museum (a little down-at-heel but full of important items and real imagination in curating) the second was Poole Museum which, with one exception, it's display of Poole Pottery (and other local ceramics) was rather disappointing. The museum as a whole has far too much of the kind of local ephemeral item that you see in any provincial museum, it clearly has plenty of money with which to display it all but that doesn't make it any more interesting. Also, all things weighed up, you'd have to say that there were too many games for children and not enough 'stuff' to look at. All these misgivings, of course, are swept aside by the top floor display of Poole pottery. I've singled out my favourite items: these hand screen-printed tiles from the 1950s and early 60s with designs by Laurence Scarfe, Peggy Angus, and Alfred B Read. I liked the Deco chargers below as well for those of you with more traditional tastes in Poole Pottery. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Make! Believe! Make! at Portsmouth Museum

Still in Portsmouth Museum. Until 24th of this month the "Make! Believe! Make!" exhibition is in the two large temporary exhibition spaces. It's an inspired piece of curating which took a number of artist working in modern crafts in different media and gave them access to the Museum's store where they could rummage around and find objects, with the help of the curators which have a resonance with the work they were showing.

The museum curators assumed that the artists would be most interested in the museum's collection of decorative arts, and they certainly pulled out some great pieces, but the curators were surprised to discover just as much interest in the natural history, taxidermy, geology and local history collections. The picture above is of an installation called Sixty Children Lost by Judes Crow. The HMS Royal George was lost in 1782 in the Solent, within sight of land on both sides. It was visiting port and so had on board not only a full complement of crew but also hundreds of visitors, families and children. When she sank, among the death toll were sixty children. Most of the bodies washed up on the sand at Ryde on the Isle of Wight and, remarkably, were buried there, in the sand, in mass graves. This tragic tale is the inspiration for the sixty ceramic heads and, whilst obviously cast from a doll's head, the various iterations of the cast give a poignant echo of the disaster and the childrens' eventual fate. R and I were so impressed we bought a handful of the heads and now I can't wait for the end of the exhibition so I can go and pick them up and bring them home.

The other artist we really appreciated in this exhibition was also a ceramicist, Sophie Woodrow, whose bizarre creature creations were a perfect match for items she dug from the museum's taxidermy collection (see photos below). This was by far the best of the 'mix-and-match' displays in the exhibition but they were all fascinating and the exhibition as a whole is a real example of what a local museum can do if it puts its mind to it... great to see pieces of their collection which we've never seen before: it's just a shame the museum can't do more to advertise itself.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sherlock Holmes Exhibition

This weekend just gone has been something of a Tale of Two Museums for R and I...

The first museum was our local, Portsmouth Museum, which is something of a gem among local museums that never seems to quite do enough to advertise itself. Among other things, we revisited the Study in Sherlock exhibition. This exhibition is just the tip of a very large iceberg. Following his death in peculiar circumstances in 2004, the world's foremost expert on Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, Richard Lancelyn Green, bequeathed his collection to the museum. It took a team of ten people two weeks just to pack the collection, it was transported to Portsmouth in eleven vans, it comprises some fourteen thousand books and two hundred thousand other items: all related to Doyle and Holmes. The exhibition can only be an introduction to the collection, and I believe it is still being catalogued which is a project which is going to take years but it's a real treasure for a provincial museum to have such an important holding and the exhibition is, indeed, fascinating.

(With apologies for the quality of the accompanying images, intended only to give a flavour. If you are able to visit - do!)

Donald Friend: Study

My friend and colleague Nick Elm recently allowed me to take some photographs from items in his collection and one of the things that really caught my eye was this large pen and ink study by the Australian artist Donald Friend (1915-1989). Friend was, as well as an artist, also a writer and his four volume diaries have been published by The National Library of Australia: he has been called Australia's most important Twentieth Century diarist. It's not the first time we've had a picture by Friend on this blog, but I think this is by far the best.

Vintage Swimwear Rides Again

In Boscombe, Bournemouth yesterday I came across a few vintage swim photos and, although you couldn't claim these were the most attractive people ever to grace the knitted swimsuit, I thought they had a certain charm. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

Prometheus and Others by Keith Vaughan

Prometheus. Pen, ink and Gouache

Every once in a while on Front Free Endpaper we like to bring you a few new images by Keith Vaughan. Clearly these come from auction and gallery catalogues and often, they haven't been seen on the Internet before, or only at very limited size. From this selection my definite favourites are the Prometheus above and the ink wash sketch just below of the large head. Vaughan is often thought of as an artist who is all about "The Figure in the Landscape" but he struggled to relate myth and some kind of religious sentiment to the figure and the landscape and, for me, he is at his best in the depths of that struggle.

Monumental Head with Figures. Pen, wash, pen and ink on card.

Yellow Figure. Gouache, 1950.

Two Figures By A Boat - The Wanderings of Odysseus. Oil on board, 1937

Two Figures. Pencil.

Nude with Hand on Hip. Pencil.

Revellers, Trafalgar Square, New Year's Eve, 1964. Pencil.

Lay your Sleeping Head. Pen, coloured inks and gouache.
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