Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Lord of the Flies Folio Society Edition

The Lord of the Flies is a book which draws a line in the sand between childhood and adulthood and watches a group of boys pitch and fall, this way and that, back and forth over that line. Those of us who read it at school are unlikely to forget the sense of having a dangerous adult world opened to us and those who read it as adults cannot help but be reminded of the reality of being a child: the amorality, the bonded relationships, the sheer seriousness of the world... For many people Lord of the Flies is "one of those books" that never quite leaves you, no matter when you read it first.

I'm not a huge fan of Folio Society books because, as a bookseller, I normally see them en masse, and I can't avoid the feeling that seeing them in such numbers dilutes the real care with which they are designed and created as individual books. So I was completely charmed by the Folio Society 2009 edition of the book which I picked up today. The cover design by Sam Weber is direct and haunting and the illustrations simply beautiful. It appears to still be in print and can be ordered from The Folio Society website.

Hart Crane and Retro Graphics

I was first turned on to the poetry of Hart Crane by a novella of Samuel R Delany's in which Crane features. He's not a very well known poet in the UK but I tracked down a new copy of his collected poems a couple of years ago and read them with fascination and awe. I can't pretend to understand him, many of his poems leave me grasping for meaning, but there is still a sense of 'getting them', an underlying feeling that he is writing about things that are within my experience of life. His most famous poem is the long poem, "The Bridge" which features the Brooklyn Bridge as almost a character in its own right. So I couldn't resist this amazing 1958 cover design when it came my way today. I can't read the artist's signature on the back panel but it's a great image.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Wonderful Horrible Letter

Somebody please buy this! One of the best pieces of ephemera I think I've ever seen on Ebay. So many questions left unanswered and yet, one feels that the lady to whom it was addressed probably had any questions she might have had well and truly answered.

As this is nothing more than a blatant advert for them I hope Mainstreet Books from Amherst, MA in the States won't mind my pinching some of their scan and their transcription of this amazing letter. You can buy it here. And the description/letter goes like this:

It is not signed or have the name of the woman it was intended for on it, at the top it is dated , Jan 4th, 1877 and has Guilford before the date. One can assume it originated in Guilford CT as it was purchased in New England.

From the letter:
Guilford Jan 4th, 1877

The great love I have hitherto expressed for you is false, and I find my indifference towards you increases daily. The more I see of you, the more you appear in my eyes an object of contempt. I feel myself every way disposed and determined to hate you. Believe me, I never had an intention to offer you my hand. Our last conversation has left a tedious insipidity, which has no means given the most exalted idea of your character, your temper would make me extremely unhappy; and if we are united I shall experience nothing but the hatred of my parents, added to everlasting displeasure in living with you. I have indeed a heart to bestow, but I do not desire you to imagine it at your service. I could not give to any one more inconsistent and capricious than your self and less capable to do honor to my choice and my family. Yes Miss. I hope you will be persuaded that I speak sincerely and you will do me a favor to avoid me. I shall excuse you taking the trouble to answer this. Your letters are always full of impertinence and you have not even a showdown of wit and good sense. Adieu, Adieu believe me so averse to you that it is impossible for me even to be your affectionate friend and humble servant.

The One That Got Away

I've been having a bit of a buying spree on Ebay for the vintage swimwear collection and this one, above, I really wanted. So badly in fact, that I stayed up into the early hours of the morning to be there to bid on it within the last few seconds of the auction. Which is exactly what I tried to do. With 10 seconds to go I clicked 'confirm bid' and, for no reason at all since I was signed in and had been using Ebay in the same browser window all evening, I was confronted with the "Please sign in" page before I could finish my bid. Of course, when you are asked to type your password in a frantic hurry and completely unexpectedly, it all becomes impossible and by the time I had got my fingers untied, the auction had ended. So, I have nicked the image from the website and offer it here as a cautionary tale! Here's one that got away...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Handsome Chaps

A beautiful Bank Holiday Monday here on the South Coast today. We headed to Winchester to an antiques fair and spent the morning wandering around looking at lovely things. Sadly, there wasn't much for me there and these postcards, though delightful, were bought more out of the desire not to come away empty-handed than because they fitted into my collection - which they don't really. Anyway, I can't tell you much about them except the guy at the top was called Fred and he wished his Aunt a very merry Christmas on the back of the card!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Civil Defence: Cold War Ephemera

I am completely torn between loving this booklet for its great retro graphics and being repelled by the scary, scary information. This is a Civil Defence recruitment booklet from the height of the Cold War when the job of the Civil Defence would primarily be to assist the civilian population in the event of a Nuclear attack. 

Victorian Bookmark With Prince Albert Photograph

This is a brilliant bookmark and there's so much going on. The base of the bookmark is pierced paper which has then been embroidered with a cross and other designs. Cut steel beads have been used to form a crown at the bottom of the bookmark. At the top there is a real albumen photo of Prince Albert. The bookmark is backed with blue silk and someone has written in ink on the verso of the photo - "H R H The Prince Consort". I think this must be a fairly rare survival...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Callum James Books: Short List #11

Delighted to announce that I have just uploaded the latest Short List catalogue and the link to the pdf file has just been emailed to the mailing list. If you would like to receive details of this and subsequent catalogues and lists, please send us an email using the link on the right hand side of the page here. One of the items in the list is a collection of 30 male nude and homoerotic exlibris bookplates which gets its own pdf file, also available to those on the mailing list.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Very sexy 1930s photo

I think this may be one of the sexiest photos I've seen for a long time. It is in a book by Sargeant Jagger, Modelling and Sculpture in the Making, from 1933, which is illustrated with numerous tipped-in glossy photos including this one of a nude maquette being constructed. Obviously, the body in the background is a fit and attractive one but there is something about the 'fact' of it being in the background, the lighting and the subject matter, all combined to make this a very arresting image indeed.

Homoerotic and Male Nude Bookplates

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: "I don't consider myself a dealer or collector of ex-libris bookplates". This is swift becoming something of a disingenuous statement. In fact, I recently sold a collection of early 19th and late 18th century armorial bookplates and did very well, I have a small collection myself of items which relate to some of the figures I'm interested in from the 1890s and early 20th century and today I find myself scanning and cataloguing a catalogue of thirty ex-libris featuring male nudes and/or homoerotic elements.
I've pulled out four to share here and I think the one at the top is possibly my favourite. It's by Peter Lazarov, signed and editioned in 100 copies and takes its inspiration from Wagner's Ring Cycle in which Siegfried is warned by a little bird not to trust Mime, who is plotting to poison him. To my mind, the clarity and fluidity of the line make this a stand-out piece in the collection.
The next below is a somewhat Blakeian vision by Leo Primavesi (b.1871). He was an artist, lithographer and theatre designer, a friend of Pabst. Not a great deal is known of him but some examples of his larger works are to be found here and there on the Internet.
The third and forth images here are by Ekkehard Reuter and Jacques Rasdolsky respectively: the Reuter appears to be a plate created for the artist's own use.
If this kind of thing does interest you then the collection will be up for sale in my next Short List, out soon. You have to be on my mailing list to receive details of the Short List Catalogues when they come out so please do drop me a line to let me know if you are not already receiving notifications. There is an email link in the right hand column of this blog.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tempting Fate by Michael Levey

It's become fashionable, I believe, to call the kind of thing I'm about to type a "late review". In this case it is only 31 years late. Michael Levey's Tempting Fate was written in 1982 and published by Hamish Hamilton. How I wish I was writing this out of a desire to whole-heartedly recommend the book. Instead I am moved to put fingers to keyboard out of a sense of frustration. Michael Levey was clearly a cultured and intelligent man, an art critic and writer on art and, very significantly, Director of the National Gallery in London for thirteen years, including the period when this book was published. But it seems that being married to a great novelist (Brigit Brophy) bears the same relation to success in writing an novel yourself as does the Directorship of a great art institution to the ability to create your own artwork for the jacket!

The book is the story of sixteen-year-old Nicholas, who narrates for us, who is involved with an older man, his French teacher from school, and another man who like to take photos of him in various states of undress. Nicholas's mother is absent, a fading-beauty film actress who is working on a film in Portugal as the book opens leaving Nicholas to board with his aunt and female cousin (with whom he attempts to be in love) and that is where we begin. The source of my frustration with this book is that Levey does actually have some game! His building of Nicholas's character as complex and difficult and stridently adolescent is masterfully handled in these opening chapters keeping the reader on the knife edge between disapproval and sympathy. Experts tell us that the adolescent brain is wired differently and this introduction to Nicholas's eccentric and difficult life is capable of reminding even the most jaded adult reader what it felt like to have a brain wired like that. If Levey had stuck to enumerating the difficulties and triumphs of a young gay man in the 1980s in the simmering and glittering heat of a London summer in the 1980s, he might have written a damn fine novel.

But there is then a swerve and we find ourselves visiting, with Nicholas, a bachelor godfather, a country curate with an eye for the young women of the parish and a passion for gambling on the horses. The swerve is so sudden that, for much of the next few chapters I assumed that it was only a brief visit to the country and failed to realise that the urban set up at the beginning of the book was in fact the minority part of the story. We are now in Miss Marple country and we move from modern psychological novel to Agatha Christie in full-on Vicarage mode, complete with a whodunnit. This swerves again into what I suppose might be thought of as a psychological thriller in which we see the beginnings of another relationship for Nicholas and glimpse (but only glimpse) once more the author's real facility for observing the minutiae of two people together, and then the twist that is finally revealed (although hinted for page after page) in the very last sentence, is sadly amateur in both substance and execution.

It's not an unenjoyable read. If you ever fancy having a go at writing a novel yourself this could be read as a study in how not to structure a story and how not to play to your strengths. Can I, after all that, still recommend this book to you? Almost... maybe...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Two Glamorous Novelists

These two gloriously glamorous dames are from a small collection of author photographs I bought recently. They are both from the Eileen Clarke Agency and photographed by Clayton Evans. Both have an affinity with us here at Callum James Books, touching on two of our specialities. Audrey Erskine Lindop (above) is a little known novelist, and indeed, little is known about her today. Her most famous work was probably The Singer Not the Song, the film of which was known for what Wikipedia describes as its "homosexual undertones" but she also wrote a much more full-on gay novel, Details of Jeremy Stretton, so full-on in fact that the publishers in 1955 felt the need not only to get a Forward written by a "Consultant in Psychiatry" but also to print that forward again on the flaps of the jacket. I haven't read it: the Forward or the novel. I can't bring myself to. The alternative names that the novel was later published under included The Outer Ring and The Tormented. Nonetheless, she was a fine-looking woman.

Another fine-looking woman from the collection is featured below. Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) was born in Dublin but her father's illness meant she spent a great deal of her childhood in England with relatives there. Many think that this unhappy start was what prompted and fed the recurring themes of isolation and family breakdown in her writing. She wrote both novels and short stories and, for our purposes becomes interesting for her Ghost stories. She wasn't a prolific writer of supernatural fiction but, to quote critic Neil Wilson, they were "of such a high standard that she has gained a reputation as one of the most sophisticated and mature writers in the genre". 

Although both photographs were probably taken in the 1960s I feel they retain that 30s film-star look somehow...

Dutch Gilt Patterned Papers

If it's alright with all of you, can we just skip over the fact that I haven't posted anything here for ten days and move on...? Thank you...

This is a little outside my comfort zone when it comes to collecting and dealing but it was so achingly beautiful. These patterned papers use a process called Dutch Gilt to decorate patterned paper with gold. The papers are on the inside of vellum covered boards, pastedown only, this is before endpapers were two pages facing each other. The paper and the binding probably dates from the early 18th century and is on a volume of Italian poetry printed before Galileo started discovering stuff... the book these papers enclose was created nearly 430 years ago. It's a humbling thought and age has only made this paper more beautiful.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Callum James Books - Cards

A bumper postbag today, including this new set of promotional material for Callum James Books. Two different business cards for different occasions and a two sided postcard with details of what I buy, to shower on the world at appropriate moments and in appropriate places. The card on the right is double sided with an image of lots of marbled paper and the CJ logo over the top: makes it look like I'm inviting someone to join a secret society... Maybe I am!

Postal frustration though, to miss a delivery from DHL yesterday from Australia of a very exciting consignment of books that cost more to send than the price of a return air fare. So I know they are waiting at a depot about ten miles from here but it is closed all weekend and I won't get them until Monday now!

Monday, May 06, 2013

Two Drawings

Sometimes, you go out buying and come home, look at what you've bought and realise that in the heat of the moment you might have spent money on something doesn't grip you in the same way after cool reflection. That's the not the case today. The more I look at these two pencil drawings by Elizabeth Hammond, (an art student in the late 1930s, early 40s), the happier I am that I bought them. They may not be perfect in their draftsmanship but they both have a certain charm and freshness that I find really appealing.

Frederick Rolfe and Mar Jacobus

In the course of his life, the novelist Frederick Rolfe became involved in some truly bizarre shenanigans from time to time, but there was one occasion which stands out as what Donald Weeks described as "one of the wisest moves of his life" in which he managed to avoid entering into a world so ridden with baroque conspiracy and fantasy that it would make medieval Venice look uncomplicated: the world of the auto-cephalus Catholic churches, the world of the Episcopi Vagantes. If you are already mystified, prepare to be tortured with complexity...

Rolfe's best known novel is Hadrian the Seventh, and upon its publication it attracted the attention of two people who wrote to Rolfe expressing admiration for the novel and proposing friendship. The first was Robert Hugh Benson who did indeed become close to Rolfe for a time, but eventually attained near-nemesis status in Rolfe's eyes. The second was a chap whose given names were Ulric Vernon Herford (pictured above) but who introduced himself to Rolfe, by letter, as Mar Jacobus, Bishop of Mercia and Middlesex, Administrator of the Metropolitan See of India, Ceylon, Milapur etc., of the Syro-Chaldean Church, and of the Patriarchate of Babylon and the East, and Founder of the Evangelical Catholic Communion. And in this letter, attracted by the "Fr. Rolfe" on the title page of Hadrian, Mar Jacobus all but offered Rolfe a bishopric over 25,000 Christians and twenty churches. 

This must have been something of a shock for Rolfe and probably more of a temptation than he would have liked to admit. Herford was one of a large number of "Bishops" at that time who claimed to be the heads of various independent Catholic churches not under the jurisdiction of Rome, (hence auto-cephalous: one's own boss). Rolfe's response was uncharacteristically measured and sensible, he wrote to his solicitors and asked them to make enquiries about the bona fides of Mar Jacobus's orders. Rolfe wrote: "he practically offers a bishoprick over the Christians of St Thomas on the Malabar coast! ! ! I am inquiring: for the validity of orders is all-important."

And the validity of orders is absolutely where this world becomes incomprehensible to the uninitiated. The catholic doctrine of Apostolic Succession is the cornerstone of the church's authority. That the church as it is constituted today has a firm continuity with the church at the time of the Apostles is not really in dispute and this is the source of the Catholic church's claim to be the One, True Church. But Apostolic Succession does not just require a kind of institutional continuity whereby the Pope can claim to be the successor of St Peter. Whenever the church has been split by disagreement (not an uncommon occurrence in the last 2000 years) the question of who is most in communion with those original Apostles became more and more important and so the doctrine of Apostolic Succession has been refined over the centuries to include an element of physical continuity. A priest ordained today in the Catholic Church has to be able to believe that the hands laid on his head at his ordination belong to a man who in turn had hands laid on him, who in turn, who in turn... and so on back to the earliest times and to the Apostles themselves. That is what Rolfe meant by 'validity of orders'. No matter what the administrative situation of the Syro-Chaldean Church and the Evangelical Catholic Communion, what was important was, "is this man a proper bishop". 

Well, was he? Actually, Herford was a not insignificant figure in an interesting movement but was he proper and validly ordained? His answer, and this is par for the course with the such independent churches goes something like this:

"Luis Mariano Soares (or Suares) or Mar Basilius, was the Roman Catholic cleric of Goa, of Brahmin descent. He was ordained priest by Mar Julius (Alvares) of the Independent Catholics of Ceylon, who was consecrated by the (majority) Jacobite 'Thomas Christians'. Mgr. Soares was then elected by a body of Christians in the Madura district - who had revolted from the hard and exacting rule of the Jesuit Mission - to preside over them and was consecrated by Mar Abd-Tshu, who, in the words of the late Mar Benjamin Shimun, de jure Patriarch of the Historic Catholic Church of India (East Syrian of Syro-Chaldean) 'had full power and authority by the consecration which he received from the Patriarch, to bind and to loose, and to ordain and consecrate Bishops and priests and other clergy as he might find necessary for the work of the Church."

...and our Mar Jacobus claims he was ordained and consecrated by Mar Basilius. This kind of pedigree delineation is commonplace among this kind of church group but we can take it from more informed sources than ourselves that the answer, in amongst all that, to 'was he proper' was 'No!' In later life, Herford could only produce a three documents in English, sealed with an English rubber stamp as 'proof' of his orders. One of them is reproduced below. He admitted that he had, in others, written his own name in the blanks of certificates and signed Mar Basilius's name.

Rolfe turned him down. One can't help feeling that he really dodged a bullet there. With Rolfe's temperament and level of devotion, involvement with such a group could only have been disastrous in the extreme. This entire rambling excursion into this story has been occasioned by the fact that a poem was pointed out to me that, with both humour and insight, imaginatively extends the story into something which enables the poet, perhaps with his tongue firmly in cheek, to suggest that despite its ridiculousness, there was also something wonderful about the eccentricity and baroque curlicues of religion as it used to be and rarely is in 'this century'. I am particularly taken by the description of Rolfe's "panther-skinned gondola/diapered with crabs and ravens..." recalling Wilde's description of his dangerous sexual encounters as "feasting with panthers", and also by the "lagoon-eyed fauns" - wonderful stuff. 

Even the Syro-Chaldean bishopric I offered
on the strength of Hadrian VII
did not tempt Corvo. As mere Provost
to the Lieutenant of Grandmagistracy
of Sanctissima Sophia he fled
to Venice, convinced the Rhodes Trustees
were plotting his assassination.
Where else should provide a home
to the inventor of submarine photography?
I missed his inch-thick cigarettes,
gigantic Waterman fountain pens
and Graecocorvine vocabulary.
We played duets but kissed only once.
At last he denounced me as a fraud
and schismatic. I said he played the spinet
like a lobster trying to escape its pot –
after that, my overtures were useless.
For all his violence and absurdity
I warm to think of him now,
his cropped grey hair dyed with henna,
his white hand, wearing the spur-rowel ring
I gave him as defence against Jesuits,
closed round the oar of his panther-skinned gondola
diapered with crabs and ravens and flying
St George and the red-and-gold Vesilla
of the Bucintoro Rowing Club.
I think less of the lagoon-eyed fauns
he photographs and masturbates.
Does he think of me in Godless Middlesex,
where it either rains or they’re playing cricket?
The Syro-Chaldean Church is not doing well
despite my sigils, blazons, banners
and the undeniable splendour of our ritual.
The landlord’s wife is singing Auld Lang Syne.
This is going to be a Godless century.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Things That Fall From Books #13: Erotic Quotes

Of all the things that have fallen from books and been featured on this blog I think this may be my favourite so far. From between the pages of Black Spring by Henry Miller in a rather scruffy paperback edition fell a single index card on which, in the same hand are written two quotes - I assume from the book although I haven't read it - which someone obviously felt strongly enough about that they wanted to record them, or perhaps learn them by heart.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Quick 1890s Quiz: Sidney Sime

A quick Eighteen-Nineties quiz for you... We are after the name of an artist.

He was described by Frank Harris thus:

"A strongly built man of about five feet seven or eight with a cliff-like, overhanging, tyrannous forehead. His eyes are superlative, greyish blue looking our under heavy brows, eyes with a pathetic patience in them as of one who had lived with sorrow; and realises - "The weary weight of all the unintelligible world." From time to time humorous gleams light up the eyes and the whole face; mirth on melancholy - a modern combination."

And in a reasonably recent biographical monograph we are told:

"He started as a pit-boy, became a celebrity in the Nineties, collaborated with and became a close friend of two talented noblemen, and died poor and forgotten"

Suggest your answers in the comments if you feel so inclined... until tomorrow when this post will be updated with an image of the Max Beerbohm caricature of our subject...

UPDATE: Well, this is 'tomorrow' and as promised, at the top of the post now is Max Beerbohm's caricature of Sydney Sime, (well done to both EJC and Anonymous in the comments below for being so epic in their knowledge of the Eighteen-Nineties illustration scene - there's no prize but then, you don't need one when you're as cool as you both are!). Personally, the caricature seems cruel, even by Max's standards, but you can judge for yourselves by comparison with this much more flattering image of Sime, a photographic portrait by that great underrated photographer of the early 20th Century, Emil Otto Hoppé. The more of Sime's work I peruse, the more I wonder if he wasn't rather fond of the grotesque self-portrait and may even have revelled in Max's cruelty. Hoppé appears to have captured Sime in front of a a piece of his own work which looks rather like an exaggerated self-portrait/caricature and there seems to be round, beady-eyed, mustachioed faces like that all the way through his work...

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Aubade from Kenneth Martin and Valancourt Books

Valancourt Books is on something of a roll this year with an incredible schedule of releases and today on Twitter they were highlighting the soon to be released editions of Kenneth Martin's Aubade, written at the tender age of 16, and Waiting for the Sky to Fall by the same author just two years later. Aubade is something of a classic of gay fiction, indeed the Gay Mens' Press published it as a 'classic' in the 1980s.

What's interesting about this new release of the two books is that they are accompanied first by James Jenkins's story about how he discovered the two books and tracked down their author, and also by a blog which is still in progress by Kenneth Martin himself, now in his 70s, in which he has been recording his feelings about revisiting these two novels so long after the event.
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