Sunday, March 31, 2013

Random Vintage

Happy Easter to you all...

As I trip my way around the interweb, I guess like most of us, I am quite prone to right clicking and saving the odd image here and there that takes my fancy. Years go by and I discover I have hundreds of images about which I know nothing: the original source, the subject matter, the reason for saving it in the first place... So as I've been having a lazy trawl through some of these saved images of late I thought I would just share a random few with apologies to whomever originally posted them, I can't give you the credit you deserve on this occasion. However, it's more than likely that these images came from blogs/tumblrs listed on the right hand side in the links list so please do give a couple of them a click - they're all worth a look!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Vintage Boxing Sailors

Delighted to find this on the mat this morning - not least because I had imagined the postman might just bunk off today - but no, a small bundle including this photograph from the strongly recommended Ampersand Gallery in Portland. 

Hannes Bok at Arkham House

I am still cataloguing my way through a large collection of strange and supernatural fiction and, having laboured for days to release myself from the 'B's I now feel almost light-headed by the speed at which I have hurtled into the 'H's. In one of those really satisfying by ultimately meaningless coincidences these two books fall next to each other in alphabetical order. Both are posthumous collections (one of short stories, one an omnibus of novels), both are published by Arkham House, both in the same year, 1946, and both have astonishing jackets designed by Hannes Bok. 

Bok, or Wayne Francis Woodard as he was born, (1914-1964), was a prolific illustrator of sci-fi and fantasy books and their jackets, gaining his first break in the field as a Weird Tales illustrator (his Wiki page has details of the odd way in which this came about). He contributed a number of jackets to Arkham Press books and his cover for Frank Belknap Long's The Hounds of Tindalos (Arkham House, 1946) is particularly striking. Like so many in the field and so many of the people written about on Front Free Endpaper, Bok died young, in poverty, a recluse obsessed by the occult and mysticism.

[Update: The whole rationale of this post was ruined by the discovery, ten minutes later, of a book by one Elizabeth Jane Howard - ho hum...!]

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Richard Kennedy Illustrates Rosemary Sutcliff

Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-1992), a childrens' author who published mainly in the 1950s and 60s has featured now a number of times on this blog, in connection with both Jamie Bell's bottom and, more seriously, with the illustrative company she kept. The tradition of illustrated children's books in this way, with simple black and white illustrations in the text seems to have waned but I continue to believe that the 1940s to the 70s was a really overlooked period in illustration which should be given much more study and attention. In this case, Outcast (OUP, 1955), was illustrated by Richard Pitt Kennedy who began his career as a publisher's apprentice at the Hogarth Press under Virginia and Leonard Woolf. Indeed Kennedy published and illustrated a book with the Whittington Press called A Boy at the Hogarth Press. He was a prolific illustrator and from what I can see, these illustrations for Sutcliff, which look like crayon on textured board are somewhat unusual for a man whose main illustration work was done in pen and ink wash. He was a great admirer of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, one of the founders of the Vorticist movement; there is little sign of that in these images. But he was prolific and clearly, someone who illustrates such a quantity of material is going to demonstrate a certain variety over time. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Photos of Beardsley, Beerbohm and Brooke

On the 10th April, Bonhams in London will be auctioning the first half of the Roy Davids collection of poetic manuscripts and portraits. It's an astonishing collection by any standards and the currently available catalogue is for the A-K part of the collection only being sold on the 10th. It's almost impossible to play favourites but above is a signed portrait of Beardsley by Frederick Hollyer. A scarce thing and, respectfully, the estimate seems to me something of a 'come and buy me' and I wouldn't be surprised to see it double the suggested 2,500-3,000 GBP. Below is Max Beerbohm by an unknown photographer and then a stunning photo of Rupert Brooke at 19 as the Herald in a Cambridge production of Eumenides. I can completely recommend a thorough browse through the catalogue and I am looking forward to part II already.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Latest vintage swim and others...

The latest batch of vintage photos. These top two are, in fact, negatives. For Christmas I asked for, and received, some darkroom chemicals. Scanning negatives onto a computer when they are anything other than 35mm format  - which most vintage negatives are - can be very tricky. These two images are the ones provided by the sellers and not scans that I've made myself. Anyway, in the course of my collecting of old photos I have picked up all manner of negatives from 35mm format through to large glass plates and I thought it might be fun to have a go at contact printing them. So if I get any time this coming weekend, it's one of the projects I have in mind to have a go at. The third photo is a rather nice group and some real hunky monkeys in there. And the final one, I just couldn't resist, not a swimwear justification in sight but who cares, that's one amazing bottom!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The True Face of Retro

To say these images are the "True" face of retro is probably slightly misleading as, even in this small selection, all taken from the The Armstrong Book of Interior Decoration (1962), I am aware of being swayed towards choosing those room-sets which most closely match our modern conception of 'retro'. There were others in the book, many others, which were truly awful: a mishmash of frills, fifties flounce and frippery. What books like this illustrate today most of all is that although we may consider individual items or pieces of furniture in a 'retro' style to be stylish today, there are very few people who could live with a full-on, in-your-face 1960s interior today.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Campers at Swim

The lovely chap who shared the photograph of the lads diving into the Thames the other day has very kindly agreed to pass it to my collection and it arrived today, along with another image, this real photo postcard of a grouop of swimmers. In the background is a WW1-style tent although there's no sign of soldiery in the image. Also in the background, very blurred, is what might be a young man in a Scout uniform, maybe, perhaps... but the main group look an odd selection of ages to be a Scouting group. Anyway, in the absence of information on the back I'm sure we'll never know who or what this group is all about. Nonetheless a charming photo.

W Graham Robertson illustrates Algernon Blackwood

...and while we're on the subject of illustrators of Algernon Blackwood's work, meet W. Graham Robertson.   The image above is the fantastic endpapers that Robertson designed for Blackwood's 1911 novel The Centaur. Remarkably, the design is also reproduced in full as a wrap around blindstamped design for the whole of the cover of the book: front, back and spine. Unfortunately, being stamped in blind rather than in colour or gilt, I've been unable to get a good photo of it. 

Graham Walford Robertson (1886-1948) was right at the heart of the 1890s crowd and, among his friends, he numbered Oscar Wilde, Edward Burne-Jones, James Whistler, Walter Crane, Ellen Terry, Sarah Bernhardt and on, and on... in fact, in 1931 he published a memoir titled, Time Was, which wasn't so much a memoir as a chapter on each of his more famous friends (Blackwood doesn't appear in the index). There is a delightful portrait of him at The Tate by John Singer Sargent done when Robertson was 28 and, in a willowy, slightly ethereal kind of way, rather attractive. He illustrated numerous books including at least three for Blackwood. As well as The Centaur, he also illustrated The Lost Valley (1910) which I don't have a copy of and, Pan's Garden. A Volume of Nature Tales (1911) from which I have scanned the frontis below. The illustrations, more like decorations in some way, for Pan's Garden run all through the book in the text and are remarkable for their simplicity. Robertson had an amazing collection of William Blake's illuminated poems and his influence is very clear in all the images for Pan's Garden in particular. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sydney Stanley Illustrates Algernon Blackwood

I'm aware that I put up this post at my peril! Back in 2008 I posted a few illustrations from the Collins Illustrated Classic The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (illustrated by Helen Monro) and ever since I have been inundated by emails from people asking me about this or that title in a Collins pocket edition that they have. I don't mind particularly except, as you'll see if you click on the link above I was forced back into type in 2010 to put down all I know about the series - which is not much.

So, in the process of cataloguing a large collection of supernatural fiction I have come across this charming book of tales by Algernon Blackwood in a Collins pocket edition: The Willows and Other Queer Tales, published about 1932. It contains all the stories from an earlier collection, Ancient Sorceries and Other Tales (also published by Collins but a few years earlier in 1927) with a good number of additions. What distinguishes the book though, are the illustrations by someone called Stanley Sydney. They are reproduced in sepia tones and, strange though it might seem, they remind me a little of early Disney artwork for things like Fantasia and Snow White. I can find a few other books illustrated by Stanley but no other information about him.

[For the record: I know nothing more about the bibliography of Collins pocket editions, illustrated or not, then I have already posted on the blog - sorry!]

UPDATE: In the course of a little more research I came across this copy of Blackwood's 1930s book Shocks in its uber-rare jacket. Judging by the similarities between the leaping cat figure in particular and the images above, I'd say it was a safe bet that this jacket is also by Stanley. The book is for sale from Peter Harrington at Abebooks.

UPDATE: (22.3.2013). Peter Harrington kindly sent this close up photo of the signature on the Shocks jacket via Twitter and, as they remark, it's hard to see Sidney Stanley. On the other side, however, Stanley did sign in neat block capitals which these appear to be. More research is indicated...

Friday, March 15, 2013

Callum James Books Catalogue: March 2013

A few day ago, those of you my mailing list were sent details of our first full-length catalogue and I've been delighted by the positive comments and the many orders you have made - I'm grateful for both. The mailing list is usually used to announce our Short List catalogues and this will continue in due course but this catalogue is now available to all-comers as a pdf file here:

Most of the catalogue, but not all, relates to gay literature and many of the items in it have featured here on Front Free Endpaper at some point or another. Details of how to order are on the second page. I hope you'll all enjoy it.

If you would like to be included on the mailing list that gets advance notice of catalogues and exclusive access to the Short List catalogues, please just drop me an email.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Influx of Vintage Swimwear

A few days ago I mentioned that I had treated myself to a few new vintage swimwear pictures on Ebay, and apart from the one I then posted, they all had to be delivered from the US and they contrived to arrive all on the same day today. The upshot of this postal anomaly is that we get a bumper Vintage Swimwear day on FFEP.

A Masterpiece of the Ridiculous by Jocelyn Brooke

In 1956 Jocelyn Brooke, who had been quietly publishing a series of well-received novels for ten years, released The Crisis in Bulgaria or Ibsen to the Rescue with Chatto & Windus. It is a piece of nonsense, literally, like Edward Lear nonsense, but in prose. Wonderful, spirited, ridiculous and English-ly eccentric nonsense. But what makes it s piece of genius is the illustrations, of which these are a selection. They are all collages by Brooke himself using engravings, probably from Victorian and Edwardian periodicals and books. Each page has one or two paragraphs of text facing one of the collages. Like all nonsense, it is almost impossible to precis. An extract from the first page might give some idea:

"During the abnormally torrid summer of 1886, a series of extraordinary and disturbing events occurred in the Bulgarian capital...
...On the night of the 21st August, a quantity of incendiary bombs together with certain objects described, in semi-official communication to the press, as "Indelicate", were dropped from a balloon in the vicinity of the Royal Palace.
This ill-timed jest resulted in a perceptible lowering of public morale."

And the book goes on to tell the story of the events which follow in ever increasing levels of outrageousness until the timely intervention of the playwright Ibsen brings order back to the chaos. The book is something of a masterpiece of the ridiculous. It has never been reprinted.

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