Sunday, March 30, 2014

Three Male Nudes

In an antique centre in the Home Counties the other day I can across a box of photographs of artwork. For the most part they were photographs of female life studies and according to the box they were the record of one person's artwork. Each was mounted up passe-partout style and each had meticulously recorded details on the back. It was a strange thing to have done with the work of someone so obviously amateur. But at the back of the box, three male nude studies. From the notes on the back I could see that the originals were much larger, full-sized sketches. I imagine that those originals wouldn't have caught my eye at all. But the process of photographing them and shrinking them down to three inches square has done something to them I think, made them 'bijoux', given them the quality of little engravings or prints. I was charmed by them. Not the easiest things to photograph (again) for the blog, but I hope these images give something of the flavour of them.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Curious Connection: Ralph Chubb & Algernon Blackwood

A regular correspondent about items on Front Free Endpaper, Paul, recently delighted me by pointing out that the design used on the front cover and title page of A Prisoner in Fairyland by Algernon Blackwood (1913), a book which appeared in one of last years supernatural fiction catalogues from Callum James Books, was redrawn by Ralph Chubb for use on the title page of his 1937 book of poems The Water Cherubs. Chubb's drawing is almost exactly the same as the original but for the fact the figures have an overwhelmingly male aspect in his version whereas in Fairyland they seem a more mixed group.

It was a charming idea to imagine that Chubb had a copy of Fairyland on his shelves and was so enchanted by the image he saw there that he decided to recreate it at the front of one of his own books. It should be said that we shouldn't rule this out. Once you start to think about it there is a certain 'makes sense' feeling about the idea of Chubb reading Blackwood's novels. Both men shared a distinct nature-mysticism, in both cases it was based on intense experiences of revelation. Much of this was present in Blackwood's stories and novels and it's not a big ask to imagine Chubb reading and enjoying them.

...But, the image on the Fairyland book is credited to one F. W. Diefenbach, a curious fin-de-siecle German figure, a symbolist painter and social reformer who created what was probably the worlds first commune, advocated vegetarianism and free-love, and was an early naturist. James Conway has written about him numerous times on his brilliant Strange Flowers blog. The image is actually a very small part of a massive frieze in silhouette, known as "Per aspera ad astra", that Diefenbach created in the 1890s. It shows all manner of youthful figures in a vision of "youth, beauty and harmony" all frolicking towards a beautiful sun-filled future. The original can be seen in the town museum of Hadamar, Diefenbach's hometown, and where it stretches some 68 metres around the walls. If the artwork had been confined to display in a small German town it seems unlikely it would ever have come to the attention of Ralph Chubb or Algernon Blackwood and his publishers. In fact it was published in book form also, a concertina book which, even with the pictures reduced to a roughly 10" x 8" format would open out to a massive 27 feet. This book was certainly still available and probably in its first or second edition at the time of Fairyland's first publication in 1913.

In 1900 Diefenbach moved to Capri where he painted the outside of his house with figures from this massive earlier work, including a group of three figures clearly recognisable from the section we're concerned with. Again James Conway helps here having posted a photograph of the house on Strange Flowers.

Clearly both the Blackwood book and the Chubb use the same image by Diefenbach. We may never know exactly how Chubb stumbled on the image but however it happened it is a lovely thought that this small snippet of silhouette has made a connection between three men all with a mystical turn of mind, all lovers of nature and all with an unorthodox sexuality (Ralph Chubb dreamt of lissome youths, Blackwood may have been celibate but some have whispered about a little homosociality in his make-up, Diefenbach the advocate of free-love). The last image is from a vintage postcard taken from the frieze and, who knows, maybe it was one just like this that was Chubb's only contact with Diefenbach's work.

Crowdsourcing Edgar Allan Poe


These are images from an anthology of material by and about Edgar Allan Poe called Ravings of Love & Death, including two poems, six stories and an illustrated biography of Poe to be published in both English and Spanish this year by Play Attitude, a small publisher based in Barcelona. The illustrator has been working on the project for two years, the design work is all complete and the book even has a soundtrack available digitally and also on vinyl... All that is going to be made a reality if the crowds of the crowdfunding world agree that they would like to see it done!

I have enjoyed taking part in a number of crowdsourced book productions in the last few months and, I'll be honest, some of the results have been brilliant, others a little disappointing. It is, however, a great way to add books to your shelves that you really feel invested in and often, because of the rewards involved in providing funding like this, to have some really scarce bits and pieces to go along with them. You can never guarantee just how successful or not any given project is going to be but when a press release for this one was dropped into my inbox I thought it has all the tell-tale signs of something that's going to be amazing: The illustrator, designer and yes, the composer all have an established track record and there is plenty at the Kickstarter page to show you what you are signing up for.

And who can resist a book which is produced in an Insane Edition, a Perverseness Edition and a Grotesque Exclusive edition of just seven copies.

If you think it might be something that would appeal to you, click here to be taken to the Kickstarter page for the project.

You can follow the project on Twitter here.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Beautiful Vintage Face

This guy has got to be one of the most attractive people I have ever seen in a vintage photograph. He was being sold on Ebay last week as a German WW2 pilot. Sometimes it's difficult to grasp the sums people are willing to pay for a single uncredited, un-identified photograph but it wasn't a surprise that the auction reached 112GBP

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Short Story on the Back of a Vintage Photo

When I bought this photo, I assumed, because it appears to be taken in a photobooth, that it would be the normal 'thumbnail' size of photobooth pictures: I didn't mind that. So I was delighted to discover when it arrived today that it is actually nearly 5" x 4" and more wonderfully still has a whole short story on the back.
"J. W. Lindley and I - taken in Frisco, Feb22, 1943 - Growth: 2m. 4days (Dec 18, '42)" and goes on to say it was taken on their return from the South Pacific. If that's not a short story in its own right then it's got to be the beginning of one... or the end!
UPDATE: Well I'm so glad you are all enjoying this photograph as much as I am and thank you for pointing out the typo  - now corrected - which made it seem as though the author of the note on the back was claiming he'd grown that beard in two and half days! But thank you in particular to Brendan for going above and beyond the call of duty and, because I know that not everyone worries about reading the comments on a blog as well as the post I'm elevating Brendan's sterling research from the comments to here:
"This is a great photo! I just had to dig into the history a little. J.W. Lindley appears on the muster rolls of the USS Hercules, a supply ship and troop transport which sailed to Noumea, New Caledonia, in Dec 1942, returning to San Francisco 20 Feb, 1943.

His full name was Jesse Wood Lindley, Jr., but he appears to have gone by simply "J.W." in the census and military records, so that's probably what he preferred to be called. I'll bet it helped differentiate himself from his dad. J.W. was born in Texas in December 1923, lived in Houston, and joined the navy on June 27, 1942 at the age of 18. He survived the war, surviving a Japanese attack on the Hercules near Saipan, and was discharged in 1947. He died in 1996."
Thank you so very much for your interest and for taking the trouble Brendan: and to all the commenters...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Meet Percy...

Well, you may have noticed there has been something of a hiatus here of late (again), this time it was occasioned by the need to deal with all your orders from Callum James Books latest catalogue so thank you all so much for taking the time to look through it and especially, of course, to those who brought from it (which you can still do of course!). Apologies to those I have had to disappoint, there were numerous items in this catalogue which could have been sold many times over.
So to make up for absence I thought I would share this amusing recent acquisition. The Gay Coloring Book sounds like it ought to be one of those books which are just vaguely amusing because they come from a time before Gay meant Gay. But no! In this instance we have full on campy, kitsch colouring opportunities as we are introduced to Percy and his friends and asked to colour them in. This quirky little item was published by Guild Press in Washington in 1964. There doesn't appear to be any signature nor any credit given to the artist. I've never seen another.
UPDATE: I am very grateful to my friend Hans from The Netherlands who has been recently reading 1960s Gay Pulp Fiction: The Misplaced Heritage, edited by Drewey Wayne Gunn & Jaime Harker (University of Massachusetts Press 2013) and so has been able to tell me that the artist for this book was George Haimsohn (1925-2003): “As a widely published physique photographer, he was known as Plato, in homage to the Greek philosopher. As a writer of gay fiction, he choose the name Alexander Goodman," The same collection of essays also has one on The Guild Press itself and this book gets special mention therein: “One of the first Guild Press books that explicitly depicted gay community sites was The Gay Coloring Book (1964). Combining snippets of text with illustrations of scenes from the life of Percy, an effeminate young man, The Gay Coloring Book brought readers inside all-male social spaces, including gay parties, a gay bar, and the sexual cruising scene in a public park, a public toilet, an alley, and a bathhouse. In this way, it served as its own kind of guidebook to gay community sites.” Thank you Hans, much appreciated.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Robert J Kirkpatrick's School Fiction Catalogues

Every now and again a bookseller comes along who is so embedded in their specialism and so dedicated and puts in so many years that they their catalogues make a significant contribution to the field. You could say that, I'm sure, about G. F. Sims for example in his career-long pursuit of all things 1890s. And in the field of School Fiction there has only been one name: Robert J Kirkpatrick. For over a quarter of a century Kirkpatrick issued catalogues identified by which term and which year they came out, finally tucking away his cataloguer's pen in 2012. On the front of every catalogue, an illustration from of the books in that list. I have recently catalogued a long run of the catalogues! And that means that you get to see a small selection of the cover illustrations.
So, from top to bottom, we have here illustrations from Jennings in Particular by Anthony Buckeridge, Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes, Major Monk's Motto by Rev. Frederick Langbridge, Parkhurst Sketches by Talbot Baines Reed, Who was the Culprit? by Jennie Chappell and Dorrincourt by Front Free Endpaper Favourite, Bernard Heldmann 

Friday, March 07, 2014

Callum James Books: New Catalogue

Well, finally, the March 2014 catalogue is available to the world. It's a pdf file that you can find here:

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Billy Fox in Vintage Swimwear

This is Billy Fox. We know that because someone has written his name on the back. But that is almost all we know. The same person who knew his name, and presumably more about him too, speculates on the back of the photo that this might have been taken during the war. He has come to rest in my collection of photographs of young men in vintage swimwear.

You may have noticed a short hiatus in the posting here of late. This is because I have been up to my eyeballs in the creation of a new catalogue. Of course, if you are on my mailing list you know this already because you have spent the evening, I'm sure, happily scrolling through the 200 items on 36 fully illustrated pages and deciding which lovely things to spend your money on. If you're not on my mailing list, and by now I'm sure you'll be asking yourself why you aren't, you can come back here and find a link to the catalogue tomorrow evening.

Members of the Callum James Books mailing list get first look at all my public catalogues, and there have been 8 of those in 2013 alone, but they also receive notifications every now and again of short lists, some 20-30 items of interest, that are only available to members of the mailing list. So, it's a select band but to be on it, all you have to do is ask. There's an email link at the top right-ish of this page... use it and ask to be on the mailing list. It's not exactly high volume and there's no high pressure sales, it's just a chance to get a first look at the stuff I sell.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Dissecting the Human Head

In recent months I have come across a number of these fold-out models from the early twentieth century. This one, perhaps is the best so far. We might have to question why the "Household Physician" would be looking to dissect a human head or hand but that aside, tucked into very simple card covers are two wonderful fold out models. Every time you think you have found the last flap to hold back there's more. These are the images from the "Head" model:


And... Dissecting the Human Hand



Vintage Swim: By the River

My buying for the vintage swimwear collection has slowed down a little of late, nonetheless, every now and again something takes my fancy and this is what arrived in this post this morning to brighten my Saturday.
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