Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Quite Hard Book Quiz: A Reminder

I hope you have all had a very happy time over the Christmas period...

Of course, there is New Year next and we are now in that odd little week where things are normal and yet, not quite back to normal! So if you are still looking for entertainment, can I respectfully remind you of The Quite Hard Book Quiz.

It's simple. Make a donation of any size to Firefly International, who work with young people from Bosnia, Palestine and Syria and in return you will be sent a link to a fascinating and "Quite Hard" quiz about books, designed not to be easily googleable. 100 questions. Enough to keep you going a couple of days in this lazy season.

As I write this we are just a few pounds off of £400.

When you've done all you can simply email me your answers and I shall mark them and a small prize awaits the cleverest of you!

Mostly, however, your few pounds will join with others and will help to provide education and help for young people who have had some pretty overwhelming disadvantages thus far.

There is still time... on January 1st I will replace the Quiz file with the answers...

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Four Pieces by Albert Wainwright

I am grateful again to reader of Front Free Endpaper and collector of Albert Wainwright artwork, Padraig for providing a small selection of images from his collection. I think, without particularly meaning to, the four images here pretty much cover the breadth of Wainwright's output. There is the beautiful, fully-worked image above of a boy and a cherry tree (I have seen numerous night-time scenes by Wainwright and they all have a somewhat numinous quality). The Sea Cadet below represents the huge output that he had in terms of quick sketches. The Red Riding Hood stands for all his many theatre and costume designs which were such a large part of his life. The collage is something a little different but by singling out an advert for Nivea body cream that appears to be addressed to Scouts, we might suspect maybe a sense of humour showing through. The collage is on the back of a sketch. The only significant part of his output not represented in this little group is the portrait work that he sustained himself with at Robin Hoods Bay near Whitby for some years.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Things That Fall From Books #20: Folk Magic

Of course we are all used to the notion of birth stones now but I found it interesting that someone took the trouble to write out this list of stones for the months of the year with their supposed attributes. They suggest this particular list relates to Polish superstition in particular.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Callum James Books: Occult Ephemera

I have just issued a short catalogue of ephemeral items relating to the occult. The list contains a little group of very diverse pamphlets and booklets on occult themes and then most of the rest is a catalogue of catalogues: a collection of bookseller's catalogues in the fields of magic, Wicca, mythology, folklore, the paranormal, cryptozoology, Eastern and Western occult philosophy and so on. There are a couple of items too which might be of interest to those who like supernatural fiction.

Book catalogues are always a great resource for the specialist collector as they often list books that one doesn't know one wanted. It is the next best thing to browsing an actual bricks and mortar specialist bookshop. Also, there is the bittersweet pain to be enjoyed of seeing the prices that even 30 years ago some of these books were selling for against what one would have to pay now.

We have often enjoyed the covers of book catalogues on this blog and occult booksellers clearly have lots of interesting imagery to choose from when designing their catalogues and so here is a little selection from the catalogue. You can view the whole thing here:


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

To the Mothers of the Eagles...

I have found many things inside books but perhaps nothing quite as haunting and moving as this long letter from the mother of a dead RAF officer in WW2. She is writing, on the day of his burial in the US, to the mothers of the American pilots he served with and one whom he is to be buried with. The letter has no provenance, nor does the book in which it was found offer any clues. It really needs no further commentary from me...

         To the Mothers of the Eagles,
         My Folk have gone. I sit alone waiting for the hour when my son and one of your sons pass from our sight to consecrated ground.
         I feel you would like to know something of him as a personality, and something of why we, his British mother and his British wife, with freedom of choice for his last resting place have chosen that American corner of Holy Ground.
         One reasons is out Stanley had, not only a personal affection for, but the greatest pride in "this grand bunch of lads" - his own description. they lived together, played together, fought together, and with one of them he died. The few months he had the proud privilege of wearing the American Eagle on his sleeves were the happiest in his life.
         But there was a deeper reason. Death recognizes no nationality. The cause for which both gave their young lives knows no nationality they died that every man of every race may have the chance of freedom to develop individually. Presently that last sad bugle call "The Last Post" will ring out and echo through the surrounding hills. Today it will convey neither sadness nor finality for it submerges the dread clank of fetters and the crack of the slave whip. His spirit will soar to battle on the wings of an Eagle. 
         Stanley was tall, over 6ft, fair with deep set blue eyes, a large fine cut aquiline nose and pointed chin. there is a profile photograph in which, with the nose, the pointed chin and the steadfast eyes, he is not unlike an Eagle.
         He was a happy, merry lad who teased, never unkindly always mercilessly. Your lads and he teased each other played like children, and when an order came through for a dangerous job, soared to fly together through a barrage of fire so intense none had a right to survive and come home scathless laughing in the joy of achievement.
         Is it to be wondered that in October they were, in results, the leading squadron in the Command? Four D.F.C.s in one squadron! and D.F.C.s are not to be picked like blackberries. His last letter to me spoke of a longing for a "really good show" he was so sure of them.
He joined the R.A.F. in 1936. In 1938 he was a leader in the squadron - the famous 74 - that won the Sassoon trophy for the best fighter squadron of the force - The 74 - led so gallantly and victoriously by Malan in the Battle of Britain. 
         But when September 1940 came he was on other work - ground duties - but work that gave the finest training for leadership in battle - he was not happy in those days. I can still see a weary young face and hear a tired voice "Mother! to be held down by work an older man should do!" But there was at that time no older man with the necessary experience else so fine a pilot would never have been tethered in that hour of our desperate need. 
         In April, at his own urgent wish he was released for flying duties. "I feel years younger already" he writes and from that hour life was just happiness. He was leading constantly in operational flights, and in July won his D.F.C. not for the number of kills, but for "enthusiasm and skill" in leadership.
On August 9th he married - a wonderful union of two young idealists. He not only deeply loved, he revered his bride. I can see them now, two lovely children in an old, old country church, fragrant with banks of flowers. They stand together before the officiating priest, a shaft of sunlight streaming straight down upon them, waiting while the clear boys' voices of the choir sing the second verse of the song she had chosen for her entrance.

"Bring me my Bow of Burning Gold

Bring me my Arrows of Desire
Bring me my Spear! Oh! clouds unfold
Bring me my Chariot of Fire.
I will not rest from mental strife
nor will me sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land."

         The vow of service before the sacrament of earthly union.

        August 9th to November 15th so brief a glorious hour! Stanley was an idealist.

         In May 1940 he wrote to me: 
         "The invasion of Norway and Holland and Belgium with the pitiful stream of refugees, the despair and the destruction drives home to one the truth of what we are fighting for. I feel that this war will strike to the hearts of each one of us, and that we shall have, not only our backs to the wall but out very souls at stake. But the hardest battle will come when destruction has destroyed itself and we have to rebuild the world. Remould it nearer to the heart's desire. We shall have to fight then against the hate and fear this war is bound to raise to fever heat. We must keep our hearts clean from this and fight now with determination and courage tempered not by hate and fear, but with wisdom and truth."

          Another letter: 
         "Please have no fear for me. I know exactly where I stand. I have complete confidence in myself and come what may exactly where my duty lies." To this letter he adds as a postscript a quotation from The Light of Asia.

"By this the slayer's knife did stab himself
The unjust judge hath lost his own defender
The false tongue dooms its lie, the creeping thief
And spoiler rob, to render."
This is the Law which moves to righteousness
That none at last can turn aside or stay
The heart of it is Love, the end of it
Is peace and consummation sweet. Obey!" 

I am very used to how wonderfully well informed and interested are the reader's of this blog. I was expecting that perhaps in a year's time someone would find this post and tell me that they knew who the letter refers to. In fact, I am hugely grateful this time to a reader who has unearthed Squadron Leader Stanley Meares in a matter of hours. So with immense gratitude to him for his sterling research and work, this is the information on Stanley from The Battle of Britain Memorial website which, I think you will agree makes for a convincing case that this is our Stanley from above.

S/Ldr S. T. Meares
Stanley Thomas Meares was born in Sidcup, Kent in 1916 and educated at King's School, Bruton, Somerset. Meares joined the RAF on a short service commission in January 1936. He was posted to 9 FTS, Thornaby on April 4th and joined 74 Squadron at Hornchurch on January 4th 1937.

In late 1939 Meares was posted to HQ Fighter Command. He was not on the strength of 54 during the Battle of Britain but is believed to have flown one operational sortie with the squadron from Hornchurch on August 12th 1940, qualifying him for the clasp.

In May 1941 Meares joined 611 Squadron at Westhampnett, as a Flight Commander. He was given command of 74 Squadron at Gravesend on June 30th 1941 and awarded the DFC (gazetted 22nd July 1941) being then credited with two Me109’s destroyed and two more damaged. Meares was posted to command 71 (Eagle) Squadron at North Weald on August 24th 1941.

On a training flight on November 15th in Spitfire Vb W3963 he collided with P/O RO Scarborough in W3627. Both men were killed.

Meares was 25 and is buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery.

RIP Stanley

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Vintage Swimwear...

The other day I started another occasional series for the blog: Book Ephemera and I numbered it #1. The other occasional series is Things That Fall From Books which I think is now up to #19. I can't imagine how many posts have been headed something like "Vintage Swimwear": perhaps it was good I never started numbering them!

Looked at the bottom photo of this offering for ages before realising that the two guys between them have just three legs!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Book Ephemera #1: Cassell and Grant Richards

In the course of many years of book-life I have accumulated quite a pile of ephemera that relates to books and publishing. This is the first of what is going to be an ongoing series of posts on this theme: little bits and pieces of the book trade...

So for our first exhibits we have two publisher's bookmarks (obviously a very common form of ephemera to do with books!). The top one is a double sided bookmark from Cassell showing how they advertised some of the many periodicals for which they were known during the turn of the last century period. And below, another bookmark, issued by Grant Richards, and advertising a book and by an author, Oddly Enough by John Ressich, both of whom seem to have fallen off the edge of the internet in terms of information. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

London Gay Pride: 69 Stonewall 79

Last year I found a rather wonderful collection of gay pride stickers from the London Pride Week of 1979 which was billed as Stonewall '79, being just the 10 year anniversary of the Stonewall riot. This flyer has surfaced from my drawers (so to speak) and adds a little ephemeral interest to the previous post I feel.

The Quite Difficult Book Quiz

2016 has been a pretty shit year in lots of ways. I studiously avoid politics on this blog but it can't be denied that this year has brought some fairly dismal surprises for anyone of a liberal and open mind. Alongside all that there has been a daily procession of abject misery on our screens from new kinds of wars across the world and with new kinds of displacement effecting millions of people, many of them here in Europe and nearby. A host of deaths of people who have been instrumental to shaping the culture of our times up to this point has perhaps only strengthened the sense that this year has been something of a tipping point.

Like so many others I have been asking myself, what the hell can I do? and it often feels like not a great deal. That said, I decided to try and do one positive thing before 2016 is out and so, returning to our shared life in books I have created The Quite Difficult Book Quiz. It's a traditional time of year to be doing in depth quizzes in the dark evenings (at least in this hemisphere) and if you would like to help, this is how.

1. Visit my Just Giving page:

2. Make a donation of any amount you can manage, large or small, to Firefly International, a charity who work with children and young people from Bosnia, Palestine and Syria: a small charity, underwritten by UK charity law and making a difference by partnering with local groups in those places.

3. You will then receive an automated thank you message with a link to a quiz.

4. The quiz has 100 questions designed to be not immediately accessible through our friend Google. There are 10 groups of 10 questions on all manner of fiction books and authors. Print it out. Keep it by the comfy chair, have a go at a few more questions every time there's a lull in the seasonal conversation.

5. You have until midnight on 31st December to get a list of your answers back to me and I will mark them, and the winner will receive a bundle of not very valuable but interesting books.

Just the smallest amount would be very welcome. The quiz has been running since the beginning of the month and as you will see, at the time of writing we have already raised over £280 which I am really very chuffed about.

Whether you are able to participate yourself or not, please consider blogging, tweeting or facebooking the details or just suggesting it to any bookish friends.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Austin Osman Spare at Atlantis Bookshop

The venerable but never stuffy Atlantis Book Shop in London, right by The British Museum is currently hosting an exhibition to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the death of Austin Osman Spare, artist and occultist. It is only on until the 18th of this month and being in the basement of a bookshop with an entry fee of a fiver, it is not the big, fancy London exhibition that it should be, but it is done with love and enthusiasm. It seems too, that this is the way Spare might have liked it: he spent most of his life avoiding the bright lights and big budgets of the London art world, which the quality of his work fitted him for, preferring instead to exhibit in pubs and to keep his secrets. 

There is barely an image or object here in this exhibition that doesn't speak to how astonishing this man was. The humble oil painting 'Self Portrait as a Magician' painted in his early 20s, shows a beautiful young man with an intense gaze and an ability to choose just a very few symbolic items to economically represent himself. The self-portraits from later life show a man who has lost none of the intensity of youth. The image above might not be the best choice for the cover of a program but in the flesh the two white specks in his eyes draw the viewers eyes into a netherworld behind the face. Spare's portrait of Crowley, his lover for a while, done from a photograph, is one of the many images that just leap from the wall: Spare draws Crowley's eyes as entirely black and it makes an intriguing contrast with the light in his own eyes. The paintings and drawings that come from Spare's magical work are compelling too as a kind of self-portraiture, a self-portrait of the very deepest recesses of a mind at its most atavistic.

As well as the artwork, the exhibition has two large cases of letters, artifacts and ephemera and it is here that glimpses of AOS's mind can be seen at work in a different way. There is a letter in which he requests the loan of one of these new-fangled "biros" for his "automatic work", presumably he had heard how a ball point pen glides smoothly across paper and wanted to harness that quality in his automatic drawing. As well as little insights of that kind there is also the opportunity to see his sketches and scribbles and manuscript writings, adorned as they are by the magical sigils that he reinvented as a part of his magical system, and one is struck looking at them that here is the very beginning of a hundred websites and probably more books all following his style. 

The exhibition is a must-see for anyone with an interest in outsider art, in 20th century art, or in 20th century occultism.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Fernando illustrates Lost Dorsai by Gordon R. Dickson

I must have read my way through every last book in Gordon R. Dickson's Dorsai series when I was a teenager or close enough. Even at the time I think I realised that the military strategy that formed the centrepiece of the books and made The Dorsai into the most formidable fighting force in the known galaxy was pretty hazy... still, they were a good read. So I was intrigued to come across this Ace Books edition of Lost Dorsai which is really packed with black and white illustrations. The artist is credited only as Fernando, but I suspect this is Spanish comic book artist Fernando Fernandez. For the most part they are fairly standard 1970s/80s comic book stuff but there's a significant number that show a real sophistication, which tickle my love of inky black and white mark-making, and which seem to stand at a real junction between the psychedelic 70s and the over-glamorised 1980s.

Films and Filming: Second Haul

Strange to say that two days after I came across the first pile of Films and Filming magazines blogged a few days ago, I was in yet another bookshop and there was another small selection. There will be more to come from the insides of some of these in the coming days and weeks I'm sure.

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