Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Sunday, October 23, 2016
If living in a world of books ought to teach one anything, it is to ditch that niggling feeling we all have that perhaps we should write a book. Day after day after day a good secondhand bookshop will acquire stock that, for no fault of its own will never see the shelves. It will be relegated to the £1 bin outside the shop... or worse! Thousands, probably tens of thousands of books that someone has poured their soul into writing: never again read.
So it's always a joy to find one and hold it up to the world again and say: look! here!
A Spray of Leaves is a tiny paperback children's book from 1977 by Irma Chilton. It amounts to just 64 pages and I was given this rather battered copy to read recently by a friend while I was feeling a bit under the weather. It was published by Macmillan Education: an imprint I am guessing which probably provided books directly to schools for that (now sadly lost) activity of reading together as a class. Think of the hours of Irma's life spent crafting this story and the further hours spent by Mark Peppé creating the pen and ink illustrations. And yet, today, I can find only one copy of this book for sale online for a somewhat optimistic £15.
And yet, this is a brilliant little book. It is a tightly told story about a boy called David who is on a camping holiday on his own for the first time (again, an activity consigned to the 1970s) and who is affected by the land and the ancient history of the land on which he is camping. He begins to dream of himself as the son of a Welsh chieftain just as the Roman armies approach. The dreams become more real as time goes on and 1970s David finds himself in peril as well. It took a couple of hours to read yet it is a masterclass in packing a huge amount of story into a short space.
A minimal search of the Internet suggests that Irma Chilton wrote a number of books for children, often in Welsh, with a fantasy or SF bent, and if titles may be taken as suggestive then perhaps more than once including a timeslip theme. If I see any of her others in a language I can read, I will be very happy to put my hand in my pocket to buy them.
Friday, October 21, 2016
"The Priest and the Acolyte" is a well-written if somewhat overblown and sentimental story about the eponymous priest and acolyte who are involved in a rather wilting and soppy love affair and are then 'discovered'. It was originally published anonymously in the first issue of the Oxford undergraduate magazine The Chameleon in December 1894 and it may have been one of the reasons why this was also the only issue of the magazine before it was closed down. If that had been all, the story would probably never have been heard of again, however, unfortunately for him, the magazine also carried a contribution by one Oscar Wilde, and so the story was suddenly freighted with a whole new significance.
In an attempt at suggesting guilt by association the story was brought up by prosecuting lawyers at Wilde's trial and over the next few years the story became so associated with Wilde that it was often attributed to his authorship. In fact, the story was written by the undergraduate editor of the magazine John Francis Bloxam. It would be easy from the somewhat effeminate style of the story and the 'too too' sumptuous prose to stereotype Bloxam as a particular kind of late 1890s decadent undergraduate. Though, to our knowledge, he never ventured into print again we do know that he became a priest in the early 20th Century in the Anglo-Catholic tradition and took on one of the great East End slum churches in London. In that position he took on the church authorities as a leader among the ritualists of the church aiming for ever-closer doctrinal and liturgical unity with Rome. We also know that he had a distinguished career in the First World War as an army chaplain, winning the Military Cross with a bar. I recently found the description of one of those occasions of bravery gazetted in The Times.
However, the idea that Wilde was the author of this story persisted. So, in 1907, the story was printed in book form by The Lotus Press. This is the only book created under this imprint and it was clearly done to distance the publisher from any possible ramifications. The book bears an 'Introductory Protest' by Stuart Mason demonstrating that the story is not and should not be considered Wilde's work. Stuart Mason was the pseudonym adopted on occasion by the bookseller, bibliographer and Wilde expert Christopher Millard. It was Millard who wrote the definitive bibliography of Wilde, again under the name Stuart Mason.
I have often wondered who published this edition of the story and the paper covered boards along with certain typographical similarities have led me to wonder if it had anything to do with F. E. Murray, the publisher and purveyor of Uranian verse, also in London at about this time. I was wrong. In a completely unrelated way I was browsing through Tomkinson's A Select Bibliography of the Principal Modern Presses Public and Private in Great Britain and Ireland (as you do) and found The Lotus Press listed there with this single book as its output. The anonymity is broken and the publisher revealed as one J. Jacobs of Edgware Road in London as the publisher, "no other book appeared under this imprint".
Tracing publishers is often more difficult than authors or book titles as they are often not properly incorporated into online databases, and in this instance, J. Jacobs is not an easy name to search. However, the internet has provided a few clues to flesh out this shadowy character. For a start we know that in the years around the publication of this title he also had a hand in publishing and editing a small number of books on Jewish history and culture. But it seems that his interest in Oscar Wilde was more than passing or pecuniary. The William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at the University of California has an original pencil drawing of Wilde marked as "formerly in the possession of J. Jacobs, Edgware Rd". (It's also worth noting that a number of the most famous images of Wilde and Bosie were taken at a photographer's studio just doors away from Jacob's in the same road). But we also know that, under his own imprint Jacobs worked with Millard again the next year to produce a somewhat scarce book now, Art and Morality: A Defence of "The Picture of Dorian Gray" which was edited by Millard (again as Mason) and issued in a limited edition of 450 copies with an extra 25 on hand-made paper with the illustrations on vellum. The book was described by Millard as "A reprint of the more important reviews of Dorian Gray, together with eight of Wilde's published letters in reply to hostile criticism."
I have been curious about the publisher of the book version of this story every since I first saw a copy and I am glad now to have made some connections even if Jacobs still remains a somewhat obscure character.
Monday, October 17, 2016
These few scans have been on my hard drive for years now since I bought a pre-WW1 run of the German art/Naktkultur periodical, Die Schönheit. I have posted images from these before but somehow these escaped until now. These are all the work of artist and illustrator Frans Muller-Munster (1867-1936). Other than his being a member of the Berlin Artists Association I can find little about him online.
A visitor to the grave of Christopher Sclater Millard (1872-1927) in St Mary’s Cemetery at Kensal Green will find only dirt and weeds. Although in his will he specified ‘none but the simplest memorial’, his many admirers have come to the view that a headstone should be erected to commemorate Millard’s enduring importance as bibliophile and bibliographer.
Millard had a gift for friendship, and he played so important a part in the literary life of a century ago that he has already been the subject of two full-length biographies. He was friend and mentor, for example, to the young Anthony Powell and to Proust’s translator Charles Scott Moncrieff. An unabashed admirer of Oscar Wilde, Millard was close to Robbie Ross, with whom he collaborated in the production of the collected edition and subsequent reprints of Wilde’s works. He was an assiduous and imaginative bookdealer ‒ his catalogues are much prized by collectors ‒ but his most important achievement was his astonishingly comprehensive bibliography of Oscar Wilde, still the standard work and a landmark in the history of bibliography.
The Millard Headstone Committee has been set up, with the encouragement of the Millard family, to raise funds and commission the headstone. The Committee is now appealing to admirers of Christopher Millard, indeed to all bibliophiles, to subscribe as generously as they can to its project. As the commissioning of a headstone is not an inexpensive enterprise, the Committee is boldly requesting individuals and literary societies to consider contributions of the order of £50 or £100, although lesser amounts will be gratefully received.
The distinguished accounting firm Goldwins will be looking after the subscriptions, which the Committee would prefer be made by bank transfer
Lloyds Bank, Sort Code 30-99-64
Account Number 01686772
Account Name Goldwins Ltd
Annotation ‘Millard Project - [Subscriber’s Name]
although cheques (made out to ‘Goldwins Ltd’) or credit card payments are also welcome. Subscribers are asked to identify themselves as having made a payment, by sending a brief email to the Committee Secretary, Dr Robert Scoble and to Goldwins. It is proposed that a limited edition pamphlet or booklet will be produced commemorating the erection of the headstone and acknowledging by name ‒ unless anonymity has been requested ‒ the generous subscribers who assured the success of the project.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
The vintage swimwear collection here at Callum James Heights has been sadly lacking in terms of new acquisitions for a while. However, that doesn't stop me browsing around of course and one of the places I like to look (and to plug occasionally) is among the listings of a chap called Chuck on Ebay. I have bought numerous photos from him over the years and I am in awe of his ability to find new and fresh stock of vintage photos of handsome chaps every week. All the photos in this post come from his finished listings. You can browse his current offering here though please be aware that one or two are sometimes NSFW
Sunday, October 02, 2016
Regular readers will know that the jacket designs of Hans Tisdall have become something of a feature on this blog of late. One of the things Tisdall was best known for was his lettering, in fact a number of computer fonts have been created from his letterforms. This set of books are anthologies of words and their meanings and folklore by anti-modernist and sometime editor of The Observer, Ivor Brown. These nine were published from 1942-1955 and all are designed by Tisdall. Brown went on to create at least another two anthologies but these were with a different publisher and designer. For lovers of mid-century design and illustration I think that, as a set, these have lots to offer.
Saturday, October 01, 2016
Though vintage swimwear has been an ongoing theme here are Front Free Endpaper, I wouldn't want anyone to think we don't enjoy a little skinny dipping too. These are four photos I found being sold on Ebay last night. Wonderfully evocative, they all appear to have been taken in 1918 and we even have a couple of names to go with them: the chap above has the name "Bill" Ferman written on the verso and as you can see, the guy below is Ned Price. Perhaps they are also the same men photographed diving in the two photos further below. At the time of writing this post only the two diving photos had sold. The other are available still from here, but please note I do not know, nor do I have any connection with the seller.