Monday, January 29, 2007

New Post

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

Well, a little while ago I confessed a liking for slash fiction and Harry Potter slash fiction in particular. And as the same time as I was undergoing this resurgence in my slash interests I decided it would be cool, seeing as how I can bind my own books now, to have a collection of unique, signed erotica. Those pieces that one see around the internet from time to time which stand out from the crowd; those pieces you want to read more than once and have something about them which reads better than the normal one-handed rubbish. So, some months ago I made a start with a great little piece of HP slash by a wonderful author (and person) who goes by the monika 'Thevina' and I produced two copies of her story 'Never Break the Chain' as a hardcover book. one for her and one for her to sign and send back to me as the beginning of my collection. This was a good start - the book was quite reasonably produced but nothing exceptional. It gave me a chance to experiment with different forms of binding and decoration. I decided that I would contine and use each new story as a chance to experiment with things which I might then use in a more commercial way at a later stage.

The second story that I got author agreement to do was 'Parseltongue-Tied' which is something of a classic in the HP slash world. It has taken weeks of printing and experimenting to come up with the final look of the book and I was thinking, till tonight, that this was a pretty damn good look too! However, tonight was the night for fixing the text-block into the case-cover and, for a variety of reasons I won't bore you with in detail, the whole thing is pretty buggered now. The outside, I think, still looks pretty good, but I fluffed the maths by a few millimetres and the damn things won't open properly now. Yes, they open, you can read the text, but the hinge on the covers was not long enough and so open the book too quickly or too wide and you are likely to rip it apart. Damn! Damn! Damn! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

There's very little I can do to fix this and I don't have the material or time resources to start again from scratch so now I have to find a way of telling Dementor that I shall be sending a sub-standard book...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Three odd photos

One of the things I've bought recently has been a very poignant album of photos from the 1910s which I am currently selling on ebay. I will say more about it here at a later stage because it is quite stunning and very moving. These three pictures below stand out though. If you want to check out the whole story on Ebay before I post it here then feel free, but for now, just these...

Vintage Swim II

The comments received and quoted in the post below about the last vintage swimwear post give me all the excuse I need to do it again!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Vintage Swimming!

A correspondent to this blog saw the post below of photos of vintage swim wear and wrote the following:

How I loved those ancient swimming gears, especially the last (oldest) ones. At my prepschool we had terrible woollen slips . . . white if you couldn't swim, then red and blue when you had passed all the tests. `But best of all in the summer when we got out of bed and, instead of going for the cold showers which happened during the winter months, we poured down to the swimming pool and, throwing aside our towels, dived in and swam a length. Scores of little naked shrimps. What a joy. What a memory.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Venice Photos and Ideas

Once I had finished 'work' at the collectors' fair today I had a brief look through some of the postcard stalls. One or two of the things I was hoping to find eluded me but I came away with four new real-photo postcards of Venice - which is a remarkably cheap subject to collect in postcard form I have discovered - presumably because so many were sent. I thought that they were all rather nice images.

And here's an idea for a future publication...

If someone suggested a book titled 'Postcards from Venice' I suppose one would obviously think of a book of vintage images, like these. But it struck me today that it might be fun to create a collection of postcards of Venice which have been written and sent home and to use the texts of these to create the book. Sadly none of the four I bought today had been written but I must consider this next time I decide to brave a fair.

Collectors' Fairs

A brisk, cold day today, with white sunshine just enough to warm you out of the wind: exactly what January ought to be. So to Chichester for the Antiques and Collectables fair held there every three months or so. There's nothing quite like the spire of a Southern counties cathedral pushing into a white-blue sky on a sunny winter day to make one feel good about the world.

So, in that mood I entered the bear-pit which is a Collector's fair. This one is held in a leisure centre, as if to deliberately point up the difference between normal human beings and 'collectors'. While the queue for the fair builds up and out the door in an orderly but slightly grumpy middle-aged kind of way, the normal folks, the people who look under 35 and reasonably fit, and like they may have a life to live come and go with very active looking sports bags and towels and smiling children in tow.

When you finally get inside you have to be prepared for a number of things. The first is that all these predominantly middle-aged, middle-class people who want to look at stalls full of postcards and porcelain (because there's precious little else at a collectors fair these days) are also some of the rudest people you will ever meet. The fact that it's a busy fair will only make this worse. No one will speak to each other, they simply move back and forth along the aisles of stalls, silently manoevering themselves as close to the front of the stall as possible. Should you have the termerity to stop and look at something, ten to one that someone will come and stand so close to you, nudging gently, somehow without actually touching you, that you get inexorably pushed further and further from the thing you wanted to look at. No one ever says 'excuse me' or 'could I just reach past you', all is silent and subliminally agressive.

The second thing you have to be prepared for is bad body odour in large quantities. Strange little, silent men in suits and thick-rimmed glasses who spend hours flicking through pile after pile of postcards in some kind of zen trance whilst poisoning the air around them.

It's the postcard collectors who are the worst. They will approach a dealer's stall, mumble "Suffolk", or "Hampshire" or "Shipping" or "Military" and the long-suffering dealer (many of whom have their own body-odour and courtesy issues) will hook out a pile of cards from a clearly marked section called, 'Suffolk' or 'Military' etc. (which the thick-rimmed glasses are clearly not able to discern) and pass them over, the collector then seems to become bolted to the floor for the next tweny minutes inspecting hundreds of cards at great speed - perhaps once or twice pausing or refering to a battered red notebook to see if they have 'L.L. 205 Portsmouth High Street' because they remember L.L 206 and are getting them confused... and I could go on...

But it is not all so horrible. There is one incredible up-side - particularly for a dealer like me who is looking in particular for things made of paper - books, photographs, ephemeral items... (and yes, the occasional postcard) and that is the objects themselves. For all that the inside of the sports hall had sapped my will to live after four hours, I have some truly fantastic things from today's excursion and I shall be blogging some of them shortly.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A. J. A. Symons on Oscar Wilde

I mentioned that I've been working on a couple of things concerning Oscar Wilde. Well this is the second one. This is a picture of the proof copy (ie. a little bit of tweaking and it will be ready to sell) of my edition of previously unpublished notes by A J A Symons on Wilde. They were written for what would have been Symons' magnum opus, his Select Bibliography of the Nineties, but the project never came to completion and the notes have been languishing in an archive in Delaware for perhaps 85 years now. So I have pulled them out, dusted them down and worked my magic on them. Of course, in 85 years, a lot has been written on Wilde and there is nothing new in the substance of what Symons has to say. What I think makes it an interesting read is firstly, that if you wanted a well written 'Introduction to the Life and Work of Oscar Wilde' you could do a lot worse than this but also, and more interestingly, Symons himself was something of a character - a throwback to the Nineties in many ways - so the conjunction of Symons and Wilde is quite something. The other great unfinished work of Symons was his projected full-length biography of Wilde; he was a long way along with it by all accounts. So I suppose this counts as the first stirrings of what would have been one of the first unbiased biographies of Oscar Wilde.

And, without wishing to be too big-headed - I'm in love with the way this looks. Barley and Plum card covers - gold ruling on the plum spine - simple text... The spine, which is the real innovation for me, also means that the thread which sews these booklets together isn't visible on the outside of the booklet.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Sadness of Wilde

I find myself doing a number of pieces of work having to do with Oscar Wilde at the moment. A figure who I have shied away from reading and learning about in the past because there just seemed to be so much to read and to know. One of the pieces I am working on is Aspects of Wilde, by the much lesser-known 1890s figure, Vincent O'Sullivan.

Whilst reading this I came across a description of Wilde in Paris after his trials and imprisonment which nearly moved me to tears. O'Sullivan first makes sure to tell us that Wilde at that time was not the run-down, utterly tragic and crushed figure that popular talk at the time had him, but he qualifies this with:

"At times indeed his face would be swept with poignant anguish and regret when he had touched upon some subject which brought back upon his heart his past joy and powers, or his hours of agony and humiliation, or the apprehension of his future, which he saw as a mountain-pass under darkling shadows falling ever thicker - becoming in fact, save by miracle, impracticable for him. At such moments he would pass his large hand with a trembling gesture over his face and stretch out his arm as though to ward off the phantom of his destiny."
O'Sullivan, Vincent. Aspects of Wilde. Constable, London, 1936. p. 54

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Last of Tarcissus...

...for a while. In 1971, Victor Hall at The Victim Press (Vic=Victor; Tim=Timothy[d'Arch Smith]) produced a facsimile of the first edition of Frederick Rolfe's Tarcissus. It was enclosed within a white card which had printed on the inside an illustration by the Belgian artist Gaston Goor. Goor was a jobbing illustrator who was taken under the wing of the French bibliophile, collector and old-school diplomat Roger Peyrefitte. Under Peyrefitte's patronage Goor produced many, many works of Uranian interest, and there are some extremely elaborate concoctions of artwork and cases and books available at high prices still today - many of them rather explicit. This piece is not one of his better drawings but it has a certain charm and a relevance to my recent blogging.

Time to leave Tarcisius/Tarcissus for a while...

Monday, January 15, 2007

New Agony and Ecstasy Post

I have decided from now on to highlight new posts at my other blogs and webpages with short one line posts and links from this blog:

The Agony and The Ecstasy

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Saint Tarcissus

I seem to be having quite a time with young Mr Tarcissus (I know that's not the correct spelling - it was the one Frederick Rolfe used).

I get a very kind mention in The Rare Book Review recently (see below), then my researches into the dedicatees of the original Frederick Rolfe poem get a little boost and then I come across another Victorian version of the story, as usual written as an 'uplifting' tale for kids.

As Robert Scoble points out in his article in The Rare Book Review, it is highly unlikely that Tarcissus was a boy saint at all. Much more likely a young man on his way to priesthood in the early, persecuted church. The tradition that he was a boy of thirteen or so nonetheless permeates the Victorian telling of his tale. In other accounts I have seen even the phraseology is similar and I would one day like to try and trace the various accounts and see if there is any obvious starting point for the way in which the Victorians 'spun' the tale. It may well be that most of this tradition that he was a young boy comes from Cardinal Wiseman's romantic epic of the early church, Fabiola, but it would take a look of work to show this beyond doubt and whilst the idea of doing it is appealing to my rather obsessive nature, I can't see it happening for a while yet. So, for your delectation, another account of the death of the 'boy' saint - told, presumably to encourage Victorian children to get themselves killed for Jesus - or more likely for the British - and Christian - Empire.

You might notice also that among the many, mainly Victorian illustrations of Tarcissus here presented only one depicts him as a young man rather than a boy (Thank you to the helpful friend who pointed me in the direction of the pictures).

PS. Nicolas, lovely to hear from you and I will be in touch soon. Thanks for leaving a comment on the blog a little while ago too... always nice when people do that.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Vintage Swim

Many many months ago I put up on this blog a few pictures from my collection of digital images culled from all over the place of vintage swimwear... It proved pretty popular and I've been meaning to add a few more ever since... finally, I got round to it...!

A Familiar Surprise

One of the nice things about seeing so many books passings through my hands is to be surprised by the most unpromising looking material. The Queen's Red Cross Book is not a rare book - it is not expensive, I see it all the time knocking around secondhand bookshops and I would normally leave it there. Published in 1939 under the patronage of the late Queen Mother, it was a fundraising exercise for the Red Cross and is an anthology of writing by all the big literary names of the day. It is also illustrated.

The deluxe edition of the book - in a silk lined custom made box - was in a small auction lot of books I won recently and so I had to have a closer look at it. The illustrations were the surprise. Some beautiful and unusual pieces which I had never seen before by some of the big name illustrators: Edmund Dulac, Arthur Wragg and Dame Laura Knight. So I'm sharing my plesant surprise with you here.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Rare Book Review

It's always nice to see one's name in print! My friend, Corvine scholar, (and one of my authors) Robert Scoble, recently published an article in The Rare Book Review about the bibliography of Frederick Rolfe's poem, Tarcissus.

It is a complicated bibliography inasmuch as the poem has appeared in print seven times since including Rolfe's original self-published booklet in around 1880. It has, perhaps not suprisingly, failed to find any significant place in anthologies excepting the Collected Poems of Frederick Rolfe himself, although, because of the rareity of the original, there has been one facsimile and one, if not forgery, then slightly dubious edition. The last time it was printed was by me, so I'm very gratified to see that I get a mention at the end of the article. That's quite an honour for someone who is very new to the bookdealing and publishing world and started his publications as little more than a hobby only a couple of years ago.

I always find exposure in the world of 'the big boys' a little scary - but very exciting too. It was noticable that the hit counter on my website took a jump after the article was published and I'm sure a number of orders (not for Tarcissus but for other Corvine items) have come my way recently which are probably on the back of that short paragraph.

PS. Thanks to Atheist, Alex and Ben for dropping by. Atheist, it was very kind of you to say nice things about my writing over at Silver Birch Junction. Alex (Porcelain Skull) I haven't forgotten you, I have sent that email we keep talking about but the man's not replied yet! Ben, I know you're intrigued by R's five pound challenge and there will be more on that soon I promise.
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