Friday, July 31, 2009

The Night-Farers by Mark Valentine

I nearly spilt my Cocopops this morning when the doorbell rang. We so rarely have visitors so it had to be the postman and I really wasn't expecting anything. Wonderfully, I have been sent, out of the blue, a copy of The Night-Farers a collection of short stories by Mark Valentine, doyen of all things mysterious, supernatural and macabre in fiction and editor of the brilliant Wormwood Journal. It is a beautiful book. Holding it in your hands, you feel like the quality is dripping from it. A great frontis from a friend of FFEP, John Coulthart is sandwiched between endpapers that might as well be velvet. The jacket feels silky and the upper board has been even blocked with the title in gold on green cloth. Gorgeous...
Clearly I haven't had time to read properly yet but the verse on the front cover, from Angelus Silesius has been haunting me all day:

"Who in this mortal life would see
The light that is beyond all light,
Beholds it best by faring forth
Into the darkness of the night"

It's published by the adventurous Ex Occidente Press from Bucharest, yes Bucharest, a small publisher with a juicy list well worth a look.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Denton Welch Decorates Penguin

John Lehmann must have been quite a character. Just a quick glance down the list of contributors to his Penguin New Writing and The London Magazine, both of which he edited show how he was able to gather the great, the good and the gay into print. This copy of The Penguin New Writing has a reproduction of a painting by Keith Vaughan and some tail-pieces by him also at the end of a number of pieces. I'm sure they'll make an appearance here at a later date but I then noticed that the other tail-pieces in the book were drawn by Denton Welch, some of which are above. Again, you have to wonder, what manner of man was Lehmann that he was able to conjour decorations for one book from both Welch and Vaughan!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Glorious Summer

As trailed yesterday, I've spent most of the day on the Isle of Wight. The Solent was just beautiful in the sun, scattered about with small sailing craft like so much fluff. I spent a lot of the afternoon in The Ryde Bookshop, the only secondhand bookshop left in the town but still a great place for a good browse. Then to a parental visit for tea in the evening.

One of the things about visiting home is they keep turning up stuff that I've left there at one stage or another of my itinerant life. Today it was a pile of 35mm negatives from when I was a keen but not very talented photographer. Still, I found these two and thought they summed up the Summer mood quite well.
ps. chubbian, I'm glad you liked the Nichols poem. There are a couple of others that I liked as much which might appear here. I know what you mean about the Bhuddist overtones. As I learn a little more about the poet it transpires that he did, in fact, spend some time in Japan, not until after the war though I think. JohnC, What a coincidence you should have been working on the F&SF anthology. I saw more of them today at the aforementioned bookshop but they were the less collectable UK editions. However, I did think of you as I picked up a copy of Lovecraft's The Shadow Out of Time and Other Tales of Horror in a lovely yellow-jacketed Gollancz hardback edition!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Keith Vaughan Journals

Off to the Isle of Wight today so not much time except to say that my favourite bookshop of the moment is closing (which is tragic) and having a half-price sale (which is amazing), or at least it would be if they had managed to make their closing coincide with a time when I actually had some spare cash for personal purchases. In the end I had to be content with just a fraction of what I would have liked to buy. Mustn't grumble though, this was one of them, Keith Vaughan's Journal; I have a feeling that once I get into it there will be more to share here!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Of all the SF magazines, I think it's probably F&SF which has had the longest, broadest and deepest impact on the scene. All the others, I'm sure, have their plus points, but F&SF simply eclipses the rest of the field.

I couldn't resist a big pile of nearly twenty copies when I saw them on a stall at a collectibles fair last weekend. They are the US edition, which is often hard to find here in the UK, and my little handful ranges from the 1950s to the 1970s. I thought I would share some of the amazing cover art.

Robert Nichols: a poem for my funeral

This beautiful young man is Robert Nichols, aged 22, officer in the Royal Artillery and possibly suffering from shell shock at the time this photo was taken in 1915. He was a poet, and a good one: his name is on the war poets memorial in Poets Corners of Westminster Abbey. This photo is the frontispiece of his Ardours and Endurances (Chatto & Windus, London, 1917) which I bought the other day.

I confess, I bought it because I caught sight, in the bookshop, of a couple of poems within its pages which had that homoerotic tint so common to the poetry of the First World War. Then, after reading more, I came across this sonnet below which I think is exceptionally beautiful and I'm surprised I've never heard it at funerals before now.

Sonnet: Our Dead

They have not gone from us. O no! they are
The inmost essence of each thing that is
Perfect for us; they flame in every star;
The trees are emerald with their presences.
They are not gone from us; they do not roam
The flaw and turmoil of the lower deep,
But have now made the whole wide world their home,
And in its loveliness themselves they steep.
They fail not ever; theirs is the diurn
Splendour of sunny hill and forest grave;
In every rainbow's glittering drop they burn;
They dazzle in th massed clouds' architrave;
They chant on every wind, and they return
In the long roll of any deep blue wave.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Windy Weekend

Among other things this weekend we spent a blustery hour on the seafront being blown around in a refreshing kind of way. The very low tide exposes something that not everyone knows about... The Submarine Barrier.

I've loved the idea of this ever since it was pointed out to me a few years ago. At the eastern end of the Solent, stretching all the way out from Southsea beach there are huge concrete blocks at narrow intervals which are usually completely hidden from view but on a low tide like this one can be seen either poking their heads above the water or, as in this case, as the wind breaks waves over them. They are designed, as the name suggests, to stop submarines approaching the UK's biggest Naval base except through a gap in the middle of the Solent which can be heavily guarded if need be. There are two passages, one out to sea and one inshore passage, marked by posts, through which it is safe for shipping to pass but almost every year at least one novice, naive or uninformed sailor manages to take the bottom of their boat off on the concrete...

Vintage Posing Pouch

This was a great find at the weekend. A vintage glass negative, just bigger than 4" x 3" showing a rather finely sculpted young man in his posing pouch. Very unusual subject for a photo in this format. The photo above was created by my holding the negative up to the window and taking a snapshot which was then 'inverted' on the computer, thus, it's not as fine an image as one would hope to get from a proper photographic development. I think it's good enough to show the salient details though!
Of course, it will shortly be for sale...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite: Illustrator

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite (1888-1960) was a prolific illustrator of children's books. She worked in watercolour but also in black and white. Her illustrations are delicate, intricate and, when not laden with too much sentiment, quite dramatic at times. What is wonderful though, flicking through a pile of loose prints such as those above, is that page after page is high quality b/w illustration of the kind one expects in such books and then suddenly, because she is an australian illustrating australian children's books, there are kangaroos, platypus, kukaburra, and koala, sometimes all in the same image.

As well as the usual biography sites:

there is also this rather interesting page from St Marks Anglican church in Fitzroy, Victoria showing four painted windows done by IRO.

A Google Image Search will lead you deep into her pretty world of fairies and kangaroos.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Frederick Rolfe in Christchurch

In 1891, Frederick Rolfe, using the name Baron Corvo, was living for a short while in Christchurch in Hampshire, a beautiful and well-to-do seaside town built around a medieval priory. While there he befriended a number of the towns residents and visitors and became part of a small literary and artistically inclined gay coterie. One of that coterie was Philip Kains Jackson, a solicitor but also a keen art critic and the editor of an art magazine. Jackson was gay and in a relationship with his younger cousin, Cecil Castle and the pair would spend time together away from London in Christchurch where they met Rolfe and where the 21 year old Castle happily threw off his clothes as a model for Rolfe's photography.

There exists in typescript, (and one holograph), a series of letters from Corvo to KJ in 1891 in which the pair discuss all the cultural moments of the day as well as their shared interest in photography and in young men. The correspondance is a rare example of openly gay nineteenth century writing and I am currently editing it for publication. As a part of this R and I took a trip at the weekend to Christchurch and tracked down Tyneham House, (Toinham House in 1891) where Rolfe lived and from whence all the letters are sent. It is still standing even if a little shabby around the edges and it doesn't take much of an effort of imagination to see that in the 1890s this would have been a very nicely appointed lodging house. I'm sorry on this occasion I wasn't able to find a time when there wasn't a car parked in front of the house.

As well as finding Toinham House the local history museum turned up some nice finds that I hope to use in my publication of the letters.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Vintage Photos: Ceylon

I see a lot of the kind of photo books which were produced for tourists in this country and abroad from the lte nineteenth century into the early twentieth. Everywhere had them from Naples to Dartmoor. The value depends entirely on where they depict: it is strange how some towns/places are 'collected' and others provoke no interest at all.

These are from one such book The Hundred Best Views of Ceylon which I sold recently and which I thought really was a cut above the average. The book was published by the photographers who were local, based in Colombo, and the quality of the photography and the reproduction was a lot better than you would normally expect in such a production. The fact that there were some pics of scantily clad, lean young men obviously helped to endear it to me.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Mystery Frontispiece

Have been away too long again. Largely we can put this down to the suffering of enormous amounts of dental pain and having to wait for the antibiotics to kick in before being able to concentrate on anything at all. But they now have. It's been a busy last few days of buying: an original painting by Barry Leighton-Jones, a selection of Enid Blyton's Famous Five books in reasonable dust jackets, the entire stock of Rosicrucian and Masonic books and pamphlets from a local bookshop, old books on Sussex and Astronomy and an archive of material (photos, postcards, clippings, booklets...) all relating to the life of one of the great Anglo-Catholic priests of the last century... so now all I have to do is sell it all!

Anyway, to kick start the blog I was wondering if anyone might be able to help with this. In a box of 'stuff' from an auction yesterday was this little print in a frame. It's clearly titled, 'frontispiece' and from the paper and style I would imagine it is from a book published around, roughly speaking, 1850, possibly earlier. I am going to keep it because R has something of a thing for images of cadaeuseuseseusueus-es or however you spell that thing that Mercury/Hermes is holding... Anyhoo, if anyone visiting here should be knowledgable to hazard a guess about what book this might have come from I'd be glad to hear all suggestions.
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