Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Four Corners Familiars

When I posted a little while ago about The London Art Book Fair, I waxed lyrical a little about an edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Four Corners Books. I have been meaning for a while to post the other of their books, also from their Familiars series, that I bought that day: Blumfeld. An Elderly Bachelor by Kafka
"For the third in the Familiars series, David Musgrave has chosen a
little-known novella left unfinished by Kafka and concerning a man who comes
home to find that two bouncing plastic balls have invaded his home.

The book is illustrated with a series of pencil drawings of curious
artefacts and archaeological fragments invented by the artist. The text is set
in Walbaum, Kafka's preferred typeface."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Keith Vaughan Sketches London

I came across these two sketches of London life by Keith Vaughan in The London Magazine, both in issues from 1954. Berwick Street Market (top) and Hyde Park on a Sunday Morning (bottom) are just two of the many contributions to the magazine which the editor John Lehmann wrung from Vaughan.
Also in the magazine is a completely unrelated book review that my eye happened to light upon which includes the phrase "the emotional adventures of middle age" which I rather liked. I'm not there yet, by some way, but I am heartened by the fact that someone can write of those years with such a sense of things not being over but rather being full of event and having a positive flavour all of their own.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

No wonder I couldn't find the book I was looking for...

Sorry, couldn't resist...

Eike von Stuckenbrok

Every now and again someone comes along with such a mixture of talent, good looks, originality and sheer flare that you can do nothing but hope your jaw doesn't hit anything too hard when it lands on the ground.

Eike von Stuckenbrok is exactly that kind of phenonemon: part gymnast, part acrobat, part contemporary dancer, he calls himself an 'equilibrist'. What he does is astonishing and it really doesn't hurt that he likes to do it without many clothes on and in some very homoerotic atmospheres. Perhaps the most surreal moment he's brought me so far is his appearance on The Paul O'Grady Show where he was watched doing his thing, writhing around a 10ft statue of a shirtless man (normally the figure in this routine is naked) whilst fellow guest Dame Edna Everage looked on - marvellous. Hit the first Youtube link below for sheer jaw-dropping brilliance and then explore on your own but don't send me the dry-cleaning bills for the drool on your carpet.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Willard Price and the Design of the 1950s

I came across this little gem recently whilst browsing, and since it links two of my interests, 1950s design and the books of Willard Price, I couldn't help but right-click and save. I believe this is the German translation of Price's autobiographical, I Cannot Rest From Travel and this edition was published in 1953.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Things to do in Venice

Venice is a city of churches and it would be a very difficult thing to pick a favourite. Some, however, do stand out and usually for their atmosphere rather than their artistic holdings - which in most small Venetian churches are worth more than most museums elsewhere in the world!

Nearly all the churches in Venice advertise their opening times to tourists as until about 5.30 -6p.m. and then there will be Mass. On honeymoon, Russell and I did something I'd not done before and stayed for Mass in a couple of the churches. Obviously they were Masses in Italian but if ever there were an argument for not mucking about with the liturgy too much it would be that two Anglicans from England can go to a Catholic Mass in Italy and pretty much 'get' what was being said all the way through without a word of Italian between them.

One of the churches at which we attended Mass is one that would have to be on my shortlist for favourite church in Venice: San Zaccaria. It is in a small and quiet Campo not far from St Mark's and to get the best from the atmosphere of the place you should try and arrive just as dusk is falling. The church is kept in almost total darkness save for a single spotlight which falls from some far off Sepharic realm onto a jewel-like crucifixion scene on the front of a silver aumbrey on the altar. The church is hushed. The only other light is likely to be from an occasional tourist putting money in the slot which lights up the Bellini on the North wall. Opposite this is supposedly the tomb of St Zaccaria, the father of John the Baptist, with his body exposed for all to see behind murky glass atop his altar.

If you pay your Euro, you can go through to the Sacristy where there are some, by Venetian standards, fair-to-middling art tresures but also the crypt (above), a flooded and dark vaulted chamber which is something of a spooky reminded of just how close you are to the water at all times in this city.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

garçons en images

This is a rather racy but excellent sale catalogue from librairesassocies-curiosa featuring gay male photography, books and original images, from the Victorians to the present. It includes some genuine Victorian gay porn, which is not to everyone's taste but is rare as hen's teeth. This is alongside prints of von Gloeden, Pluschow et. al. and a run of images and books right into the time of Jean-Daniel Cadinot.

It was brought to my attention because it contains a copy of one of my book, The Nude in Photography by Joseph Gleeson-White. It's always nice to see my books in the secondhand market and this one in particular as it was ravishingly popular at the time of publication and was only released in a stupidly small number and was out of print in a month.

If you have the time and inclincation you should have a look at their other catalogue, also in pdf format, a catalogue of almost exclusively straight erotica. Neither catalogue are worksafe!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Mystery Boy

One of the nice things about old photos is the alleyways they can lead you down. I thought this was a lovely image and on the back is written "George Ivan Wiehe. January 1906". My own family history has been done fairly comprehensively by my aunt but I maintain a subscription to Ancestry.co.uk precisely for moments like this when I feel I want to know more about someone. Granted, its more usually someone involved in an obscure branch of Victorian literature. In this instance we don't learn a great deal but we can know that the 13 year old boy in this picture fought through the First World War in France as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Durham Light Infantry and that he survived to be married to a Ruth Kennedy in the 1920s. I also know, from the context in which the photo was acquired that he must be some relation to the minor Edwardian actress Miss Dagmar Wiehe who married the man who would become Brigadier Finch-Hatton: although I haven't yet worked out the exact relationship to our boy here.

There's absolutely no reason at all for me to have done all this research. I will no doubt sell the above photo sometime soon and someone will buy it because, like me, they think it's a good photo and knowing the background and context won't raise the value one jot... but it's fun to do!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Cecil Court

My recent post about the copies of Alec Clunes's book catalogues that I had, sparked a communication with a lovely chap called Tim Bryars who runs a bookshop in Cecil Court where Alec Clunes was based for a while. If you are not from these parts then you should know that Cecil Court is a small, pedestrianised road just off Charing Cross Road in London. It's possible, given the current cull of shops on Charing Cross Road that there are now more bookshops in Cecil Court but I haven't done the maths. Tim, as well as a thousand other things, runs a website about the history and present of Cecil Court and if you ever need to feel positive about the state of the bookshop in the UK in these difficult times, it's a perfect place to visit: a really great example of the book trade promoting itself in the best way.

Friday, October 02, 2009

1950s Pop Up Wonders

I have something of a weakness for the design of the 1940s and 50s so imagine my delight when I pulled this from a box of otherwise disappointing books bought today at auction. A pop-up book called How We Travel. How brilliant is the optimisim of including a page on rocket ships?
Given the compass design on the back cover I was wondering if this book had some affiliation with the Festival of Britain which I think used a very similar design. And whilst I was poking around the Internet for some kind of answer I came across this amazing design for a poster in the London Transport Museum, what a shame though, that they can't provide a bigger image.

Sholto O. G. Douglas

Ungodly Jingles
by Sholto O. G. Douglas
Elkin Matthews, London, 1923.
This is a first edition, recently acquired, of a rather odd book which consists mainly of atheist verse. As you might imagine, this particular niche in the poetry world doesn't necessarily draw the nimblest of wordsmiths and I think it's fair to say that Douglas's title aptly sums up the verse in a slightly unwitting way. Douglas was one of Rolfe's collaborators and, among other things, it was Douglas's translations of the Greek Anthology which Rolfe took and 'worked over' into The Songs of Meleagre. Douglas is immortalised in Rolfe's novel Nicholas Crabbe and for a time their relationship was creative and intense: until the inevitable falling out. Only one of these poems, a paeon to the beauty of youth titled, 'Virginity' might be said to be verging on the Uranian but I enjoy having these items anyway which relate to Rolfe more tangentially.
I was particularly pleased with this copy not only because I bought it for less than half its lowest price on Abebooks, not just because the condition is impeccable but mainly because it has a nice piece of bookish ephemera laid in: a letter from A W Evans, one of the Elkin Matthews's directors presenting the book to the American critic William Archer and on Elkin Matthews headed paper.
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