Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Westermans

Although this blog doesn't have a hundred comments on each post, I'm always amazed by the number of fascinating people and stories it brings my way, most often by a steady stream of emails. I posted recently about Percy F Westerman and shortly afterwards a charming gentleman directed me to his blog and his campaign to have both Percy and his son, John restored to the first rank of boys' fiction. It's a very nicely arrange blog with lots of information and worth a visit.

Those Vintage Men Again

A little while ago I commented on the blog about how old photos of men - particularly CDVs and Cabinet Cards - are completely uncommercial prospects. This brought a number of comments including from one chap who said he started a collection simply for that very reason.

The saleability of cabinet cards of all types has plummeted in the last couple of years. It used to be that almost any Victorian/Edwardian photo showing a reasonable piece of women's fashion would be snapped up. Now, collectors appear to be much more cautious and picky, homing in on the very best examples only.

Another response to the vintage men post came from a friend and customer in the Netherlands who generously sent me the above. It's a delightful photograph of a winsome young man. The decoration is very deco and I think possibly hand drawn. The photographer was in Detroit and the pen inscription says 'To a swell guy, Ray Trus' presumably this is Ray in the picture and he is sending his photo to a friend - a graduation picture has been suggested. It's a measure though of how little pieces like this are currently valued that my friend received because it was being used as packaging for something he had ordered from a bookdealer!

I can't promise to be able to do anything much with him, but he will have a happy home here at least.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

1000th Post

I feel as though I ought to make a little speech - but I'm not going to. I can think of nothing particularly sage to say on the nature of blogging to mark this milestone. Certainly this blog, and indeed the nature of blogging itself has changed considerably since I started. This blog has had prolific patches and slow stretches but the man in the machine tells me this is 1000.

Perhaps I shall think on't and have more to say when the blog's 5th birthday comes around later this year. For now... simply onwards...

John Addington Symonds's Oxford Notes

This slightly tatty-looking copy of Mark Pattison's Memoirs (Macmillan, London, 1885) hides a wonderful secret inside the front cover. On the front pastedown, there is the bookplates of the father of all queer letters, John Addington-Symonds.
Pattison was the Rector of Lincoln College in Oxford and these are quintessentially Oxford memoirs. They describe in great detail Pattison's religious life and, in particular his relationships with Pusey and Newman at the intense height of the tractarian movement. The Memoir is rather sad in tone and extremely introspective but what is particularlly nice in this copy is that Symonds has made his own marginal notes - sometimes at length. Sometimes they are comments about Hegel and german philosophy, more often they are little remarks about people or practices which Pattison mentions that Symonds was also familiar with. I haven't read them all yet but tantalisingly, Symonds's comment alongside a mention of his old headmaster, Vaughan, has been rubbed out. I'm just hoping that in the right light I might be able to get a few words of it but haven't managed yet. Vaughan lost his job because a young Symonds discovered his relationship with another pupil and brought the matter to his father's attention. It would be interesting therefore to read what the adult Symonds wrote as a note alongside Vaughan's name.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Percy F Westerman

In the 'ripping yarns for boys' market, Percy F. Westerman is not a name which is now as well known as it should be: he is no Henty, Fenn or Haggard. In fact, I confess, before I was asked to look through another dead man's books recently his was not a name which would have been on any list I was compiling from memory. However, one of the great things about this business is that you never know what author is going to knock next on your door. This small collection of his books came from a recent purchase so I thought I had better find out a little about him. And was subsequently astonished...

Firstly I was astonished by his output. When I did some work on the Victorian novelist Richard Marsh recently, I thought that his about 80 novels put him in the category 'prolific' but even he fades to insignificance next to Westerman's 174 novels! All of them were boys stories, many about the sea and about scouting and consequently a lot about Sea Scouting! In the 1930s, he was possibly the most famous boys' author working.

Secondly I was astonished because he was a Portsmouth man. Not for all of his life but for the first 35 years he lived and worked here. Portsmouth has for the last few years been trying to play up its literary associations with figures like Dickens, Conan Doyle, Walter Besant, Neville Shute and so on... remarkable then that I never heard a single mention of Percy F Westerman who wrote probably more books than all of the above together.

Great books to look at too. The whole decorated boards thing was still just going in the first quarter of the 20th century and some of these, although often worn on the spine have some great, dramatic illustrations on the boards.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Ryan McGinley Photo

Not a vintage photo but one which has captivated me recently. From my interest in Equus, often and ardently displayed on this blog, you might have guessed that I have real passion for what you might call 'the boy and beast' genre. You might not have known though that I'm also a big fan of Ryan McGinley's photos. Oh, to be able to afford an honest to goodness actual print... anyway...

This was something I came across on the internet, I'm sorry I don't remember now where. I think it's a near perfect picture. The choice of the boy and cat is inspired. They compliment each other. The fact that the cat is straining fowards against it's leash and even appears to be swiping at the viewer gives real drama to the image. At the same time, the cat is an extension of the boy's physicality, not too big and powerful but lean and agile looking. Dangerous but not overpowering or forceful. Together they represent that tension in late adolescence between explosion and restraint, the boy looks like he is only just holding onto this force that's about to spring away from him. I even like the fact that boy is a bit grubby round the edges, like the two of them have been running feral for hours.

Strange how, from time to time, an image captures the imagination and holds it.
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