Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Man With Sword

Well, this sexy swordsman arrived in the mail this morning but I feel I have to dedicate this post to the man who has led the way on the blogging of men with swords... Mr John Coulthart...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Monograms and Dead Hobbies

Well, this is a hobby which must be well and truly dead by now surely. These are two pages from an album containing a huge collection of crests and monograms that I bought recently. The idea was that, by hook or by crook, you obtained letters from various institutions and personages and since they all had embossed crests or monograms on their stationary, you snipped it off and stuck it in an album. Almost impossible now of course. There are still people who collect collections(!) of this stuff and my album, I'm sure will find a home, particularly as the crests are nicely categorised into 'schools and colleges', 'army and navy', 'barons', 'earls', 'the royal family' and so on... but I think, personally, its the monograms that are the most attractive and interesting, not least because they too represent a more or less dead art. I know there are calligraphers out there who would be delighted to be asked to design monograms but I can't imagine its a craft to keep you in bread and marmalade these days...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lehnert & Landrock Joy

I know, I know, it's a trifle unusual to see images of pretty young women on this blog! However, regular readers might remember that R and I are collectors of postcards and other images by the German duo Lehnert & Landrock, a couple of enterprising guys who packed up their cameras at the turn of the nineteenth century and headed of the the Middle East and North Africa to start taking photos of the people and the places. We were at a local postcard and ephemera fair today and usually, we don't expect great things from local fairs in terms of Lehnert & Landrock because it tends to be the same dealers that one see every time and we have pretty much cleared them out of these cards. But something changed today and we struck a particularly rich seam, pulling over 30 cards out of the boxes in the course of about an hour, of which these are some of the most colourful...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Today's Vintage Swimwear

It's always a good morning when three handsome guys like these turn up on the doorstep!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Unusual Beardsley

If, like me, you've been wondering what to do with that spare 10-15,000 GBP that's been burning a hole in your pocket recently then you might consider popping into Christie's London on December 15th. It's there that you'll find this charcoal drawing by Aubrey Beardsley of... Aubrey Beardsley. Unfortunately, the online catalogue gives no details of provenance, one can only assume that somewhere like Christies will have done their research and that their experts will be convinced that it is what they say it is...

Quite an unusual image of AB nonetheless. Clearly he is younger (in a life where he was only ever young) than in most photographic representations we have. He looks to be little more than a boy here, and I suppose that might explain also the style. He seems, even so, to have depicted himself as having somewhat finer features than we are used to from photos of him even just a little later in his short life.


It's been another Sunday afternoon in front of my computer, cataloguing, catching up on emails and so on. Also, I've been leafing through some Edwardian copies of The London Magazine, which is a new one to me. Every month they had a fairy story for children which was, very often, illustrated by Charles Robinson. Usually these were small black line drawings and signed. Then, suddenly, in the one month where the illustrator isn't identified, this full-page riot of black and white is unleashed. Could be Charles Robinson, but isn't signed not attributed.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

From a box of old photographs, most likely taken in Sierra Leone in the 1920s I thought this photo was quite remarkable for the silent narratives that could be woven into it. Plus, what's not to like about a family so inordinately proud of their palm nuts that they want to show them to the camera!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Macabre Imagination

Sometimes when I'm at an auction I will come across the relics of someone's career as an art student or amateur artist and if their work takes my fancy I've been known to have a bid in order to sell off the better pieces individually. I like the way that this gives artwork which may well have been lying in an attic for sixty years, never looked at since art school in the 1940s, a new life. I don't make any great claims for the quality of this kind of material but I do find it interesting. So, it's become something of a recurring theme that, within the otherwise completely conventional work of a young woman in the 40s or 50s I am usually assured of finding at least one item where the slightly darker side of their imagination has been let loose. This latest lot has been something of a goldmine in that respect. Among what must be some 200 pieces ranging from pencil sketches to finished paintings, including the usual botanical watercolours, pencil life studies of big bottomed women, exercises in illustration and lettering and so on... are these four: a demon in a Victorian dress, a seedy looking gentleman with a third eye, a sickly-looking woman in yellow and a quick sketch of bodies hanging from a gallows. All most peculiar and perhaps just a little bit telling of the suppressed strains of wartime.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Ones That Got Away

I would hate y'all to think that I have been lax in my duty whilst away...! The book above, I found in a small but perfectly formed bookshop amongst the tiny cobbled streets of Robin Hood's Bay: a 1950s London guide which I bought, obviously, for the graphic cover and pretty much no other reason. But the ones that got away this week... well, below is a photo taken through a shop window  - a CLOSED shop's window - actually an antique shop rather than a bookshop but that small display in the window caught my attention immediately, £3.50 each!! and a large selection inside!! twice I went back to see if the shop was open but to no avail. I shall have to leave here the tantalising thought that there must be profit to be had in this shop and leave it to someone who actually lives close enough to find the shop open...

Gothic Gorgeousness

When in Whitby, of course, you have to have a little bit of Gothic atmosphere but this afternoon, wandering around Whitby Abbey in the fog we could have been in the very depths of Bram Stoker's novel. Of course, there will be more of Dracula and Stoker once I get back home and am able to share in a slightly more detailed way but can you almost imagine, looking at the pictures above (click for enlargement as always) the dark shape of a black dog-like creature that leaped from the bow of the ship that Stoker wrecked against Whitby's piers, a ship which, on later inspection, appears to be completely crewless...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ravines and Film Sets

Today has been a day of unexpectedly intense exercise. What began as a walk in the North Yorkshire Moors, to track down another waterfall (Mallyan Spout), which we did and very pretty it was too, turned into something more than a walk... hours of trekking through woodland, much of it alongside the North York Moors Railway, stopping every now and again as one of the huge steam engines thundered past, and then finding ourselves on a sheep path rather than an officially sanctioned footpath, which was pretty enough so long as it stayed next to the small beck we had been following, but which then turned almost vertically up a steep ravine and the next half-hour it was hands and feet and knees and mud and slipping... the kind of thing that nearly kills you at the time but afterwards feels like an achievement.

... and the reward was arriving in Goathland station which is brilliant for a Harry Potter fan like me as it turns out I was walking on one of the sets of the films. This station, which has been frozen in time since the 1860s was used as the set of Hogsmeade Station in a number of the films. The photo at the bottom shows the bridge on which I was standing to take the picture below. Kewl eh? :-)

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Walk to Falling Foss

The November fogs cleared just a little yesterday to reveal a beautifully autumnal Yorkshire and we took on a short walk along the valley of the Little Beck river, a tributary of the Esk, to find the Falling Foss waterfall. However, when M and I go away we seem to have developed a tradition for finding odd and/or ruined buildings in isolated places, and half-way up the valley on the way to the waterfall we came to this fantastic folly, carved from a single boulder and with the initials GC 1790 above the door: "The Hermitage" is carved on the side of the single-room rock. There's nothing much on the Internet to tells us any more but it does seem that we missed a bit of a trick and that on top of hermitage are two wishing chairs, also carved from the rock, one to sit in and make the wish, the second to sit in so that the wish comes true...

Fred Holland Day and Maynard White

I was searching for something else in the amazing archive which is the Library of Congress Image Library when I came across these two photos. The Library has quite a collection of work by and about the photographer Fred Holland Day and that's him, the older one, in the top photo. The young man he is gazing at is Maynard White, the son of the artist Clarence White. Day used all of White's sons as his models from time to time but Maynard was clearly his favourite and they became life-long friends. These photos were taken at the summer chalet in Maine where Day and the White family, and hordes of others it seems, went to retreat into a more relaxed and 'artistic' lifestyle. The Library of Congress has a number of photos of Maynard by Day which haven't been digitised, and it is possible to identify Maynard White as the model in a number of Day's more famous smokey black and white nude images but these I really liked for their evocative nature: very Brideshead, very Maurice...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Robin Hood's Bay

We are staying about a 20 minute walk up the hill from the famous Robin Hood's Bay on the East coast of Yorkshire, in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. The weather thus far has been grey and overcast and a little blustery - exactly the kind of bleakness we come away in search of. This was the view yesterday, south along RHB. Pretty much the whole of Whitby and the village of Robin Hood's Bay is closed for the winter but we're enjoying the quiet desolation. The weather seems set to get a little better in the next couple of days and, indeed, there was enough blue sky by the end of this afternoon, to make a sailor a pair of trousers.

Vintage Driving

As I'm off on my travels at the moment I thought these great graphics from the 1920/30s might be appropriate. These are two pamphlets, shown front and back, extolling the virtues of membership of the AA (Automobile Association) and RAC (Royal Automobile Club)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


Arrived yesterday in a bleak-looking Whitby on the East coast of Yorkshire, pressed low under a thick layer of white-grey cloud and buffeted by a cool wind off the North Sea. Suffering from sleep deprivation, having had only three and half hours sleep the night before and then driven for six hours to get here, leaving at 6.30 in the morning, we spent a bleary-eyed hour or so wandering around the town, getting our bearings. We were surprised, as we strolled out onto Whitby's famous piers, to be suddenly surrounded by a mob of enormous seagulls mobbing, in broad daylight, a large owl. The chase wheeled over the piers and then went upwards, up and up over the headland until it was impossible to distinguish which of the tumbling black dots in the sky was the owl and which its vicious pursuers. A strange omen perhaps for the beginning of our stay here. The town is also still full of goths from the WGW (Whitby Gothic Weekend) which was this one just passed. Presumably the reason that most of the goths left behind look fairly middle-aged is because they are the ones whose alternative lifestyle leaves them enough leisure and spare cash to stay past the end of the weekend. There are some great costumes on display!

Actually, my best friend and I are staying for this week not in Whitby, but in the nearby village of Fylingthorpe, just a short walk from Robin Hood's Bay. One of our occasional trips away together to retreat, recuperate, rest and revive...

Coronation Map

There's nothing I love more than a good vintage map and out of a box of old Ward Lock Guides and Baedekers the other day fell a handful of old tram, bus and underground maps from London Transport in the 1930s. Some of these have a little value behind them but the one I liked best, just for the sheer exuberance of its design, isn't worth a great deal but it does looks fab. This is the map put out by London Transport so show its arrangements for Coronation Day in 1937.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Say Cheese

When the auctioneer announced an 'album of cheese labels', could I really have been expected not to put my hand in the air. So I am now the proud owner of an old school exercise book displaying someone's neatly numbered collection of over 200 cheese labels, each one tipped in with those little gummed tabs that stamp collectors used to use. I like to think my love of vintage graphics knows no bounds and I hope this little purchase has gone someway to confirming that!

It was only after a little while looking through the album that, tucked into an envelope on the inside of the cover I found the little slip below... a shameless piece of marketing... but one that any 'collector' will recognise immediately, and then resign themselves to being taken in by... Fromologist! Honestly!

Vintage Photos

It's been a busy week here at Callum James Heights and I should have some interesting bits and pieces to blog about in the next little while but, for now, as its late and I should be in bed, just a couple of vintage photos that arrived recently...

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Bookplate Society: Gleeson White and the Ex Libris Bookplate

The Bookplate Society has just published an edition of its Journal dedicated to the work of Gleeson White on the Ex Libris bookplate. A significant chunk of the 72 page, perfect-bound publication is devoted to reprinting the special Winter-Number of The Studio 1989-9, written by Gleeson White on British bookplate designers. This reprint includes all the original illustrations but there is also supplementary material on Gleeson White's life and career, a section of bookplates by artists mentioned but not illustrated in the original Winter-Number, and a section illustrating bookplates by and for Gleeson White himself.

This publication was originally slated for the March 2009 edition of the Journal but due to unforeseen circumstances, publication was delayed until now.

We're delighted to say that we at Callum James Books can offer copies of this publication for 14.00GBP plus postage (UK - 1.50GBP; EU - 3.20GBP; Rest of the World - 5.40GBP). Payment can be made through Paypal (you do not have to be a member of Paypal to make Credit/Debit card payments) or by sterling cheque or money order: please email for details.

Whenever I have mentioned Gleeson White here before it has become a commonplace to rue the lack of attention he has received for his contribution to the art and design world so it's great to see this begin to be addressed by a publication such as this.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Corvo at Bonhams

I'm very grateful to all those who have pointed out the two lots in Bonhams 22nd November sale which related to Corvo and I thought, what better place to pass on the information but here. The auction is from the stock of Michael Silverman, one of the most respected dealers in autograph material and manuscripts, who died in May. These two lots are both of exceptional interest, although the second, with its provenance being traced through A J A Symons and Maundy Gregory, two of the greatest of all early Corvines, is probably the more desirable of the two. The Holywell letter has an academic interest as there is a period of a month or two before the moment when Rolfe rocked up in the Workhouse, when it is not clear what was going on in his life, and this letter adds just a little bit to our appreciation of his biography at that point.

The first lot is catalogued as:

Lot No: 150
Autograph letter signed ("Frederick William Rolfe"), to the Rev W.E. Scott-Hall, pleading desperately for his help, written on small irregular sheets of paper ("...You must excuse the scraps of paper on which I write. I have no other. Nor a stamp. I am completely stranded for the time..."), with autograph envelope (unstamped but postmarked) addressed to "The Rev W.E. Scott-Hall/ Staverton Fields/ Oxford", 3 pages, spindle-hole through letter and envelope where originally filed, a few very slight fox-marks but overall in fine and fresh condition, oblong (irregular) 8vo, Hotel Victoria, Holywell, 31 December 1898

Footnote:'ALONE, NAKED, AND WITHOUT A FRIEND': a last desperate plea from Frederick Rolfe, 'Baron Corvo', before entering the workhouse. Corvo had arrived at Holywell, near Chester, in 1895. Here he had painted a series of sacred banners for the local church, under the aegis of Fr Charles Beauclerk, a Jesuit priest who was trying to turn St Holywell into the 'Welsh Lourdes'. However in November 1898 a series of articles appeared in the Aberdeen Evening Gazette vilifying him and his murky past, which were reprinted in the Catholic Times and distributed throughout the country. For this, Corvo held Fr Charles responsible. On 9 January 1899 a destitute Corvo entered the Holywell Workhouse: 'He was broken in spirit and numbed in mind and body. The workhouse was the acme of his pain' (Miriam J. Benkovitz, Frederick Rolfe: Baron Corvo, 1977, p. 103).

Just before entering, he wrote this letter, by way of final appeal; although Corvo's invitation to join his feud at the end of the letter may not have appealed greatly to Scott-Hall (indeed most offers of help ended in the hand being bitten, as Fr Charles could have testified): "I am paralysed for the moment and my perceptions have been dulled by this long-enduring agony... I would gladly come to you if you will not be ashamed of my horrible appearance. I am clean, although in rags. I have not the smallest idea of your position or of the kind of establishment you keep. It maybe that you would not care to take the trouble; but I remember well what kind of man you used to be; and that is why, in my dire necessity I have asked you to be a friend to me now. The best thing I can do is to put myself in your hands... Something must be done, immediately: for, at any moment I may be without a roof to cover me. The most direct way would be for you to bring me to Oxford for a few days... Yes. I have always heard that England is a free country, and I never would have believed that a Jesuit could succeed in taking away an Englishman's liberty. Yet that is precisely what my persecutor is doing. Actually he menaces my life as well as my liberty. When he cursed me, he swore to ruin me, to make me suffer, to prevent me from ever earning a living, and to have me hounded out of the town. And he is doing that exactly. What can I do, alone, naked, and without a friend, against that? Yet, at the present moment I can expose and crush him, (I speak seriously,) if only I can have your help... I am in your hands".

Estimate: £1,000 - 1,500, € 1,200 - 1,700

The Second Lot:

Lot No: 151•
Autograph manuscript of part of his Venetian tale "Cascading into the Canal/ by / Frederick of Venice'', comprising four leaves (of eight), including the first and last, the first bearing the title "Cascading into the Canal/ by/ Frederick of Venice" with in the top left-hand corner his return address "From Mr Rolfe/ Palazzo Mocenigo Corner/ Campo San Polo, Venezia", dated in another hand in pencil, 1 October 1909; bound with a preliminary leaf inscribed by A.J.A. Symons: "Baron Corvo/ Original Manuscript of/ Cascading into the Canal" and by him in pencil: "Sheets 1, 3, 6 & 8 only", 4 leaves of ruled paper written on one side only, mounted on stubs and sewn into linen-backed decorative paper wrappers (probably by the Curwen Press, c.1930), with preliminary leaf of ruled paper inscribed by Symons, bookplate of J. Maundy-Gregory, folio, Venice, 1 October 1909

Footnote:'MY SPARE SANDALS (POMPEIAN PATTERN, VERMILLION)': part of a Venetian tale by Baron Corvo, bound and annotated by A.J.A. Symons, author of The Quest for Corvo, for Lloyd George's notorious honours broker, Maundy Gregory (for whose own part in the tale of how Symons uncovered the facts of Corvo's life and his improbable passion for collection Corvine rarities, see Chapter XX, 'The End of the Quest' of The Quest). The story was published as 'On Cascading into the Canal' in Blackwood's Magazine for July 1913; and in this form was reprinted in Three Tales of Venice (1950) by the Corvine Press, a copy of which is included in the lot (Woolf A11; no. 78 of 140 copies).

The manuscript paints a mockingly bizarre self-portrait of its author and his life in Venice, recounting not only his own accidents ("....I was splendidly retrieved from the flood, & set on foot in my own boat, still immutably solemn, though weeping water in streams from every fold of my habiliments. I slowly wiped my eyeglass on the cushions & stuck it in its place...") but those that happened to others, such as an English artist friend whom he was serving as gondolier: "with puffed cheeks, shut eyes, & a meek splosh, my master cascaded into the canal... A barcheta, rowed by friars minor from San Francesco in Deserto, went by with solemn & most unfranciscan disgust. Blessed Father Francis would have joined in our merriment: they did not even proffer Extreme Unction. Insued a most astounding toilette. I hanged my paron's wet garments on my lofty forcola to drain; & lent him my spare sweater (fearfully & wonderfully decolletè it was), & my spare sandals (Pompeian pattern, vermillion), & my white linen hat in place of which I wound a white silk neck-square round my head, making myself look like an erudite but honest Jesuit posing as one of Brangwyn's brigands, so my master declared... And, in this garb, he demanded his tea Рa hilarious meal consisting of cucumber & egg sandwiches, with a red wine & cigarettes; &, afterward, we turned & went back with the tide, passing through the small canals which extend inward from Rio dei Mendicante was a voyage richly pimpled all over with chuckles on the part of both of us. I know that we presented an exposition as startling as a carnival: but the dear Venetians understand that the English (though quite admirable) are stark mad, & the spectacle of one in two coats, a low-necked sweater, vermillion sandals, & a white hat, & of another coifed like a pirate & doing gondogliere, simply struck them speechless. No one even spat over a bridge on us. No one even tittered when we reached the palace, & my paron had to skip pink-leggily over a barge of ice-blocks which was moored to his own watergate". See illustration on preceding page.

Estimate: £2,000 - 3,000, € 2,300 - 3,500

Such interesting Corvine autograph items don't often come up for sale and it will be interesting to see how they go on this occasion.

Who links to my website?