Sunday, February 27, 2011


This is the life of a bookdealer... at the bottom of every box, the scraps that promise what might have been. This little pile of brown pieces of paper were at the bottom of a box of booksellers' catalogues... One can't help imagine what it would have been like if they had all been complete and good copies instead of single sheets or runs of a few pages.

The single page of How To Make Money would have been interesting, had it appeared complete, but ironically unprofitable. The Annals of Sporting and Fancy Gazette however, would have been a little nicer - maybe £100 if in good condition - a shame here is only a couple of what look like half-title pages. The single pages from what I assume was once a Lives of the Roman Emperors is nice, with its copper engraving of Caligula but remains a single sheet. Then there's pages 1-64 of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass: it's not possible for me to say from what I have but let's be gloomy and imagine it might once have been an 1872 first edition in which case the list price would be £350.

But the coup de grace has to be the prelims, title, and pages i-x of Popular German Stories... collected by M. M. Grimm. This is, or rather was, the first English edition of Grimm's fairy stories, published by C Baldwyn in London in 1823 and, had it been complete in two volumes would have been priced up, at the very least, at a couple or three thousand pounds!

Ah well...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Male Nudes: A 1930s Model

For some time I've had a huge pile of drawings and paintings by an art student called Barbara Long from the late 1930s and early 1940s - the war years basically. Many of them are life studies, many men in loin cloths and buxom 1940s women with hour-glass figures. I pulled these studies out recently and couldn't help but wonder about the model - cute as he obviously was - what became of him? who was he? did he go to war? did he come back?
A quick thank you to John Coulthart for some fascinating information about an artist in my previous post about images I found in a Finnish nudism book... and to MatthewH for taking the trouble to make an note for me of the artists behind two sculptures that I blogged recently from a trip to the V&A. Thank you both!

It Gets Better: Gay Mens' Chorus of LA

I suppose we've all seen our share of the "It Gets Better" videos on Youtube and they are all moving and important pieces of tesimony but this one really stood out to me. Well, when I say 'stood out' obviously I mean, 'had the tears rolling down my face'. It's not the only 'It Get's Better' video to have that effect on me by a long way, but it is certainly one of the most beautiful. So, hankies at the ready...

Retro Television

I think, in a different life, if I had the ability to run more businesses than any one person is capable of, I think I would be the proud owner of a shop called Retro-Graphics (you see what I did there!?) I just love this kind of stuff. Even if you don't know your RF 26 Band III Converter from your Quad Ariel and your Valve-Voltmeter, you can't help but love the colour and look of things like this... from a time when your average Joe could open up the back of their TV and fiddle around in it like a car engine, or even, build their own from scratch.


An Internet find this one, a book in Finnish, published in 1907. The wonderful world of Internet translation services enables me to know the title ALASTOMUUS means 'Nudity' but beyond that I gave up. A very eclectic mix of illustrations in this book from b/w photos of buxom women, to b/w photos of loin-clothed males disporting themselves in the open air, to pictures of statues and, in the mix these rather good-looking (I thought) b/w line illustrations.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bookbinding: Return to Gavin Dovey

Back in 2009 I discovered the blog of Paper Dragon Books, a bookbindery, now in Brooklyn NY, run by Gavin Dovey. Every now and again I go back to the blog and marvel at the astonishing designer bookbinding that he's doing. The "Box Challenge" continues... Gavin says on the blog that he's been averaging one of these boxs every 6 days for four years! As I remarked before, they must house one of the finest collections of modern first editions in the world as each one would appear to be a standout title. (In a little twist of the world's sense of connectedness, Gavin informed me, after my first blog post, that he in fact went to school here in Portsmouth.)

Once Upon a Title: Harry Potter

I found this blog a little while ago and loved it. It bills itself as 'pervy little stories' made up entirely of children's book titles - it's nowhere near as risque as that sound, in fact it's rather funny in a charming kind of way, which I hope is evident from the example above. There haven't been any posts for a little while now so here's hoping it's just a brief hiatus.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

More Pall Mall Illustrations

This 1894 volume of the Pall Mall Magazine is a real treasure-trove of little bits and pieces - if you exclude the long article on "Giraffes, and How To Capture Them" (I kid you not!). These three illustrations all caught my eye among others. I can't identify either of the two with monograms and the larger one doesn't appear to be signed at all but they all have a certain fin-de-siecle-something...

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Not Patterned Paper

Given my fascination with pattern, obviously I was going to be drawn to this tiled Italian floor which has been relayed in a small section in the V&A. Dating to around 1520 it's pattern is just mesmerising and reminds me very much not just of patterned papers I would like to see but also of quilting.

Two Beautiful Sculptures

I'm afraid I failed dismally here. I am so used to the idea that the V&A's online catalogue is so good that, instead of taking photos of the labelling so I would be able to identify my photos afterward, I assumed I would be able to find these and get their details from the catalogue. I was wrong. All I can tell you therefore is that here are and young St John the Baptist and a statue of two young men wrestling, both from the exsquisite sculpture gallery in the V&A.

Given the subject matter, I thought the camera flare from the glass case around St John seemed somehow appropriate and so I left it in...

The V & A

Neither R nor I had been to the V&A for years, possibly for both of us we were students in London the last time we went. So rediscovering it the other day was brilliant. R, of course, was in his element in the vast ceramics galleries on the top floor and we both couldn't quite believe the huge array of treasures. This photo is the somewhat atmospheric piece of glass sculpture that hangs above the reception desk in the centre of the main foyer.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Pall Mall Capitals

We were, yesterday, in London at the Works on Paper exhibition at the Science Museum and then for a troll around the V&A which turned out to be an unexpected highlight of the year so far... more of that later I'm sure. However, for now, I found these illustrated capitals in Vol II (1893-1894) of The Pall Mall Magazine. I can't make out any of the monograms where they have them but I thought they were fun...

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Vintage Swim: Mudlarks

One of my regular vintage swimming posts but this time you get a little social history too. These are 'mudlarks' in a photo taken on The Hard at Portsea in the late 1930s. The term mudlark, I think, originated on The Thames and referred (and in some circumstances still does) to people scratching things from the mud on the banks of the Thames at low tide. Originally, these were the poorest of the poor but nowadays it's more a matter of people digging up Roman coins and so on...

In Portsmouth, mudlarking is a long tradition involving the boys of Portsea wading into the mud off The Hard, where HMS Warrior 1860 is now moored, and entreating the ladies and gentlemen on passing ships to throw coins which they would they retrieve. It's common enough in Portsmouth to meet people who claim to have been mudlarks: in fact, so common that one wonders if perhaps memories haven't been a little coloured over time. In particular, I've heard at least two local politicians add mudlarking into their supposed biography - it's a way of saying you belong I suppose. Nowadays you'd die a foul death of blood poisoning from the scratches you would sustain from old bikes and shopping trolleys, or you'd get mown down by continental ferries and naval aircraft carriers, or you'd get pulled out to sea in an extremely strong current... all-in-all, not to be advised really and, in fact, I think it is now illegal to swim in that area at all.

A Book of Fabulous Beasts

A Book of Fabulous Beasts: Old Stories Retold
by A. M. Smyth
Oxford University Press, London, 1946 (second impression)
The first fabulous thing about this book is the patterned paper used for the jacket and boards (top) the second fabulous thing is the design of the endpapers - have you ever seen endpapers decorated with repeating dragons before? And then, of course, there's the woodblock illustrations of the fabulous beasts themselves by Dorothy Fitch who, as far as I can tell only illustrated a couple of other books. There's another fabulous thing too... this is not an expensive book!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Manicule Lover

Regular readers will know that I have something of a 'thing' for manicules... those quirky-looking printers' ornaments in the shape of pointing hands. You can see earlier examples on this blog HERE. So, when the lovely Jacqui was in touch about a post on this blog and then directed me to her two wonderful blogs about Letterpress printing


I was extra-specially delighted to be able to add her current top post to my list of interesting uses of the manicule! xx

Before the Storm

All day today I've been sitting in front of this screen working whilst, outside, the house is lashed by rain and wind - it sounds grim - but I haven't been out in it today. This picture was yesterday, taken at one of my favourite places in the whole world, the beach at the Eastern end of Southsea.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Religious Ephemera

As consolation for an otherwise uninteresting trip to an antiques fair the other week I picked up these two carte-de-visites photos. Ever since I published, The Romance of a Choir Boy by John Gambril Nicholson, for which I had to search high and low for an appropriate vintage cover image, I have kept on keeping an eye out. These two I thought were particularly interesting for the amount of lace on the bottom of those cottas, which would indicate somewhere fairly catholic or high-church Anglican, and then the mortar boards they are holding too - seemed an odd combination. The top image liked for the very modern sounding religious wishes written in holograph on the bottom "Yours in Jesus" - unsual.

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