Thursday, May 31, 2012

More Devils in the Ex-Libris...

I am grateful to Lew of the ever-excellent Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie, whose blog I pillaged recently for a post on the devil in bookplates, for sending over a couple of additions. Like Lew, I particularly like the humour of the Lucy Mathias plate below.

Thank you also to J for the interesting comment on the original post about Dennis Wheatley's Corvine holdings!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fly Vintage-Swimwear-Boy Fly!

It's great when a vintage photo has a handsome young man in it, and I think that's got to be true of all these fine fellows, but when it's also just a great photo that brings a smile to your face like the one at the top of this post, well, that's just a plesant bonus!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jacques d'Adelswärd Fersen : A Catalogue

You know how I can't resist a catalogue...

The brilliant libraires associés in Paris has just published the catalogue of an amazing collection of books by and about Jacques d'Adelswärd Fersen the great French decadent. The collection is truely astonishing and must have taken a long time to put together. The catalogue also contains work by Essebac and Raffalovich as well as Sarah Bernhardt items and a good Wilde selection including some signed titles. All in all it's a very juicy catalogue and books it's bilingual so even if your French isn't up to much you can still get something out of it!

You can flick your way through the catalogue here

Monday, May 28, 2012

Keith Vaughan Covers

These are two recent acquisitions of covers by Keith Vaghan I have updated the original post on this subject with these scans and publication details.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

E F Benson's Daily Training

This is an absolute treasure. It is one of the things I came back from the Olympia Book Fair with and I believe it is quite a scarce thing dating from 1902. On one level it falls into the fairly common genre of books which present exercises for health and fitness and which begin in the late Victorian period possibly with people like Eugene Sandow. It is the author that makes this title stand out from the crowd: E. F. Benson. He is given as the co-author with Eustace H. Miles, a champion tennis player and sport-writer. As with most of this genre, it is illustrated with a series of photos of a nude man, suitably anonymised, although I think we may assume it isn't Benson himself, lunging, twisting arching and bending in a decorous manner.

It is quite clear from the introduction that this book is as much about mental health as it is about physical fitness. And, as was pointed out to me this is another element that makes this book interesting in particular. Benson's brother, Robert Hugh Benson, would nowadays almost certainly have been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder (aka Manic Depression) and it it clear now, and must also have been then even without a label to give to the problem, that exercise can be extremely helpful in the maintenance of a healthy mood: this is now accepted biochemistry. Is it possible that E. F. Benson's experience of watching his brother's travails is what brought him to be involved with a book that strives to provide a fit and healthy body explicitly to house a mind! We shall never know, but the speculation is fascinating.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

7th Birthday

This blog is seven years old today!

I won't be going off on one of those long posts in which people blog about blogging but I will just say that it has been an absolute delight writing this blog for the past seven years and I have lost count of the number of contacts, emails, new friends and customers it has brought my way so, thank you very much to all you who come to read these digital pages - about 300 of you every day - you are very welcome here and if I've made your acquaintance then I'm very glad, and if you have yet to make yourself known then, of course, we welcome you as a 'lurker' too, but do consider one day saying hi!

Printing at Olympia and St Brides

So many exciting and interesting things to share from the London International Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia this weekend, I don't quite know where to start. Thank you to the Old Stile Press for inviting me to come and be around their stand and thank you to all those who came up to say hello and made themselves known, it's always nice to be able to put a face to an email.

If you come here often you might remember that I blogged about a little wooden printing block I had bought for a few pounds in an antique centre locally. I took it with me to London as the Old Stile Press had very kindly offered to attempt to print it. But, as it turned out, just across from us in the 'ancillary exhibitors' section were the lovely, wildly enthusiastic, friendly, kind and generous people (above) from the St Bride Foundation, which is an amazing resource just off Fleet Street, a charitable foundation, that includes a 50,000 volume library on printing and typography and an educational resource about the history and practice of printing and book-making. They had with them an actual printing press and a proofing press, both of which they were using in a 'demonstration' fashion during the fair, there was also a 'have a go' table where you could try your hand at cutting a few lines in a wooden block. They were delightful people who very kindly offered to have a go at printing my block for me.

It was cleaned and proofed and adjusted and cleaned again in ways that defy imagining but we did have that moment of magic when the paper is peeled back and Lo! the image has arrived (below). And for a block which might last have been printed a hundred years ago or more it was in remarkable condition and, all agreed, a rather fine example. Thank you to all!

Of course, in my previous post on the subject I said I had sworn off buying the very common copper or zinc alloy printing plates you see all over the place but I was reminded at the fair that it might not be wise to overlook them all. John Lennon's first book, In His Own Right, was auctioned recently in Stockport with all the original printing plates for the rather quirky illustrations by John himself. At auction they raised nearly four and a half thousand pounds: if you wanted to buy them at Fair today where they have found their way onto a dealer's stand you would have pay a great deal more than that!

Friday, May 25, 2012


Have spent the day today at the Olympia International Antiquarian Book Fair, helping out on the stall of my friends at the Old Stile Press. Suffice to say there'll be loads of fun things to blog about from here in the days to come but tonight must be something of a teaser as, my bed is calling...

Vintage in Colour

Of course a vintage photograph doesn't have to be a black and white photograph. There are a growing number of colour photos in my collection and, like all the others, they ask questions to which we will most likely never have answers. Who was this thin young man with slightly red hair, a quiff and a peculiar beard and why was he prepared to pose in stretch underwear about the house to have his photo taken? More to the point I suppose is who was on the other side of the camera? we shall never know, I'm sure... but half the fun of these kinds of photos is the exercise of the imagination.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Two Dustjackets

So the dustjacket collection might now be getting out of hand... in the the hoo-ha about his photographs, people are prone to forgetting the Cecil Beaton was very much the all-round visual artist and he did a fair bit of jacket design and illustration for his own books and for others. This one (above) is a fairly typical example. The jacket below, for Frossia. A Novel of Russia is signed Elias. For the time being that's all I know but it did have that 'leap off the shelf' quality about it. Both were bought in a really enjoyable trip to a bookshop in Southampton where R and I were invited 'downstairs' into the bookseller's basement room to mooch through the unpriced stock that filled it to spilling point.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Devil's in the Ex Libris

There is a miscellaneous folder on my hard drive, I expect we all have them, where I download anything I like, but have nowhere else to put. Trawling through it a little while ago I came across the above image, a bookplate for Leopold A Chambliss by H. Hubert in 1928 with lines from the The Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France. I know this because I eventually tracked the image down to a very old post on the very brilliant 'Bookplate Junkie' blog. The original post presented a small selection of bookplates featuring the devil and you should go there to see them. I thought I would do a quick trawl of the Interweb and see what else I might discover and we have... of many bookplates found here by Czech artist and printmaker Josef Vachel (1884-1969) that feature the devil or demonic creatures...

...of course, a little obvious, but the master of romantic notions of Black Magic, Dennis Wheatley famously had himself pictured learning from the, well, perhaps the devil, actually looks more like Pan...

...This peculiar ex libris by an artist called Gendel of the devil sitting on a jet plane.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Vintage Swimwear: A Sea Pyramid

I was particularly chuffed with this one when it arrived as it was a bit of a gamble. Occasionally I think it is worth hunting through photographs on Ebay being sold in 'job lots'. It's a lot of work and sometimes there's no return but in this instance I'm well pleased indeed. I spotted this in amongst a selection of about 10 or so otherwise unremarkable photos and paid the princely sum of 1.40 for the lot.

I think the guy on the left is suffering from a glitch in the negative rather than an overabundance of bubble-gum in his mouth...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Brilliant Then and Now Photoset

This is one of those brilliant ideas that, the moment you see it, you wish you'd had it yourself. 'Then and Now' books of this town and that town are falling off the shelves of the bookshops but this is a very new and delightful take on the idea. A little like watching ghosts. Collector Giuseppe Savini has a whole set of these at his Flikr page. (Hat tip to the not-pornographic-but-not-safe-for-work, and equally brilliant Minus Everything Tumblr)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Psalms: Arthur Wragg

It's always dangerous to appear too definitive but it's probably safe to say that the two serious geniuses of the turn-of-the-19th-century in black and white illustration were Aubrey Beardsley and William Heath Robinson, and perhaps Harry Clarke... you see, already the definitiveness slips away! Anyhow, perhaps the one person who took on black and white in a genuinely original and genuinely genius kind of way in the inter-war period was Arthur Wragg (1903-1976). This is his first book (Selwyn & Blount, London, 1933) and it was like a clarion cry of a new 'black and white'. Clearly it stands in the tradition of the 1890s and of the emerging Socialist propagandist art but it is also clearly his own. A Christian Socialist, Wragg produced these images in ink, not as it sometimes thought, as woodcuts, and they don't so much leap from the page as carve their way deep into it. They are dread-ful, awe-ful, passionate and visionary and, although it might truthfully be said that they present a somewhat naive view of the interaction of religion and politics they are, I think, all the more affecting for that. I wish I could scan every last one of them and post them here but I can't: the book wouldn't stand the scanning but I urge you, if you have an ounce of interest in 20th century illustration to go out and buy the inexpensive books created by this undeservedly neglected master.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sokol, Slets and Postcards

Sokol, from the Czech word for Falcon, was a youth sport movement and gymnastics organisation that was founded in Czechoslovakia in the 1860s and flourished well into the early 20th Century. Its philosophy, over time, evolved into one which connected the healthy body with the health of mind and morals and it became connected to Czech nationalism and the Czech sense of national identity. The movement became a pan-slavic one and enormous gatherings called Slets were held where thousands of people from Sokols all over Eastern Europe and beyond gathered for mass gymnastic displays, lectures, and social joy. It was, in a way, a parallel phenomenon to the reinstitution of the modern Olympics.

Of course the movement produced its own mountain of paper ephemera and the style of much of it, by the time we enter the early 20th century has taken on that heroic, slightly 'soviet' looking approach to the handsome young men that all that gymnastics produced. There are, of course, photographs and photographic postcards of the Slets and the Sokols (which we may come back to on FFEP at some point) but the graphic art of the postcards that were produced to advertise and commemorate the Slets is very striking. By 1905 this somewhat naive and slightly propagandist 'look' was beginning to appear and all the images on this post are taken from the 1920s by which time the style had reached its height.

There is an exceptionally comprehensive website devoted to Slet postcards and it is well worth digging around in the archive there for some great images. Surprisingly perhaps these cards are still relatively affordable and begin at around the 5.00 GBP mark.

Since the 1990s there has been an attempt to revive the movement and, with a Slet in the year 2000 attracting 25,000 Sokols from around the world it could hardly be called a failure, but it it still a long way from the vast popular following it had in the pre-war period.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Wooden Printing Block

I can't resist printing blocks. This one I picked up in an antiques centre in Farnham in Hampshire a couple of weeks ago. I have now sworn off the usual wood mounted zinc alloy printing block you see loads of around the place, and I'm even off the wood-mounted copper printing blocks: the second most common kind to be found today. And I've never been all that attracted to the individual wooden block letters and numbers you see tumbling out of every antique dealer's backroom cupboard. But this one struck me as being a little unusual. It is clearly rather worn and I have no idea if it would print an acceptable image but it appears to be a mid-Victorian church and some kind of hall next door to it with figures in the street - and it is entirely carved from wood, in meticulous detail. It may never function again but just as an object I thought it was really rather special.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Theatre Programmes and Artwork

Theatre programmes are, on the whole, not worth huge sums of money. One or two will find a kind of collateral place in someone's collection. Out of these here, the only one with any independent value is A Streetcar Named Desire because of its association with Vivien Leigh, and even then it's only a matter of 15-20 GBP. But, having trawled through a huge pile of programmes today, I was intrigued a little by some of the artwork. Most basic 20th century West End theatre programmes don't have artwork at all as they were produced cheaply and sold for 6d. However, the 'Streetcar' artwork has a signature but I can't make out more than "Don...". These other two also I thought were nicely period pieces. The BBC programme has a border which, to me, is a little reminiscent of Ravillious and Barnett Freedman but is initialled T.L.P. The Royal Albert Hall programme from 1948 has a great design but is only signed 'Hans'. Any suggestions about who these artists might have been would be gratefully received in the comments section...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Smoking in Vintage Swimwear

Well, perhaps the smoking is a little frowned on now but, is it just me, or does the tall one seem particularly pleased with himself?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cards that Aren't Cigarette Cards

Okay, I don't know what came over me. I know... I swore I would never do it again... but I failed. In my defence, the auction I was at was hot and long and there was a long gap in between the lots I was actually interested in. So when the porter held aloft a metal biscuit tin and the auctioneer announced a large number of cigarette cards I wavered and my hand went up before my brain knew what was going on.

Hundreds upon hundreds of unsorted cards, not many in good condition and most almost unsaleable! The first time, and I swore the last time, I bought cigarette cards to sell I was nearly driven around the bend by the questions... in the week of an Ebay auction I was beset on all sides by a barrage of questions about the most fastidious, nit-picky, detailed and baroque points that I swore never again... "can you tell me if the top right hand corner of card no 51 is very bumped or slightly bumped?", "do you know and understand the standard grading system for cigarette cards?", "Is the grey speck on the bottom edge of card no. 2 a piece of dust that will brush off or an adhesion to the card?" and on, and on, and on...

So, to turn a travesty into an advantage I thought I would at least share with you, gentle reader, my surprise at those cards in this collection which turn out not to be cigarette cards at all. Of course, I'm sure we all know that once the ciggy card collectors had established themselves, the tea industry took it on as well and the big name tea companies, Brooke Bond in particular, became major issuers of collectible cards as well. What I hadn't realised until I was going though this ill-advised auction purchase, was how many other smaller tea brands and other kinds of products too were sent out with collectible sets of cards after the cigarette card model. Everything from breakfast cereal to football games and disinfectant manufacturers jumped on the wagon it seems and these are some I pulled out to share...

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