Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Frank Prewett, Poet, by Dorothy Brett

If you're a regular reader of this blog you may thank that this sultry looking young man looks familiar. He has, in fact, featured before in portrait form, back in September last year. He is Frank Prewett, a Canadian war poet, nicked-named Toronto by Siegfried Sassoon who had something of a crush on him (and I'm with Siegfried on this one). This is a previously unknown portrait of him by Dorothy Brett, daughter of Lord Esher, and a figure on the periphery of the Bloomsbury Group. I think it's a nice touch that there is an attribution written on the back identifying both sitter and painter in Sassoon's hand. Everything I know about him is in the previous post but this portrait is being offered for sale in Part III of the Roy Davids sale by Bonham's in May. As with the other parts of the collection this is a quite astonishing sale full of manuscript and portrait material relating to poets of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This part of the sale includes the Ws so there's some Wilde and some Whitman as well to get you truly foaming at the mouth.

UPADTE: I'm indebted to Brian Busby for providing this link http://www.idbury.com/prewitt.shtml to more information about Prewett in the comments below, and since I realise that not everyone bothers to click on the comments on a post I am elevating it, with my thanks, to the post itself.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Gay City Anthology Kickstarter Project

I've just been tempted to offer actual real money to my first Kickstarter project. For those of you who haven't come across Kickstarter before, it's a community based platform for raising funds for your charity, your small business idea, your publication, your short film or dance performance piece: or anything really. Each project is clearly described and there is an option to offer a pledge of cash to support the project at a number of different levels. Usually, and certainly in this case, each level of support pledged comes with a series of more and more enticing perks. If the pitched-for total is raised by the finish date then the project is funded and can go ahead and only then does the money you've pledged get taken from you. 

The video above tells you much more clearly than I ever could what the project is about but there are queers, monsters, mentions of Steampunk and a John Coulthart cover - what's not to like?

This blog gets between three and four hundred visitors a day, if just one or two of you over the next few days could be tempted to add a little to the pledged amounts it would help enormously.

Things That Fall From Books #12: Victorian Paper Cuts

This is usually a much more occasional series than it is at the moment. Paper cut designs is something of a fad at the moment with 'crafters' all over the place giving it a go. In the early 2000s you couldn't go into a new bookshop anywhere without seeing examples of the paper-cutters art on book covers - I think it may have been begun by Captain Corelli and his mandolin. Anyway, this particular folk art form has a long history and, to prove it, I offer these two charming if not hugely detailed pieces which fell today from between the pages of an early nineteenth century family Bible.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Iconic Vintage Photographs in Colour

This is a little old now, but so amazing that for those who may not have seen it already, well worth being a bit behind the times. Over at The Roosevelts in August last year they published a series of iconic historic photos that have been coloured and, although you know the colour is all digitally added, it can't help but add an entirely new dimension to images you thought you knew: particularly as it has been done so very well. For me, the jaw-droppers were the Nuclear test in the Pacific and the photo of Martin Luther King but have a mooch through them and see what does it for you. [hat tip to Martin for tweeting the link]

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fancy Footwork

It's a delight and a wonder every now and again when a reader of this blog decides to share something of their own and that's what's happened here. This delightful photograph was found at a flea market in Massachusetts and sent to me. Many thanks to the donor and anyone else out there who'd like to share: please don't be shy.

Hadrian VII - The Seventh - A 1980s Edition

This bizarre and, I have to say, hideous illustration is from the front cover of a book I picked up on my perambulations yesterday: an edition of Hadrian VII I didn't know existed. In fact it's a 1987 attempt by Picador Classics, an imprint of Pan. Not only do I really dislike the image and the design, they also manage to get the title wrong. Rolfe titled his novel in full Hadrian The Seventh - it's a small point, I know, but I sometimes think one of the tests of a true Corvine should be whether they know which is the correct title for the novel. (Just to confuse matters further, Peter Luke's play about Rolfe/Hadrian was titled Hadrian VII).

Friday, April 26, 2013

Vintage Shorts and a Spring Day

Finally, a few days of real Spring-like weather and, this afternoon I took advantage and spent a very pleasant few hours wandering Albert Road in Southsea. Albert Road is the closest Portsmouth comes to having a bohemian area: antique shops, independent traders, retro and vintage, bookshops (yes, plural), a Victorian theatre and a host of fab cafes and bars.

I've come home with a handful of paperbacks: some Mary Renault and some modern poetry for another project I'm going to be involved with (more on that another time), an 18th century map of the Island of Minorca and this copy of the Picture Post (above) from 1944. How could I resist? Having said that, although this is a special issue of the magazine all about French culture and the state of the war in France, I can't find anywhere on the inside a caption which might explain the goings on here on the cover.

Architect Draws Plans of Pyramids, Tombs and Stonehenge

I don't often directly link to the items I'm selling on Ebay from this blog but this is such a peculiar and unusual lot of 'stuff' I thought I would share. Picked up from a local auction with a pile of more conventional architect's drawings and plans, this is how I have described this lot on Ebay:

"This is a peculiar and intriguing lot. A collection of drawings on architect's semi-transparent parchment of plans of Egyptian pyramids and tombs. These appear to be the original drawings in fine pen which are then printed onto paper and so we see them duplicated in the paper section of this lot. As well as plans of pyramids and tombs there is also a well executed time-line diagram that attempts to tie together the history of Genesis and Egypt beginning with Adam at 4000BC. Other diagrams link the geometry of the Great Pyramid to that of Stonehenge. There is also a pencil sketch of a pyramid under construction that is something of a piece of art in its own right. It's a fascinating lot and it was difficult to photograph (see below) to make it look as good as it actually is when you are flicking through it.

These diagrams would make great decorative pieces when framed up. Or, you may subscribe to these kinds of theories and be able to work out a lot more than I can about the intention of the original draw-er of these.
There are 57 sheets. The largest measure aprox. 70cm x 50cm but most are more in the region of 45-50cm square-ish. the condition is variable, some of the larger parchment pieces in particular have lots of crinkling, creasing and short tears to the edges and some of the smaller parchment pieces have occasional marks too. They need a little tidying up and some work on presentation. From the context in which these came to me I would suggest that they were indeed drawn by an architect, or at least an architecture student and probably in the 1960s"

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Sherlock Holmes Hotel

In 1971, Benny Green wrote in The Spectator, about what a hotel named The Sherlock Holmes should be like:

"When a man walks into a hotel named The Sherlock Holmes, the last thing he wants is conventional politeness and efficiency. When he asks for his room number it is feeble and ridiculous to give it to him. Instead he should be given a cryptogram, some fingerprint dust and a packet of spyglass lenses and left to work it out for himself. The diminutive pageboy who carries himself as the Bavarian light-heavyweight wrestling champion. While the customer sleeps, all the numberplates on all the doors should be switched round. On the foyer carpets should be plainly visible the footprints of a great hound, and fog should be pumped through into every corner of the premises. . . and then on leaving the hotel, each guest should be required to first pass a rigorous examination on the contents of the hotel and umbrella stand, giving the age, occupation, nationality, height, weight and political opinions of the owners of every sunshade, shooting stick, walking stick, parasol and cricket bat. I guarantee that a hotel run on these lines would be opening branches in every major city in Britain before the end of the 1970s"

Sadly, it seems that no one took Mr Green up on his suggestions as I'm sure his prediction would have come true long ago...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Paperback Catalogue

The hunt for the books of scintillating scarcity is all great fun but sometimes you just want to be able to rest your coffee cup on the table without worrying abouth whether it's going to take a three hundred pound book from Fine to Fair. Sometimes we just want our books to be comfortable, to be floppy and friendly and easy to have around the place. So, to cater for this very need, Callum James Books has just released this catalogue of 100 gay-interest paperbacks at very tempting prices.

Have a look at the pdf by clicking here:


Things That Fall From Books #11: The Cut-up Technique

This rather tatty copy of William Burroughs's Nova Express has been causing squeals of delight here at Callum James Heights this morning and providing the occasion for one of our very occasional posts on "Things That Fall From Books". In this instance it was a real thrill to flick through the pages and find, suffed in between them, a number of slips of thing copy paper on which someone had types (with a real typewriter!) lists of words. Possibly this was for some essay on the vocabulary of William Burroughs, but the way they are typed in vertical lines and lots of spacing make me this it's much more likely that this was someone's attempt at emulating Burroughs's famous cut-up technique where entire paragraphs, sometimes nearly whole chapters are transformed from traditional prose into either avant-garde prose-poetry or complete gibberish (depending on your critical point of view). Anyway, these are the things that make me happy and you can't have too many of those in this world!

Two Callum James Books Publications available through Amazon

Delighted to be able to let you all know that the Callum James Books edition of John Gambril Nicholson's The Romance of a Choir Boy is now available through Amazon.

If you are buying from Amazon.co.uk then you should CLICK HERE.

From Amazon.com the link is HERE.

If you are using other regional Amazon sites then you can find the book very easily through a search of the title or by using the ISBN number: 978-0957450110

And whilst we're talking about our books available through Amazon please do consider buying a copy of A Carnal Medium: Fin-de-siecle Essays on the Photographic Nude edited by James Downs. Information on the book is available here. And the Amazon.co.uk page is here. Or find it on your regional site through the ISBN number 978-0957450103.
ALTERNATIVELY, support your local independent bookstore and order it through them and, incidentally, put a little more money in the pocket of the publisher by ordering that way!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Herbert Cole Illustrates The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

There was a point at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century when it could have been said that to call yourself an illustrator and not to have 'done a Rubaiyat' was something close to fraudulent. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is still collected today for its various editions, translators and illustrators but it is never again likely to match the phenomenal popularity it had in the decades at the turn of the last century.  These images are from a small hardcover edition issued by John Lane in 1901 and illustrated by Herbert Cole (1867-1930).

Cole was an illustrator, an expert in heraldry, an engraver and a designer of bookplates. He was based in London and for some time taught at The Camberwell School of Art. One of my reference books suggests that he was heavy on the talent and light on the imagination. Another points out the similarities of his work with those of the pre-Raphaelite inspired renaissance in illustration in the 1860s, indeed, his work wouldn't look out of place in Forrest Reid's Illustrators of the Eighteen Sixties. However, given when he was working, this amounts to saying that he was a little old fashioned in his day. Of course, that doesn't matter now and whatever the critics might think his illustrations in this diminutive volume caught my eye strongly enough that I wanted to find out more about the man and his work: which seems success enough to me. 

New Vintage Photos

Two vintage photos with a certain charm recently added to the collection.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Clive Hicks-Jenkins and a Penguin

I'm delighted to see that the new Penguin Classics design for Peter Shaffer's Equus is now abroad. Congratulations to him and to Penguin on a brilliant new cover. You can read more about Clive's long, long relationship with the play on his artlog (and my small, entirely unskilled part).

If you'd like to order a copy, a quick word of warning. The ISBN number doesn't necessarily change for a change of cover design and there has been a previous issue of Equus by Penguin Classics. Thus, if you order it from Amazon it isn't clear which cover you would receive at the moment. Order from Penguin directly to be sure of getting Clive's design.

Equus has been something of a feature on this blog too over the last few years and if you'd like to find out more then this link should cover it...

The Art of Agostino Arrivabene

In one of those felicitous Internet moments last night I found myself drawn into a website through some stray clicking on an odd link, completely accidental, and I haven't been able to tear myself away much since...

The artwork of Agostino Arrivabene is completely new to me and is almost overpowering in its heady mix of overtones from anatomy illustrations, Bosch, Renaissance costume and religious painting, Lovecraftian horror, the occult visions of Austin Osman Spare, dark sexuality, and a sense of surrealism. In the end the list of associations this work has is just an indication of the depth of its power to fascinate, disturb and enthrall. 

There is much on the paintings pages and drawings pages of his website that is simply breath-taking but, as ever, I find myself drawn as much to the ephemeral expressions of an artists vision and so I was delighted to discover that he includes on his website scans of various sketchbooks made over the years, like the images here from the most recent. Go and look but be warned, you may loose yourself there for sometime.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The New York Antiquarian Book Fair

Billed as "The Best Book Fair in the World" the New York Antiquarian Book Fair is this weekend - on now. All week my Twitter feed has been full of booksellers tweeting links to the booklists/catalogues of material they are taking to the fair. I'm not going to be there, but watching the tweets scroll past me I've been feeling a kind of once-removed excitement about the event. So, if you are going and want a quick preview, if you are not going and want to join in the excitement or if you simply like book lists, here are just some of the links that have been on my screen this week.

Natalie Galustian of London's Cecil Court has a list full of poker and smoking and cocktails and said she stepped back from her stand and realised she appeared to be a book dealer specialising in vice.

Simon Beattie of New York has books on Americana, German Romanticism, Russia, American women writers, illustrated books and a whole host of other stuff.

Blackwell's Rare Books of Oxford has literature including a first edition Through the Looking Glass, a couple of signed Winston Churchill titles, and Conan Doyle on Spirit Photography.

Lucius Books has one of the highlights of the show in a collection of archive material by and about the Doors front man Jim Morrison. Artfix has the details and other highlights.

Peter Harrington's of London, as ever, have some extraordinary stock including a preparatory pencil sketch by E. H. Sheppard of his map of the Hundred Acre Wood which was used at the endpapers for Winnie the Pooh. Also on the Harrington stand you will find one of the just fifteen copies of The Suppressed Portion of De Profundis by Oscar Wilde, published in such a limited version by Robert Ross to secure the American copyright.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Richard Middleton: the too-late decadent

Richard Barham Middleton was born a decade too late, he came to his maturity in the first decade of the twentieth century and thus missed his chance to wallow in the decadence and dark romanticism that filled his soul and, instead, found himself stranded in a time of ever more upright Edwardian probity. More concretely, he was born in Staines on 28th October, 1882 and spent his schooldays at Quernmore House, St Paul's and Merchant Taylors'. If his two autobiographical stories "A Drama of Youth" and "The New Boy" are any indication, he was fairly traumatised by school. John Gawsworth described the first story as a "superb paean of hate" and Middleton himself describes the Smithfield surroundings of his school as "made hideous with mosaics of the intestines of animals, as if the horror of suety pavements and bloody sawdust did not suffice." It is perhaps significant that his autobiographical material is about schooldays as his fictional stories also often featured an unfortunate child as the central character. From school he could have gone on to a University education but chose, instead, the life of a Bank Clerk. His story "Journal of a Clerk" gives a clear impression of the drudgery that he found in the work and, after six years, he decided at last to follow his heart and attempted the life of the decadent artist.
Middleton moved out of his parents' home and into rooms at Blackfriars. He joined the drinking club, "The New Bohemians" and thus began to nurture some literary contacts: Arthur Machen, Louis McQuilland, Christopher Wilson and others. Alfred Douglas gave him book reviewing work for The Academy, and Edgar Jepson at Vanity Fair gave him work sub-editing. And for a brief moment it seemed he might become the writer he dreamed of being. The stories and poems began to flow from him and they found a home in the periodicals of the day. Austin Harrison who published Middleton's work in The English Review called him "our Verlaine". But it was not to be. Middleton suffered what Gawsworth described as "the most overwhelming melancholy" and what we would surely call today, clinical depression. He was always short of money, suffered from intermittent neuralgia and had a series of unhappy love affairs. Eventually, Middleton deserted Britain for continental Europe and pitched up in Brussells in February 1911 to live the life of the poet. It lasted about nine months before his ravening depression got the better of him and he took an overdose of the chloroform he was prescribed for his neuralgia. He was twenty-nine years old.
He was never published in book form in his lifetime but his merits were widely recognised and through the efforts of the likes of Machen and Gawsworth, his stories and poems were eventually collected and published in a series of uniform volumes in the twenty years after his death. Of his supernatural stories, it is "The Ghost Ship" and "On the Brighton Road" which have been most anthologised in the twentieth century, both of them quite humorous ghost stories but most of his work in that vein was of a considerably darker timbre. This popularisation of his work, of course, came too late for Middleton himself, but it wasn't too late to include him, vicariously, in the remains of the 1890s set: Alfred Douglas wrote an introduction in The Pantomime Man and perhaps characteristically used it more to settle old scores than to introduce Middleton. Douglas writes, "I take this opportunity of putting on record the fact that Richard Middleton was writing for me long before Frank Harris ever saw him. I mention this because Harris, who always helped himself with both hands to anything he could get hold of, either in the way of cash, credit or ideas, was given to boasting in later years that he had "discovered Richard Middleton"; as a matter of fact it was I that sent him to Harris, who gave him work on Vanity Fair": yes, Bosie, that's what's important. Fin-de-siecle bitchiness aside, Middleton survives now in the appreciation of a select few and even gets an honourable mention in Timoth d'Arch Smith's book Love in Earnest for his poem "The Bathing Boy" which, given the normal flavour of this blog seems a good place to leave him.
The Bathing Boy
I saw him standing idly on the brim
    Of the quick river, in his beauty clad,
So fair he was that Nature looked at him
        And touched him with her sunbeams here and there
        So that his cool flesh sparkled, and his hair
    Blazed like a crown above the naked lad.
And so I wept; I have seen lovely things,
    Maidens and stars and roses all a-nod
In moonlit seas, but Love without his wings
        Set in the azure of an August sky,
        Was all too fair for my mortality,
    And so I wept to see the little god.
Till with a sudden grace of silver skin
    And golden lock he dived, his song of joy
Broke with the bubbles as he bore them in;
        And lo, the fear of night was on that place,
        Till decked with new-found gems and flushed of face
    He rose again, a laughing, choking boy.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Art Deco BBC in 1933

The BBC's Year Book from 1933 has provided a few moments' diversion this afternoon. The stunning image above appears to be an advert for the company that provides the cable for the BBC Empire Short Wave Station but it isn't the only Art Deco in the book. The BBC, it seems was dripping with it at the time. The map below is from the front Endpapers and then the rather poor quality photos below show a number of recording studios and the "Artists Lounge". What I found most fascinating was the way that designers must have felt it was important the studio look the part even though it would never be seen. Hence the Morning Service Studio was, in fact, a chapel. There was also a Library Studio for "From the Library". 

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Alberto Martini Illustrates Raw Edges by Perceval Landon

Perceval Landon (1869-1927) was a lawyer, journalist and author and was best known in his day as a war correspondent during the Boer War. Raw Edges was his only collection of stories that verged into the supernatural but this rare 1908 publication contains one of the best ghost stories ever written which has been regularly anthologised since this first appearance, "Thurnley Abbey". The book is further distinguished, however, by its illustrations. Alberto Martini provides four intense black and white designs which meld his own proto-surrealist style with the dark edges of Landon's prose and create something rather striking and memorable. The top image in particular suggests some influence from Harry Clarke and could almost be a replacement image for one of Clarke's illustrations of Poe's Tales. Some unnamed book designer should also be credited for the idea to take the top edge of one of the illustrations and use it along the top of the upper board making a very attractive - and, as it happens, very scarce - book.

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