Thursday, July 20, 2017

Bernard Bowerman illustrates Jane's Country Year

There is something almost as satisfying about a 'through the year' book as there is in an alphabet book, a sense of rounded completion about the whole. The internet tells me that Jane's Country Year was Malcolm Saville's favourite of his own books. You will not be surprised to hear it is about Jane, living a year, in the country! Each chapter is a month and each has a number of illustrations including a full-page work. It's the full page illustrations, one per month and in order from January to December, that I have scanned and posted here. I know little of Bernard Bowerman but I find there is something rather satisfying about the use of black and flat colours in these images. These were scanned from the 1946 first edition published by Newnes.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Geoffrey Whittam illustrates The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

It's always fun to see how different illustrators approach classic texts that have already been illustrated many times before. This edition of Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is illustrated by Geoffrey Whittam (b.1916 - d.c.1998). He was a professional illustrator and artist pretty much from the moment he got back from the Second World War. He was known for work on nautical subjects but also for a large number of 'pony books', children's books designed for girls which invariably included ponies and the adventures one could have on them. Partly overlapping with that he was also a major (and favourite) illustrator of Monica Edwards' books. This edition of Tom Sawyer was published in the Heirloom Library series, probably in the 1950s

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Gleeson White and Kains-Jackson at Auction

If you have a lot of money and collect obscure (and otherwise) turn of the last century literature, you should probably look away now: unless you are the lucky new owner of this little beauty. This was auctioned at Bonhams a few weeks ago, a commonplace book I suppose you might call it, put together by the inestimable Joseph Gleeson White, Gleeful to his friends, critic and first editor of The Studio. GW was a central figure in the arts and literature of his period, over the turn of the last century, and was extremely highly thought of by all his contemporaries. He was ceaselessly kind and supportive to young, new talent and despite his early death he had a much greater influence on the art and writing of the time than is generally acknowledged.

The book above contains poems, letters, cuttings, and so on sent to him by all manner of people. My interest is particularly piqued by the presence of poems and letters from Charles Kains-Jackson whose letters from Frederick Rolfe I edited and published a while ago. In the illustration you can see a number of items from Kains-Jackson signed P.C. which were his middle initials.

Have a read of the extensive description on the Bonhams site for the role call of names represented in the book but I suspect the most interesting part of the description for many readers of this blog will be mention of a letter from Kains-Jackson written at the time of the Cleveland Street Scandal where he remarks, "The Euston case has concentrated all the public attention on one of the raid[ed] houses and thus makes things easier for the rest" which is a fascinating insight not only into the knowledge of that little group but also because of the casual way in which he mentions, "the rest" which presumably are a host of male brothels now lost to history except in that casual reference.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ralph Chubb Ephemera

Had the opportunity to look at a collection of Ralph Chubb books the other day. Among all the amazing printing, calligraphy, mysticism and art work, what was it that made me stop and look? An order form!

There is still something so attractive about the more ephemeral things in life and this sheet, an order form for Chubb's The Sun Spirit was handwritten then duplicated by him and hand coloured too at the top there. You have to wonder how many of these there are left in the world. There may be more Ralph Chubb on the blog in the near future, keep your eyes peeled if you are a fan.

Short Lists

It has actually been a few weeks now since the release of my latest Short List. It seems amazing that it could be number 25! For those of you who don't know, these lists are irregular short catalogues of items for sale. They are designed with the interests of the people on my mailing list in mind, they might contain anywhere from 30-50 items and those items will all be new stock that I am not yet selling anywhere else. So, in other words, it's a chance to have first dibs at new and interesting things coming in to Callum James Books. The frequency varies. Occasionally, if busy, there might be one a month, more usually they are issued every other month or every third. If you want to receive these as they are issued, all you need to do is be on my mailing list and that simply means sending an email to the link at the top right of this page and saying 'please can I be on the mailing list' !! Simple! It helps if you also give me an idea of the kind of things you look for, this is not so that I can 'hard sell' directly at you... it simply means I know what to look out for when rummaging and keeps the short lists directed properly at the people who receive it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Albert Wainwright and Theatre

Fans of Albert Wainwright, the early 20th century painter from Yorkshire will know that this blog often features his painting. It is slightly less well known however, what a passion he had for the theatre. You might expect an artist to branch into theatre and costume design, and indeed he did, some of which are illustrated at the bottom of this post, but Wainwright went further. I was so lucky yesterday to be able to spend some time looking through a significant private collection of Wainwright material and among the paintings and sketchbooks were the two books illustrated here. The first (above and two below) is the handwritten manuscript of a short essay "On the Designer in the Theatre" and the second is the manuscript of a number of plays Wainwright wrote, in a cycle, following the liturgical year from Advent on through. The printed ephemera inside makes it clear that this was not simply a vanity exercise, these plays were produced and performed, if only locally.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Vintage Swimwear - It's been a while...

It's been a while since I have bought anything new by way of vintage photos of guys in swimwear to add to my collection. However, this one caught my eye and as it has arrived in the middle of some very hot and summery weather here on the south coast of England I thought I might post it as a celebration of that....

Friday, July 07, 2017

Harold Copping illustratates Quills by Walter C Rhoades

As we have recently had a guest post from the King of All Things School-Story on the blog I thought this seemed an appropriate follow on. I don't normally buy school story books myself but flicking through this one in a bookshop the other day I couldn't help but notice how superior the illustrations were. Only pencil drawings and yet executed with real skill in both draughtsmanship and characterisation that seemed a cut above the usual. When I got it home I was pleased to discover that Harold Copping is indeed well known and well regarded although mainly for his Biblical illustrations.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Lionel Birch by Robert J Kirkpatrick

Lionel Birch (christened as Jack Ernest Lionel Birch) was born in Chelsea on 11 April 1910. His father was John Somerville Birch (1861-1913), a highly-regarded diplomat in Egypt; his mother was Ethel Margaret Hanson – born in Turkey, she had married Maurizio de Bosdari, an Italian banker, in 1890, with whom she had three sons, after which the marriage broke up (a consequence of financial disasters which had affected both Ethel’s and her husband’s families). She subsequently married John Somerville Birch, with Lionel being their only child. He was educated at Shrewsbury, where he became a skilled cricketer and school prefect. He left in 1929 and went to Clare College Cambridge, where he studied under F.R. Leavis, and graduated with a first-class degree in English. 

Whilst a student, he published a slim book of verse, Between Sunset and Dawn (Corydon Press, Cambridge, 1929), much of which focused on idealized schoolboy friendship. He followed this with the first of his two novels, Pyramid (Philip Allan, 1931). This was a rather coy (at the time understandably-so) portrayal of schoolboy romance, in which the hero, Tony Roreton, rises from new boy to House Captain, while vainly searching for the “Ideal of the One Perfect Friend.” The novel is careful to contrast the ideal of romantic friendship with what Roreton sees as the immorality of homosexual lust, epitomized by Oscar Wilde. This point was emphasized by a review in the Belfast News-Letter, which remarked that “…..if the reader is inclined to lift a questioning eyebrow betimes, he must remember that romantic friendships between schoolboys are not necessarily immoral attachments.” Perhaps rather presciently, the Aberdeen Press and Journal stated that “Tony is at best a queer fellow and his passionate admiration of a fellow schoolboy leads him into queer trouble.” While Shrewsbury was not identified in the novel (the school was given the name of Towers Hill) the school authorities banned it, with any pupil caught reading it liable to be beaten.

Birch followed this with a second school novel, The System (Philip Allan, 1932) – the title was from a poem by C. Day Lewis, which suggested that a schoolmaster’s role was simply to “justify the system.” As with its predecessor, the novel explored the issue of schoolboy friendship and homosexuality, linking this with its hero’s home life, and also bringing in the issue of lesbianism in the hero’s sisters’ school. The Leeds Mercury suggested that “Old-fashioned people will be rather shocked by [Birch’s] bluntness, but he tackled his problem of youthful waywardness quite honestly.”  Underlying both novels was a quiet condemnation of the monotony of public school life, even though, in the second novel, the hero is a successful pupil, becoming Rugby Captain, but still finding school boring.

In 1934, living in Liss, Hampshire, Birch became active in the Petersfield Labour Party, becoming its Honorary Secretary, and in November of that year he was selected as the party’s candidate for the next general election. A year later, having been appointed Economic Intelligence Officer to the League of Nations Union he resigned, although he offered to stand again if the constituency party could not find another  candidate. He was quoted in the Portsmouth Evening News (30 September 1935) as saying “ I am leaving the district…..because I have found it not possible to live indefinitely by writing books which nobody wants to publish, or by writing articles which nobody wants to read.” This suggests that his two novels had sold poorly (which probably explains their scarcity today) and that he had written one or more other books which had failed to find a publisher. This was not, strictly-speaking, the case, as W. Heffer & Sons had published, in 1933, his plea for a new economic system, The Waggoner on the Footplate, which he had begun writing when he was still at Cambridge, and which drew on his experiences as a voluntary worker for the National Social Credit Association of Great Britain.

His political career was briefly resurrected in October 1935, when he was re-adopted as the Petersfield Labour Party candidate, but in the following month’s general election he lost to Major Reginald Hugh Dorman-Smith, the Conservative candidate, by 22,877 votes to 6,061    although at the time that was the largest vote ever received by Labour in that constituency, and represented an 8.9% swing to the party.

In 1936, he published The Demand for Colonies: Territorial Expansion, Over-population and Raw Materials (League of Nations Union), which warned that Italy, Germany and Japan were intent on territorial expansion; and a year later he published Why They Join the Fascists (People’s Press), which suggested that the popularity of the British fascist movement was due in part to Oswald Mosley’s good looks and sexual charisma: “For some people,” wrote Birch, “his appearance resembles that of a traditional cavalry officer, for others that of a traditional gigolo.”

In 1938 Birch joined the fledgling Picture Post, founded by Stefan Lorant (who had launched Lilliput the previous year) and published by Edward G. Hulton. Shortly after Lorant was replaced as editor by Tom Hopkinson in 1940, Birch (who had become known as “Bobby Birch”) joined the Officer Cadet Training Unit, and was subsequently, in February 1941, made a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery Regiment. By the end of the war, he had achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

He returned to Picture Post, although along with several other writers he resigned in protest after the sacking of Hopkinson in 1950. The following year, he was appointed Editor in Chief of the Exhibition Captions accompanying Festival of Britain. By 1952 he had returned to Picture Post, eventually becoming Executive Editor. After Picture Post closed down in 1957 it appears he joined an advertising agency, and in 1961 he joined the newly-launched Sunday Telegraph, for which he founded and edited the Mandrake column for 20 years.

As a writer for Picture Post, he was responsible for numerous features, with a particular focus on political and social comment.  In August 1949, he wrote a lengthy article arguing for a union of European countries: 

“…..Not simply a continuance of the present loose co-operation in economic affairs, in which the sovereign States need only co-operate while it suits them. But a real political Union, leading to a real European Government, to which all states would surrender some of their sovereign rights.”

Birch’s main worry was that Germany could be a stumbling block, although he concluded 

“…..the true political Union of Europe does seem to be the one great beneficent and magnetic counterattraction capable of drawing a sufficient number of Germans away from the malign magnet of a resurgent Nationalist Germany.”

Amongst Birch’s books and pamphlets were Something Done: British Achievement 1945-47 (HMSO, 1948), which detailed the country’s economic recovery from the war; Germany and Western Union (Bureau of Current Affairs, 1950); The Story of Beer (Newman Neame, 1951 – issued on behalf of the brewery of Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co., 1951); Air Guide to Europe (Newman Neame, 1953 – revised and reprinted as Europe for the Air Traveller); The Advertising We Deserve: An Assessment (Vista Books, 1962 – based on his experiences in advertising); Into Europe: The Story of the Crusade for European Unity (Hulton, 1967);  The History of the T.U.C. 1868-1968 (Trades Union Congress, 1968); and The Writer’s Approach to Newspaper Writing (Harrap, 1976). He also contributed several short stories and articles to the magazine Lilliput between 1940 and 1950.

Birch was also a playwright, with his first play, The Orator, being staged in April 1944 at the Chanticleer Theatre Club (a small 130-seat theatre in Clareville Street, London, usually a private theatre attached to the Webber-Douglas School of Singing and Dramatic Art, but rented out on a non-profit-making basis during the war). This was an examination of political motives and politicians’ methods, contrasting the ideals of a socialist politician seeking to win a by-election in 1937 with those of his self-seeking wife. Two years later, in conjunction with Hans Rehfisch, he wrote Brides at Sea, a comedy about ten British G.I. brides crossing the Atlantic during a storm, which was performed at the Granville Theatre, Fulham. In his role as a Picture Post writer, Birch had earlier sailed on the first G.I. bride ship to leave England for America in January 1946.

Two years later, the Boltons Theatre in South Kensington staged two one-act plays by Birch, The House of Tolerance and Buy Me the Spanish Steps – both were set around the war, the first concerning the trial in France in 1944 of a brothel-keeper charged with collaboration with the Germans, and the second showing the reunion of two lovers who first meet as children in 1932 and are re-united in 1948. His last play, The Compelled People, set against the Berlin air-lift, was written in conjunction with his first wife, Lorna M. Hay, and premiered at the New Lindsay Theatre, Notting Hill, in 1949. A year later, it was adapted for radio and then television.

Birch had married Lorna Hay, a staff writer on Picture Post, in Westminster in the spring of 1947. They had one child, Imogen. This was the first of several marriages – sources differ as the exact number, variously quoted as five, six or seven, and it is only possible (via online genealogy records) to verify five. His second marriage was to Ingeborg Morath (born in Austria in 1923) in Kensington in the spring of 1951.  Morath was, at that time, working for the Magnum photographic agency in Paris, and she later joined Picture Post as a secretary before becoming a photographer. She later moved to America, where she married the playwright Arthur Miller in 1962, and where her reputation as a brilliant photographer was cemented.

In 1954 Birch had a child with Sylvia Llewelyn Davis, although they never married. The child, Henrietta, later became a “psychic astrologer.” Birch’s third wife was another Picture Post staffer, Lyndall Hopkinson (the daughter of Tom Hopkinson and the writer Antonia White), whom he married in Kensington in May 1955. Again, as with all of his marriages except his last, the union was very short-lived. 

In 1958 Birch married yet another Picture Post writer, Venetia Pauline Murray, with whom he had co-written a novel, It’s All Yours, which had been published by Arthur Barker the previous year under the pen-name of Francis Flight. Venetia was the daughter of Basil Murray, the Spanish war correspondent, and she later became a journalist on the Daily Express and the Sunday Telegraph, and a writer of novels and social histories. She had one child with Birch, Rupert, before their divorce and a subsequent two further marriages.

Birch’s last marriage was to Susan M. Stocken (born in 1935), in Kensington in the autumn of 1962. They had one daughter. The remained together until his death, after several years of ill health, which occurred on 18 February 1982 at 15 Defoe Avenue, Kew, Surrey. He left an estate worth around £25,000 (£70,000 in today’s terms).

Lionel Birch is now a forgotten figure, but in his time he was a well-regarded left-wing writer, and a notorious womanizer.  Two stories illustrate the latter side of his personality.  In 1932, immediately after leaving Cambridge    a tall, slim, debonair, witty and attractive young man   he was a member of acting troupe that descended on Bedales, a co-educational boarding school in Petersfield, Hampshire, in order to perform in the annual summer play put on by Lord Thomas Horder at his nearby mansion at Ashford Chace. Bedale allowed some of the visiting actors to camp in its grounds, but Birch’s tent proved to be such an irresistible draw for the older female pupils (and some of the female members of staff) that he was asked to leave by the Bursar, and warned never to come back. He got his revenge when, as the Labour candidate for the 1935 general election, he held a meeting in the Bedales grounds, using the then-law that an educational establishment could not deny a candidate the right to hold a meeting on its property.  (See John Dodd, “Bobby Dazzler” at

His later propensity for short-lived marriages was illustrated by the author Jane Dunn in her book Antonia White: A Life (published by Jonathan Cape in 1998). She described how Lyndall Hopkinson, Antonia’s daughter,

“…..had fallen in love, quite suddenly, instantaneously, with a man she had known on and off since she was a girl. Lionel Birch, known as Bobby, was a charming journalist…..Married and divorced four times he had proposed to Lyndall on the spur of the moment on a visit to Rome. She had accepted, and then both embarked on a whirlwind love-affair. Unbeknownst to Lyndall he had then proposed to his previous wife, the photographer Inge Morath. At forty-six Bobby was exactly twice as old as Lyndall, and only four years younger than her father. There was another more worrying connection: his charm, his labile emotions and even his kind of looks were too familiar for comfort.”

Antonia had reservations about the affair (she herself had been married three times) and was also somewhat envious, of both Birch, “who, with such a catalogue of emotional disasters behind him and middle-age beckoning, could still start again with a beautiful young woman…..”, and Lyndall. Her reservations were justified:

“Too soon, Lyndall awoke from her midsummer night’s dream to see poor Bobby for what he was, rather sad and growing old; a pale reflection of the man she thought she had loved. A temporarily grief-stricken Bobby told Antonia that the marriage had lasted eight days.”

Birch should also be remembered for his two novels. They cannot be said to be great literature, but they were amongst the first serious attempts to bring the issue of schoolboy homosexuality to a wider audience. They are now, like Birch himself, more or less forgotten. Given Birch’s journalistic career and his complicated personal life, this neglect is, perhaps, not surprising. The novels are rarely mentioned in either histories of the school novel or in surveys of gay literature, an oversight which is sadly undeserved.

Robert J Kirkpatrick is well known as the world's leading expert on British school fiction, as a bookdealer his specialist catalogues have appeared on Front Free Endpaper before. He is the author of numerous books including the standard work on Victorian boys' periodicals From the Penny Dreadful to the Ha'penny Dreadfuller. More recently he has penned and published Pennies, Profit and Poverty: A Biographical Directory of Wealth and Want in Bohemian Fleet Street and Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby and the Yorkshire Schools: Fact v Fiction. (Other bookselling sites are available!) Thank you to Robert for making this piece available through Front Free Endpaper and for picking up on our past interest in the man and his books.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Edward Bawden Illustrates Andrew Lang

Andrew Lang is best remembered for his Fairy Books. Twelve books of fairy stories each distinguished by being given a colour in both title and binding, illustrated profusely and elaborately guilt stamped with versions of those illustrations on the cloth boards. I recently saw a rather glorious collection of all the fairy books at a bookfair and tweeted this photograph. He didn't stop there, Lang was prolific and all of it in a very high Victorian style.

So it was something of a surprise to see his name on a mid-Twentieth Century paperback from Faber and Faber with a distinctly "mid-twen-cen" cover design. But I was curious, so I picked it up and discovered that it was in fact illustrated quite heavily by none other than Edward Bawden. I think these have a rather uncharacteristic air of slight surrealism about them, a touch of lunacy in places. They are for the most part recognisable as being very Edward Bawden but there is an rough edge to these not often seen in his work.

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