Monday, December 29, 2008

Keith Vaughan and The London Magazine

From 1954 to 1961 John Lehmann was the editor of The London Magazine. I am currently preparing a pile of them for sale and just glancing through shows just how influential and important a magazine it was under Lehmann's editorship. The contents page reads like a roll call of the great and the good in literature (in fact, the preponderance of the Gay Litterati might also be noticed): Thom Gunn, Christopher Isherwood, Roy Fuller, Augustus John, W. H. Auden, Paul Bowles, Angus Wilson, Ted Hughes, John Betjeman... to pick just a handful at random from the covers.

And in amongst the words are what Lehmann, on the contents page, quaintly refers to as 'decorations in the text' - again the names John Minton, Phillippe Julian, Edward Ardizzone, and Keith Vaughan belie the offhand description. These two 'decorations' by Vaughan are from consecutive issues in 1955, there may well be more, I have by no means a complete run of the Magazine.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Seasonal Ephemera

I've blogged before about how great the things that fall out of books can be, so imagine my delight when today, Christmas Eve, in an old fashioned bookshop, from an unprepossessing book, unbidden, fell this... vintage, ephemeral and seasonal all at the same time. Clearly someone was smiling on me today.

If you are a regular reader of this blog or a welcome passer-by, may I take this opportunity to wish you a very happy Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year

Monday, December 22, 2008

Robert H Hobart Cust

I'm rather pleased with these two volumes which I very nearly failed to get! The postman left them in the recycling bin, presumably as a safe-place, but neglected to put a card through the door to tell me! As a result they sat there for at least 24 hours and their packaging (fortunately not inside) was sodden, and they were found by our downstairs neighbour when she went to put out the recycling which is collected tomorrow!

Anyway... A while ago Callum James Books issued a booklet called The Nude in Photography which was a reprint of an article by Glesson White from 1893 and which contained photos by Corvo and, for the first time in print in the UK, by Baron Von Gloeden. Anyway, I only really reprinted it as a way of using up some card I had spare at the time and so it was in a stupidly limited edition of 25! I could have sold that number five times over by now, the number of times I've been asked if it's still available - it's not. Sold out in a month.

But the article was only the opening salvo in a whole series of articles in a number of different periodicals of the time discussing as 'high art' the various ways in which young guys could be convinced to get their kit off for photos. That might be slighty disingenuous I suppose but not far from the mark: under the guise of the artistic use of male models in photography, articles began springing up all over which were really little more than excuses to display these photographs in print and to advertise one's interest. Although Gleeson White wrote by far the longest of these, others also weighed in, and among them the art historian and critic, Robert H Hobart Cust. So, I had been thinking for a while - indeed working on - a follow up to The Nude in Photography, a longer text which would include a number of these articles and, of course, the photos that accompanied them.

And then I came across this the other day. It's not clear to me why, when John Addington Symonds had already produced a major translation of The Autobiography of Benvanuto Cellini which was still in print, in fact, still selling well, Cust thought there was a need for another but he did. And this copy of the two-volume first edition set is rather nice for having a warm inscription from the author to his cousin.

There's a good piece in the Dictionary of Art Historians about Cust from which it seems clear that his interest in sodomitical Renaissance artists was not confined to Cellini. It seems also that there may have been a fair bit of denial in his attitude towards homosexuality but the articles he wrote on photographing the nude do not take much deconstructing! When the photography text is available I will of course anounce it here but also on my mailing list.

If you would like to be on the mailing list for the appearance of new books from Callum James Books then please drop me a line.

An Expensive Vintage Swim

I saw this for sale recently on Ebay and recognised it to be both rather good quality and quite unusual. I thought I might have a bid but realised it would sell for a fair bit more than most Cabinet Card sized photos - which is what this was - no more, no less.

It sold for an extaordinary amount of money: $324 or £218 ! That's simply ridiculous but it also goes to prove the old saw that something is only worth what people are prepared to pay for it.

There hasn't been one of my ever-popular vintage swim posts here for a while. I will see if I can rustle something up for y'all as a Christmas treat at some point over the festive season.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Callum Gets Christmassy

Finally.... I've been saying for the last ten days that I've not been feeling very Christmassy this year. This evening though we have R's family coming over for drinks and nibbles and, while R has gone off at the moment to his church's sevice of lessons and carols, I'm left here with just the Christmas lights illuminating the flat, Carols coming from the computer and the warm glow of my first can of beer since (well, possibly last Christmas!). I've finished writing the Christmas cards now, the food goes in the oven to warm up shortly, I must just step into the shower I think now but I just thought I would pop my head in here to spread a little of my Christmas Cheer.

Thank You Bernard

Site counters always seem a little odd to me and I was intrigued at the beginning of the month when mine started telling me that the average number of visitors had almost doubled from abour 40 to around 80 separate visitors each day for several days on end. At the same time I got a rash of orders from French Canadians for the A Boy's Absence, which I published recently.

All became clear however because there is a natty little adjunct to one of my site counters which tells me what sites are referring most of my visitors to me, in other words where people where online before they were visiting Front Free Endpaper. And suddenly at the top of the list was the blog of Bernard Alapetite who had put together this very kind post about the book.

Do visit his blog. It's packed full of gay film, photography, art, models, books and culture and although it's in French, if you can't manage the language there's still plenty to look at. Be aware there are a few nude photos and the like.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Writing from the Order

A few days ago I was excited by the acquisition of a piece of headed notepaper from the Grand Master of the Order of Sanctissima Sophia. And in the wonderful way that blogs have of connecting people and things I was almost immediately sent an email from a collector keen to share his own pieces of OSS ephemera.

There's little doubt in my mind that the heraldry on the letterheads was drawn by Rolfe, you only have to look at the heraldic devices on the covers of some of his books and in other places and there is just a quality of line that jumps out at you. My favourite, having recently returned from Venice where I saw huge numbers of medieval paintings and icons with angels depicted as heads floating on winged clouds, has to be the design for the Priory of the Seraphim.

Frederick Rolfe and his Percies

Today I was flicking through Rolfe's Collected Poems. Published in 1974 by Cecil Woolf, this was the very first thing of Rolfe's which I came across and is the book that got me hooked. I think it's fairly typical however, when one collects a particular author, that there are some books which you read and then put to one side and you may not come back to them for some years by which time your knowledge base has increased massively and you see things in them that you didn't see before.

One of Rolfe's poems, is called 'Ballade of Boys and in Particular the Percies'. It relates his affection for two boys named Percy. One who is 'near' and one who is 'from far across the sea'. The poem was never published in the conventional sense but Rolfe produced an illuminated version of it which he reproduced photographically a few times to give to friends. One copy has been pasted into one of the notebooks in the Martyr Worthy collection in the Bodleian Library in Oxford and this page was reproduced in the Collected Poems.

There are indeed two Percies known to have played an important role in Rolfe's life. The first is one of his younger brothers. Percy was the odd one out among the boys in many ways and became a Ship's Master in the Merchant Navy. It is not at all clear that this Percy would have inspired such terms of endearment as are in the poem as the two were never very close, nor that the erotically charged language of the poem would be entirely appropriate to writing about the author's brother. On the whole, it seems unlikely to me that one of the two Percies was Percy Rolfe.
However, it has always been fairly clear that one of the Percies, possibly the one 'from far across the sea' was Percy O'Sullivan. What was new when I looked again at the illustrated version of the poem was that I now know what Percy O'Sullivan looked like. Percy O'S was the brother of the 1890s decedant writer Vincent and both attended Oscott Seminary when they were boys and were tutored by Rolfe. Rolfe took quite a shine to Percy and tried to track him down in later life and gave him a place of honour in Hadrian VII. All of this and more is related in Robert Scoble's Raven monograph number 6 The Ruin of The O'Sullivans. But also for that publication a photograph of the boys was tracked down from Oscott. In the photo above Percy is the seated on a chair on the far right with his hand on his lapel. Looking at the nose, the side parting and the ears I was fairly convinced that the face illuminating the uppercase 'I' was a portrait of Percy and, given the line "That bond of friendship which enchains us three" I think the illustration at the top of this post, which sits over the Envoy to the poem is a self portrait of Rolfe in the centre, Percy O'Sullivan on the right and the as yet unidentified Percy on the left.
It's all speculation of course and it has been pointed out that in trying to identify portraits like this, that way lies madness. But I managed to convince myself at least.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fersen Calling

Following on from the previous post in which Oscar Wilde came to call, a corespondent has sent a scan of an item from their collection, the card of Jacques Adelsward-Fersen. There is, of course, a remarkable similarity between the two and my corespondent points out "We know (Letters p.955) that Constance Wilde was irritated in 1897 that Oscar was visiting Fersen, 'that appalling individual', on Capri. My guess is that Wilde had his cards printed at Fersen's favourite shop in Naples."

There is a pretty good Wiki article on Fersen if you are new to him and need an outline but, as with all Wiki articles, caution is urged in respect to the details.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wilde Calling

Today's objet du d├ęsir is, sadly, not an acquisition but was only shown to me briefly by a friend who knew I would be excited by it. Sadly, he caught me on the only day in the last million years when I haven't had my digital camera with me so I had to rush it to the nearest photocopier for this grainy image.

For the uninitiated, when he got out of prison Oscar Wilde took, for a time, the name Sebastian Melmoth which, as Wikipedia has it was, "after the famously "penetrated" Saint Sebastian and the devilish central character of Wilde's great-uncle Charles Robert Maturin's gothic novel Melmoth the Wanderer." That's the received wisdom anyway although I'm not aware that Wilde every specified the reasons for the choice himself - I'm sure I'll be corrected if necessary.

Nonetheless, an amazing thing to have walked in and out of my life today.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Photos of Jared Pallesen

Jared Pallesen takes photographs, mainly self-portraits and portraits of his sister. They all go through photoshop he says. They remind me a lot of the books of Clive Barker. There's a real depth of imagination and visual flair in most of the finished result. He's a dancer and actor as well and, of course, it helps that he's a gorgeous, broody-looking 17 year old from Wellington in New Zealand. You can see his photos on his Flickr Photostream but if you don't mind the large number of pictures on one page I prefered the way that they are laid out here. He also has a not very regularly updated blog.

Willard Price on Japan

This rather nice copy of an early Willard Price book arrived yesterday. Published by Heinemann in 1945 Price is rather a headache to the bibliographer who would put together even a checklist of his works. US and UK editions of books on Japan and Micronesia in particular spewed from his pen before, during and after WW2 but it is not clear without examining each and every title which are reworkings of which, which books are simply the same but under different titles and so on... Obviously the war time production standards of this book by Heinemann make it difficult to find with a complete and reasonable jacket so I'm very pleased with this one. Obviously the plain but balanced typography is also appealing.

Vintage Venice Ticket

Given my recent sojourn on the lagoon, and my passion for all things vintage, you can imagine the squeals of delight that issued forth when this fell from an old guide book on Venice that I was flicking through!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Faber Covers

Just a quick post to highight another of the fantastic sets in the official Faber Books Flickr collection. This is a set of images from the typographic covers of in-print books from their poetry list.

Unusual Use for a Dust Jacket

Among the papers from the family of Otto Jaros, mentioned before, I found this rather curious letter written on every blank space on the dustjacket of a book which my rather faltering German suggests may be theological. Dated 1944, I'm afraid I cant even say who it is to and from but I enjoyed the idea nonetheless.

The Order of Sanctissima Sophia

A great new acquisition. This is a piece of blank headed paper (7"x9") from the Grand Master of the Order of Sanctissima Sophia, a quasi-chivalric religious order set up by, among others, Frederick Rolfe. The Grandmaster in question was Harry Pirie-Gordon who was also a close friend and collaborator with Rolfe for a time, before Rolfe's usual querulous pattern in friendship asserted itself. The coat of arms was probably designed by Rolfe and Pirie-Gordon together as they both had a deep interest in heraldry and The OSS was, among other things, something of an exercise in creative heraldry.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Venetian Graffiti

It's nearly always possible, if you choose, to forget that Venice is a real city with real people living in it. On the route back to the hotel of an evening we had to pass through perhaps the only Campo in Venice where loud music was being played and young Venetians were drinking and socialising very loudly: it was a nice reminder. There's a certain undercurrent in Venice, a kind of dull ache of political unrest, or at least reluctance to be governed, and one of the ways it shows itself is in the dirt, litter and graffiti which cover the city. As a tourist you have an option to allow your eye to float over it and most people, I'm sure, can do so. It's easy when dazzled by the shocking beauty of the Grand Canal to ignore the fact that the Rialto Bridge which you are standing on to sightsee is actually pretty shitty.

I was fascinated by the graffiti on the walls of Venice and the above is a small sample. The rest of my photos of graffiti, fly posting and so on can be found in this Flickr set.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

William of Norwich Revisted

Thank you to Connie who read my post about Rolfe's mysteriously disappeared book on William of Norwich and sent me the link to this page. It contains a couple of minor errors of fact but I thought the analysis of Rolfe's poem was interesting.

The photo is of a depiction of William in stained glass from Fritton church in Norfolk and was stolen meanly from Broads Marshman on Flickr.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Spender's Ornament

Just a short post to say hello as I haven't been feeling all that well the last few days. Nonetheless, I have been reading Stephen Spender's autobiography World Within World. Spender is not someone I know much about and I almost certainly wouldn't have bought this book and therefore not read it, if it were not for this amazing (and large) printer's ornament printed in red on the front of the jacket.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Art of Pepeyn Langedijk

These are just a taste of the wonderful things done by Pepeyn Langedijk, a commercial photographer who uses massive studio shots as well as skilled photoshop work to create not only some startling advertising and commercial work but also some really interesting and arresting images. His portfolio gives a wide sample of the work but his Flickr set is perhaps more interesting because he has taken the time to add notes to most of the images there.

Yet More Patterned Paper

Just as I am waxing lyrical about the patterned papers I found in the Correr Museum in Venice, what should arrive but my first order of paper from J&J Jeffrey's. Simply sumptuous. I can imagine that a book created with this paper would look positively edible.

In answer to Clixchix's good question about how to go about purchasing paper from them, if anyone reading this is seriously interested in buying their paper I can provide you with contact details.

Venetian Wall Shrines

As well as a superfluity of Titians, Bellinis, Veroneses, etc. etc. etc., Venice also has a fair amount of religious folk art which, in some ways, is just as fascinating. One expression of this folk religion is in the profusion of wall shrines. Some are complex and beautiful, others are simple and naive. The results of my happy-snapping of Venetian wall shrines is now on flickr.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Framing the McDowalls

I mentioned below about the nice article on my friends Frances and Nicholas at The Old Stile Press in Homes and Gardens. They tell me there has been a flurry of interest after it appeared. I said I was going to frame the picture that accompanied the article and just to be true to my word, here's the finished product. A simple, moulded oak, quite nude until I stained it with an ebony wood stain and then added a brown wax polish which made it almost like chocolate. Very pleased with the overall effect and the McDowalls can now sit happily in the friends and family nook.

Monday, December 01, 2008

San Giorgio

You'll have noticed I'm sure that I have a thing for statuary and for the allure of polished marble. The only thing I had to do on my MUST DO list for this visit to Venice was to get a decent photo of one of the most beautiful statues in the world. Last time I was there I fell in love with him but due to a glitch I ended up with no good photo and could find nothing worthwhile on the internet. So this time I made sure by snapping about 10 photos from different angles.

Let me therefore introduce you to San Giorgio-Saint George, on the front of the Palladian church of San Giorgio Maggiore which faces the Doge's Palace and Saint Mark's Square across half a mile of water. It took me a while to realise that he was the patron of the church, his spear is broken off and the dragon's head is not easily visible from the ground.

Like all accomplished marbled sculptures he has the most fabulous body - that's a given. But there is just something about George's face in this representation that drew me in and made me melt!

GO HERE for the rest at Flickr

La Serenissima

I have been away for a few days in the arms of My Lady Venezia. You may expect to see numerous Venice related posts here in the next few days. It's an easy choice of where to start however, as these fantastic late 18th-early 19th century bindings in patterned papers were found in the Correr Museum in St Mark's Square and take us seamlessly from the last post here a few days ago about patterned papers into the glories of Venice. There were numerous examples of paste papers, block printed papers and even a dutch gilt paper which sadly didn't photograph even as badly as some of the above.

[I should add that although I was naughty enough to take the photos, the spot glare in some of them is simply a museum light reflection - I wouldn't be so naughty as to use a flash!]

PS. Thank you to those who have commented and emailed recently I will respond in just a little while.
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