Thursday, June 25, 2009

Frank C Pape and Frederick Rolfe

This is something I've never seen before today. The dust jacket to the 1924 second impression of Rolfe's In His Own Image. This is only described in Woolf's bibliography as a "White art-paper jacket lettered and decorated in blue and black." In actual fact it was illustrated by one of the early 20th Century's most prolific illustrators, Frank C. Pape, and one who lived through the 1890s as a teenager and whose early work has been 'accused' of being a little too influenced by that period. Fortunately, I don't have to tell you his life-story because there's a brilliant introduction to his life and work right here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Duncan Grant: The Russell Chantry

Chantry is the English term for the establishment of an institutional chapel on private land or within a greater church, where a priest would celebrate Mass. The same term is also used for the endowment itself. The word derives from the Latin cantaria, meaning 'licence to sing mass'. The French term for this commemorative institution is a chapellenie. (from: Wikipedia)

In 1958 Duncan Grant decorated the Russell Chantry at Lincoln Cathedral, using Roche as the model for Christ. (from: The Telegraph Obituaries)

Lincoln Cathedral, or Lincoln Minster as it is also known, dates from 1072 when William the Conqueror instructed that the bishopric of this, then the largest diocese in England (covering the lands between the river Thames and the Humber), be moved from Dorchester, near Oxford, to Lincoln, where he had already established a castle in the old Roman upper city. The first Norman Bishop of Lincoln, Remigius had previously been a Benedictine monk, and a loyal supporter of William at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The cathedral was finally consecrated in 1092. It has dominated the skyline of Lincoln since then and is a prominent landmark from many parts of Lincolnshire. (from: Cathedrals in the East of England)

Simon Watney has speculated that "Perhaps it was this element of frank sensuality that led to the closure of the Chantry in the 1960s, and its conversion to a store-room, where the murals languished unseen behind heaps of clerical detritus." Fortunately, the chapel has recently been restored. (from: GLBTQ Arts)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Penguin Poets Pattern

I suppose this counts as a patterned design. Another of the Penguin Poets with a cover design by the inestimable Stephen Russ. A number of people contributed to the design of the covers of these books over the years but Russ's designs are always head and shoulders above the others. This is a slightly later edition than I would like (1971) and so has the rather ugly price box clogging up the back cover.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The 1920s in black and white

Believe me when I tell you that I see a lot of old photographs in the course of any given week. Every now and again though, among the dross, there leaps out at you a group of photos which, whilst they may really be no more than snapshots, are head and shoulders above the rest.

It may be that they are taken by someone with a better photographic eye. There may be a little more technical skill involved. The subjects many be more intersting. It may be a combination of all of those. Like these... there is something so evocative I thought in these five photos. The bathing photos look like they are taken at the edge of infinity and the piano picture in particular, so brilliantly 1920s.

Christopher Wood and the Hotel Room

Wood is not an artist I was familiar with until friends of mine went on holiday to Treboul in Brittany, well, it sounds a little more like a pilgrimage to be honest. It was here apparently that Wood painted his last and greatest works. Google is busy educating me about Wood. My friends stayed in the Hotel Ty Mad in the room where he painted the picture above. I'm not sure I would have been able to sleep!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Objet du desir...

Well, if you have a few hundred pounds and you have enjoyed Front Free Endpaper so much that you want to give something back then feel free to hunt down a copy of this little wonder for me. Seven years I have coveted this. To say that Samuel Delany's autobiographical book The Motion of Light on Water: sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village 1957-1965 is one of my favourite books seems almost to trivialise the way I feel about it. This is one of those books which is capable of producing a profound, almost soul cracking effect on the right reader. I'm not alone in thinking it's a book of great merit, it won the 1989 Hugo award for non-fiction related to Science Fiction. It is the story of Delany's relationship with the poet Marilyn Hacker, their alternative lifestyle, cruising, his many many sexual trysts with men, the writing of his early sci-fi novels, art installations and poetry, with cameo appearances by Auden and Isherwood... it is one of those uncategorizable books which affects because it has a searing honesty that is only heightened by the fact that it is autobiography.

I've known for a long time about the limited edition version of the book published by Ultramarine. Forty numbered copies were bound in half lilac calf and then ten lettered copies were bound, by Denis Gouey, in full lilac calf with gold thread design. It sounds like the kind of thing that just shouldn't be allowed but it's actually a thing of beauty. What a perfect interpretation of the title. This copy is currently on sale for £350.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Six Poems by Jocelyn Brooke

A new title is about to fly... I was in Chichester today, where the streets were thronged with male beauty I have to say, to source the materials for Six Poems by Jocelyn Brooke. His estate very kindly gave me permission to reprint them a couple of months ago and I've been wanting to get it sorted out as quickly as possible and feeling a little like the time has been slipping away. This is the final proof copy printed on Fabriano Ingres paper in a bright aqua-green card cover. It is one of the largest format titles I've ever done (10" tall), the construction ripped mercilessly, ahem, I mean done in homage to Alan Anderson's books from The Tragara Press.

I had read on the internet some slightly sniffy comments about Brooke's poetry. It's true that he was young when he wrote and self-published these (1928) and that does show, but when I finally tracked down a copy in the British Library I found I rather liked them. At least two of them are studiedly homoerotic in tone. Unless you have a reader's ticket for the British Library you are unlikely to be able to read these poems except in this reprint. Even if you could find one of the original 50 for sale, which I can't, I suspect it would cost you many hundreds, if not a thousand pounds or so.

NB. This if the final proof. It won't be 'published' and available until next week. If you would like to be on the mailing list for anouncements of new titles, please email me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Corvine Patterned Paper

The Bull Against the Enemy of the Anglican Race is one of the rarer of the early Rolfe pieces. It was originally printed in 1929, edited by A J A Symons from two MSS. "This Bull is a violent attack upon Lord Northcliffe and The Daily Mail, written by Rolfe in his self-imagined role of Pope Hadrian VII." 50 copies were printed and distributed on 27th june 1929 at the first dinner held by the Corvine Society at The Ambassador Club in London.

The photo above is of the copy which once belonged to Shane Leslie and is heartily inscribed to him by A J A Symons.

Given the rareity of the item, of course my eyes widened when I saw the other day, across a tumbling pile of books in a rambling old bookshop, the same black and white patterned paper. I rushed over, only to discover that it was, in fact, being used on a fairly ordinary book of music, Russian songs in fact, published in the US. Woolf, in his bibliography of Rolfe, doesn't say anything about the origin of the paper used as wrappers on The Bull but it would be nice, to find out where is came from if possible.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Puppy Love and an Anniversary

I miss the exact day every year but sometime last week this blog was four years old, yes FOUR. That's positively geriatric in blog-years. When I look back to early posts, it's clear that I had in mind at the beginning to be rather less circumspect and more personal than I have become. That's fine, one of the things I learnt very early on was that, on the whole, people aren't interested in reading The Diary of a Nobody.

However, it has been a peculiar couple of weeks, marked by an absence here. Both my remaining grandparents contrived to die within a week of each other. In fact, my Grandfather (Dad's dad) died on the day of my Nan's (Mum's mum) funeral. While I wouldn't wish her any harm in this life or the next I wasn't close to my nan and her passing was simply the end of a very tired old lady (93) who was very ready to go. On the other hand, I had enormous respect and affection for my granddad who even at 92 was stil living in his own home, up to a couple of weeks before he died, and whose funeral was attended by nearly forty people from his Army Association, his sculpture class, from the local pub, the bowls club and from all the other parts of his long and honourable life. All this has made for inclement blogging weather...

So, who is the blurred little chap above? Well as I was going through a box of old photos, of mine, he fell out. He was called Ruslan, presumably still is as he's the same age as me. I remember the name well of course because one of the first things he explained to me when we met at age 11 or 12 was that his name came from an opera by Glinka because his dad was an opera fan. I was so taken with his name that I don't remember his surname at all. We only knew each other for a week or so but he is the first person that I can remember ever having a crush on. We met on a week long natural history activity camp and never since, but in that week we were inseperable and I was completely besotted. I remember we were going to set up a comic together in which all the characters would be beans, yes beans... he spent a lot of time drawing the various characters. So completely taken up was I by him that I remember precious little of the week apart from him: sitting in the grass talking and drawing, standing close together in the heat and red light of the photography darkroom, being painfully out of breath together during the orienteering course... I think about him quite often. I don't imagine posting this grainy photo of him will worry anyone but should you happen to come this way Ruslan, or anyone who knows you, perhaps you'll say hi... Stranger things have happened.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

More Manicules...

Now, this is how it happens...

First of all I get interested in vague kind of way about some minor printer's quirk: in this case, the pointing hand ornament. A little discussion ensues on the blog... Then I happen to see a vintage woodblock stamp with a 'manicule' device and buy it for the fun of it... Months later I am at a local auction and see a box of bits and piece including two vintage rubber stamps of manicules... these, it seems to me are particularly nice because they form a pair pointing in both directions... so I buy them... and lo! now I have another collection!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Gollancz Perfection

Of course, I'm supposed to only be collecting yellow jacketed Gollancz books if they are science fiction. But I couldn't pass this by. Close to Gollancz perfection in all its frailty. This is a tiny 16pp, 12mo., booklet with the tell-tale yellow and magenta scheme on the front by Victor Gollancz himself, a life-long leftie and mortal opponent of the Nazis.

It's also interesting for being, as Gollancz says in the opening lines, not so much about Buchenwald but about the reaction to it. This includes a passage which must be one of the earliest pieces of writing to confront holocaust denial. His main argument however is that the anti-German sentiment stirred up by the revelations of concentration camp horror should not be directed at the German people as a whole but at those who perpetrated crimes. A noble sentiment but we have seen since how complicated the questions of social culpability, complicity and so on became over time.

All in all it's a wonderful little thing and a timely reminder that book collecting is as much about the little things...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Ex Libris Joseph Gleeson White

Gleeson White, in by all accounts a quiet and unassuming way, was one of the lynchpins of the literary and artistic world of England in the 1890s. He was editor of The Studio, and championed the arts and crafts movement. He designed books for Bell Publications and for The Bodley Head. He was host and mentor to groups of young and aspiring artists in both London and Christchurch (Hampshire) - where he met and had dealings with Frederick Rolfe for a while. Because his own output was limited really to non-fiction, journalism and design, it seems that he is destined to be underestimated in terms of the influence he wielded on the taste and critical faculties of a large part of the 1890s world.

I'm not a bookplate collector and I dont' intend to become one, however, every now and again, for a book collector, a bookplate (in or out of a book) will be of particular interest, which is why I bought these. I believe all of them are by Gleeson White, one of them for his daughter Cicely Rose Gleeson White, a couple for EC (id'ed on the verso in pencil as Emma Chapman, and one of his own which seems at least to hint at his uranian sentiments.

UPDATE September 2011: Through the kind offices of Anthony Pincott of The Bookplate Society, I learn today that the EC bookplates are wrongly attributed and should instead be noted as Emma C Chamberlayne, a bookplate collector who died in 1908 at the age of 76, and whose arms it bears. Thank you Mr Pincott.

Summer Evenings

Apropos of nothing really, except to say that, strange as it might seem, the beach here in Portsmouth, at its far Eastern end, with rough, salty vegetation growing through it, is one of my favourite places. There is an expansiveness of shingle, sea and sky here, all stratified perfectly that draws me powerfully. The beautiful weather of late means that evenings cooling off by the sea with an uninterrupted view of the Isle of Wight across The Solent and the ponderous comings and goings of continental ferries are going to once more become a regular feature of life here.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Lord Alfred Douglas: Sicilian Love Song

I found this in one of the The Bruno Chapbooks, a series of publications which came out of Greenwich Village in New York under the direction of arch bohemian, Guido Bruno. Alfred Douglas, inevitably really given his role in the Wilde affair, is one of those Nineties figures who people either love to hate or love to defend. He also did inexcusable by surviving the Nineties and going on to live to a ripe old age which very few of the Nineties crowd manged to do.

Bruno was publishing this poem and some other material by Douglas in The Spirit Lamp, in Sept 1915, about the time that Douglas was beginning to re-envisage his relationship with Wilde. It's clear from the editorial gloss in the magazine that Bruno is annoyed by this and publishes this selection by way of claiming that 'the lady dost protest too much.'

Sicilian Love Song

Will the hot sun never die?
He shines too bright, too long.
How long the hours creep by!
Will the thrush never finish her song?
She is singing too merrily.

Of when will the moon some, pale,
And strange? I am weary, I wait
For the sad sad nightingale
Ever sobbing insatiate.
Will the day-light never fail?

Take wings relentless light,
Die quickly unloved sun!
For my love will come with the night
When the dreary day is done.
Come soon! come soon! sweet night!

His lips are sweet and red,
Where starlight and moonlight mingle
We will make our bridal bed,
Down in the cool, dark dingle,
When the long day is dead.

Lord Alfred Douglas.
Originally from The Spirit Lamp, May 1893.
Reprinted The Bruno Chapbooks Vol 2. No. 3, Sept 1915.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Vintage Swim Again: Part 1

I was reminded that at the New Year I promised another of the everpopular vintage swim photo posts from my ever growing collection of digital images. So, given that it's been so long I decided to give you all a double wammy as a special treat. A variety of vintage periods... in two posts...

Vintage Swim Again: Part 2

Monday, June 01, 2009

Ex Libris Gleeson White by Charles Ricketts

Recently sold on ebay this delightful ex-libris was designed for Joseph Gleeson White by Charles Ricketts - a more 1890s combination one couldn't really find. Gleeson White was the editor of The Studio, an editor and book designer for George Bell and Co., as well as a talented artist in his own right. He was part of a circle of the literatti in Christchurch in Hampshire in the 1890s which included Frederick Rolfe for a while.
Oh, about £50 and no, not to me...
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