Thursday, August 27, 2009


There has been a long-standing relationship between this blog and the play Equus by Peter Shaffer, beginning in February 2007 when I was present at both the first preview night and the last night of the run of Thea Sharrock's new production in the West End starring Richard Griffiths and Daniel Radcliffe. My relationship with the play goes back even further to a hot summer afternoon lying on my bed at home of the Isle of Wight with the windows wide open and the stultifying air still barely moving as I read through the play in one go, quite literally from cover to cover. The mixture of psychosis, religion and sexuality held me gripped all that afternoon and patterned itself into my head for weeks and months afterwards, affecting me profoundly. I have since learnt that this is not an uncommon reaction to the play, particularly I might say from gay men.

So I would be interested to hear about any new illustrated edition of the play. That this new edition is illustrated by Clive Hicks-Jenkins and printed by Nicolas McDowall at the Old Stile Press and brought to birth in many other practical ways by Frances McDowall is particularly exciting. That I have been vaguely attached to the project for the last two and a half years though contributing no more than the original idea does, I have to say, create a swelling sense of pride. Please do go and see

and read the story of

Please do visit those links and read the posts, leave comments and if you feel you'd like to make a anti-credit-crunch statement - buy one!

If you'd like to you could also review the ongoing relationship of Front Free Endpaper to the play.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Alec Clunes's Book Catalogues

Okay, I promise not to do this too often but here now, another couple of things that I'm currently selling on Ebay...

There is something that delights the soul of any bookseller, I'm sure, about the apparatus of bookselling, the ephemera, the booksellers labels, bookplates, and of course, the catalogues. Alec Clunes was the father of the well-known British actor, Martin Clunes, and a dealer in books about the theatre. For a little while in 1960s Clunes had a shop in the famous Cecil Court.

These are Alec Clune's own copies of a number of his catalogues, dismembered and then pasted or tipped into commonplace books so that sales could be tracked. I have two books, the first containing the first two catalogues he issued, the second contains catalogues 13, 15, and 16 and all of them have wonderful annotations to say who bought what books: I was particularly intrigued to see just how much selling was done to academic institutions.

Also from the same source is a three page typed catalogue of portraits, photos, relics, prints and books relating to Sarah Bernhardt. There are only 19 items but they were offered for sale as a group for £137. 15s. which gives an idea of the quality of the items. They were, in the main, according to the very brief blurb, from the estate of the artist Graham Robertson, an intimate of Bernhardt's. I'm not even sure that this catalogue was ever 'published' or if carbon type copies like the one I have were used simply to accompany approaches to individual buyers.

Corvo's Letters

There has been, for a long while, a large gap in my collection. It is often remarked that Rolfe reached the true heights of his writing genius in his letters so no real Corvine collection is complete until the three volumes of the Centenary Letters have been placed on the shelf. They are the Letters to Pirie-Gordon, Letters to Leonard Moore and Letters to R. M. Dawkins and they were published around 1960, the centenary of Rolfe's birth by Nicholas Vane. They wouldn't have been possible, of course, without the sharp and detailed scholarship and research of Cecil Woolf who edited and introduced the letters. Some of Cecil's letters have recently been catalogued in the Weeks Collection that has been sold to Leeds University and according to Tim d'Arch Smith, the cataloguer, they clearly demonstrate the depth of investigation that Woolf put into his editing. There were to be a number of other volumes which, for one reason or another, were never published. In a letter I have seen Woolf is fairly laid back about that saying to his correspondant that he was aware that some were desparing of seeing the next volume but that everything would come eventually and that others would carry on with anything he couldn't do. Voume four was to have been Rolfe's letters to Canon Ragg and his wife and to Mr and Mrs van Someren with an epilogue by Laura van Someren. I'm glad to say that Rolfe's letters to the Raggs at least are currently under a skilled editor and Woolf was right, others would do anything that he didn't get round to...

As for my copies of the Centenary Letters, finally discovered in their glassine wraps still, the tiny tear in Volume III being the only thing to spoil their otherwise very minty air. And for a price at which I couldn't say no. Wonderful things to have finally tracked down.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Vintage Swimwear

Just a small taster this time as I happen to have bought these recently and, by way of advertising, am selling them on Ebay this week.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Keith Vaughan Decorates Penguins

A little while ago I posted about some small vignette illustrations by Denton Welch which were used as endpieces in one of John Lehmann's The Penguin New Writing series.

Also in that issue were another set of endpieces by Keith Vaughan. They look, for the most part, like completely abstracted mark-making, these tiny squiggles at the end of a number of the pieces in the book: so much so that it's easy not to realise that one of them is, in fact, an upturned face.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Black and White Saints

Leaves from The Golden Legend
chosen by H. D. Madge with illustrations by C. M. Watts
Constable & Co. Ltd., London, 1910. New Edition.
Sometimes it's the small things that delight the most. This little thing I picked up for £2.00 the other day. It ticks a number of boxes for me. First of all, The Golden Legend is primarily the lives of numerous saints and I have a soft spot for hagiography - remind me sometime to tell you the story of St Christina the Astonishing. Second, the book has a very pretty decorated cover, I don't know if anyone with a 'name' was working on the book designs at Constable at the time but I wouldn't be surprised to discover that was the case. Thirdly, the illustrations are lovely: black and white, something of the Harry Clarke about them.
I also wanted to say thank you to anonymous who commented on my recent post about a photograph of children playing with lion cubs. A very interesting comment and I'm sure it must be connected in some way with my photo. Thanks again whoever you were...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Holywell Trip

Returned safe and sound last night from a three day trip to Holywell in North Wales which, because there is no easy way to get there from Portsmouth, is more like a one day visit with two day's travelling either side. That said, I got to travel one of my favourite routes, i.e. over the Severn Bridge and up the Wye Valley. There are two simply breathtaking moments on that trip, the first as you ramp up onto the Severn Bridge and it feels as though you and the car have taken flight. It's as though the journey up till then has taken place inside a box on which the sky and road have been painted and that, as you mount the bridge, the box opens up, origami-style, into this huge new reality in which the vastness of the new sky in which you are hanging is only matched by the expanse of the Severn estuary beneath you. I never tire of it.

The second great moment on that journey is the appearance of Tintern Abbey. You drive a few miles along a winding road with heavily wooded sides which rises slowly higher and higher up the side of the valley and then, out of nowhere, you round a corner and the road plummets downwards and Tintern Abbey rears up from the valley floor. It is a spectacular ruin but made more awe inspiring because of its situation, on the valley floor next to the thick-flowing Wye, which means that for all its own size and massive scale, it is dwarfed and framed by the immense wall of green which is the opposite side of the valley behind it: beautiful.

Fortuntately, not far along the road after all this excitement reside the McDowells, Nicolas and Francis in the their beautiful home by the Wye, housing also the Old Stile Press. So a comfort break, which turned very happily into a scrumptious lunch and conversation that could have lasted for days, was just enough to calm me down again on the outward journey on Thursday.

Holywell itself was very productive. I was there, as you might imagine, to do more research into Rolfe and his time in the town, and was very kindly granted full access to the archive of St Winefride's Well. Most of my full day in the town was spent in the small but very carefully ordered and beautifully decorated room which contains their collection of photos, books and documents relating to the shrine over five hundred and more years and I was able to dig out some real goodies which I'm sure will come in very handy in the not too distant future.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Edwardian Toddlers and Lion Cubs

This is a quite extraordinary photo that I bought today. It took me a moment, because the image is slightly faded, to work out what it was exactly it was that the woman and child have each in their lap. Can you imagine today giving your four-year-old a lion cub to play with for a photo opportunity! I know we like to make fun today of health and safety but really...? lions.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Vintage Venice Once More

Okay, so it's 2a.m. and I've just returned from my second viewing of the new Harry Potter film. There's something very enjoyable about going to the cinema on your own, late at night, just four other people in the theatre. All of which is by way of saying I don't have much va va voom to expend on blogging tonight so I'm just sharing a couple vintage real photo postcards of Venice that I picked up last weekend in fact. One of the nice things about hoarding together a collection of postcards and photos of Venice is that they don't cost very much. From an otherwise uneventful antique and collectibles fayre, you can always count on coming away with at least a couple of Venice images.
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