Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A poignant visitation...

A few days just spent in Norfolk included a visit to the tiny village of Nordelph a few miles from Downham Market. It was here that the Uranian poet Edwin Emmanuel Bradford spent the lion's share of his clerical career. If you are looking at this slightly forbidding, bleak and isolated place and thinking this doesn't seem to be the kind of place that you would be posted to if you had a stellar career in the Church of England, you'd be right. Although, it's not clear exactly why Bradford ended up here it is very likely something to do with his sexuality.
Bradford started off his career in the 1890s in a very promising way being curate of the up-and-coming Anglican chaplaincies in St Petersburg and then at St George's Paris. On his return to England, he was posted as the Curate of Eton, the town not the school, which seems a good 're-entry' post before moving to the cure of souls of some large and prestigious parish. Things would have seemed set fair at that point but then, any canny interpreter of his listing in Crockford's Clerical Directory, would know that something must have gone badly wrong. His feet barely touch the ground on his way to being vicar of Nordelph: a church described on the Churches of Norfolk website as "probably the most remote of all Norfolk Churches". There was then, and basically still is now, a quarter of a mile of houses running in a single-file line up a single track road and a long, narrow irrigation canal called the Well Creek. That's it!

The panoramic photo at the top is the view from the row of housing that makes up the village, across the creek and into the Norfolk flatlands. On Sunday, when I visited, it was a cold, clear, crisp day, it was possible, on a short visit to appreciate that there was some beauty in the flat, misty landscape but to live there and to serve the very few people of this tiny village from 1917 till his death in 1944 must have been a saintly labour. (and yes, that creek is actually frozen solid!) And yet, by all accounts Bradford was a humble, quiet and charming man. There is a little more about him and a couple of photos (the originals of which are now in my collection) on the Norfolk Churches site but on this visit I had hoped to see the crumbling and overgrown church but instead I found this:

Opposite the church was a the school house, now in a parlous state with ivy and other foliage growing through the roof. It was here that Bradford taught and supervised the small group of village children in their education. I hadn't thought of it before I went but as I trawled up and down the side of the creek looking for the site of the church I also came across the graveyard. I spent a cold half-hour or so checking each grave but I could find no trace of Bradford. All in all, a sad and poignant visit.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Best Letter Head Ever

This, surely, is one of the most glorious pieces of headed paper you have seen this year? Covering nearly half of a foolscap page, the recitations of Professor Venkutrao's achievements are closed with the statement that he is "the world's most eminent aeronaut" - so eminent that in 2010 Google still hasn't heard of him, nor does he appear to rate a mention in any of the millions of electronically searchable 19th century newspaper pages available to me... nothing...

The context of the letter is Indian and the letter itself reads as though it might be written by someone for whom English is a second language.

Certainly the best thing about this piece of ephemera though has to be the two vignettes of a man parachuting and another making a balloon ascent, apparently without the aid of a basket!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Vintage Health & Strength

Another small collection from the auction last week. This time we have about twenty copies of Health & Strength from the 1950s and 60s. I have to confess that I can find little appealing in this kind of extreme muscle-pumping and the posing just makes me laugh, which is probably not the reaction they were hoping for. Nonetheless I can see they have a kind of kitsch appeal. I particularly like the one on which someone has written in pen by the front cover model "Irv's Hero". The other amusing thing about this lot is that it was made up of these magazines and about the same number of The Evangelical Magazine from the 1860s - and that was it!

Quentin Blake at Chris Beetles Gallery

Starting tomorrow (until the 8th of January), Chris Beetles has a major exhibition of works by Quentin Blake, "Frabjous Beasts and Frumious Birds". I've had a chance to look through the printed catalogue (available for £10 plus 3" p+p from the gallery) as well as the online gallery and I particularly like this portrait of Darwin (below); and who could fail to enjoy the title of the 'Fin-de-Siecle Secretarial Pseudo-Centaur' (above).

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Beautiful Captain Marryat

My experience of Victorian children's books in decorative bindings is that they tend to be fairly ragged affairs, usually with bindings that are 'shaken' (bookdealer speak for 'about to fall apart') and decoration on the covers which is both unimaginative and faded. Every now and then, however, an otherwise unremarkable book is made special by its condition. Japhet in Search of a Father by Captain Marryat and illustrated by H. M. Brock (Macmillan, London, 1895) is certainly an unremarkable book, in nearly any condition it is £5-10 all day long, and whether anyone actually buys it, even at that price, is debatable. However, this copy has just come out of an auction box: immaculate with a gorgeous gilt decorated blue cloth and gilt edges pages, binding tight and the interior clean and full of Brock's wonderful illustrations. Whether the cover decoration and endpapers are also designed by Brock it doesn't say. This is the kind of secondhand book that you think of when you wistfully wonder what it would be like to give a beautiful book as a Christmas present only to discover that your local secondhand bookshop only stock the dull and shaken type!

I had to mention it here, however, for the amazing peacock endpapers which, I know, will thrill at least one regular reader of this blog!

Heath Robinson Exhibition.

An anonymous correspondent writes in the comments on a much earlier post which might otherwise be missed:

"The Art of William Heath Robinson" exhibition opened at The Lightbox in Woking on Saturday 4th December and runs until 6th Feb. It includes three original b&w drawings for A Midsummer Night's Dream and three for The Water Babies and much else. "

Details of the exhibition can be found on the gallery's website.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

I-Spy Books

I have been at an auction for most of the day, and I wish I could show you everything, all the wonders that I've dragged up a flight of stairs to the study but, for the time being, I thought these fantastic 1950s (and earlier) covers would make a nice display. These are I-Spy Books, which, in a somewhat later incarnation, were something of a feature in my childhood. For those who have never come across these before, inside are illustrated pages showing a whole load of things that fit within the category of the book's title, each thing is given a point score, depending on how difficult it is to see, the I-Spy-er spends their time tracking down the things in the books and ticking them off to score points. The filled-in books could then be sent to "Big Chief I-Spy" and he would, in return, send you a certificate. These are quite early ones from a collection of over 100 that I bought today that includes early and rare titles from the series: in fact, you can see at least two incarnations of one of the titles 'On the Farm' just from the pictures here. Many of the titles in this acquisition I have never seen before and I'm really hopeful that they will sell well... but they should do just for the covers!

Vintage Swim: Brother and Sister

Just a random vintage swim picture from my collection, by was of saying sorry I haven't been posting for a few days. I'm told that these two are brother and sister.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Two Vintage Photos: Summer Days

As the snow falls thick outside my window...

How Huck Finn are these. I saw them for sale on the internet recently, got them for a really good price and am even more pleased with them now I have them in my hand than when they were on the screen. The moment I saw them I thought Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer: two lads, in their swimming gear/underwear, drinking from what aren't but could almost be early Coke bottles, fishing rods and shotguns to hand. I think maybe I have a penchant for pastoral scenes. These are mounted on card and dated quite clearly July 1895 and the Huck Finn thing is only strengthened by the fact they come from the US. When you click and englarge them you'll see that both guys actually look really somehow very modern.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Book Catalogues #4

Given that the production of printed catalogues is now a dying art, this is a not very timely plea, but should you be a bookdealer and you are considering issuing a catalogue in print, PLEASE PLEASE, put a date on it... these are a few more of the large collection of book catalogues I am selling at the moment and it is infuriating how few sellers put dates on their lists. It's understandable of course, who would have thought that some other bookseller in 60 years time would be cataloguing their catalogues - but there we are!

Aurora Meditations

Aurora Borealis timelapse HD - Tromsø 2010 from Tor Even Mathisen on Vimeo.

I know this is a little off-topic for this blog but the Astronomy Picture of the Day website has become a regalar haunt of mine and this appeared there the other day. It's wonderful: a time-lapse film of auroras over Noway. I read that auroras are getting more regular and more spectacular at the moment because of increased solar activity. I don't really know, or care, what that means, but I can recommend this to be watched full-screen, in the dark and in meditative mood.

Friday, November 26, 2010

British Museum Pots and Nudes

The British Museum on a crisp, clear November evening, as the lights in the galleries dim and the amazing glass roof above the Great Court goes slowly darker and darker until walking round the great central ambulatory is like stepping out into a Dickensian Christmas scene of happy gloaming, you can't help but wonder if this is one of the most inspiring places on earth!

I was in London today for a couple of meetings and then, with time to kill, spent the rest of the afternoon in happy isolation in some of the more obscure galleries of the British Museum. The pictures below are from a couple of galleries which hardly get any visitors and yet contain some fascinating pieces, this is the Museum's 'reserve' collection of Greek vases and pottery, nearly all in the well-known red and black style but, because of its condition, this is stuff you'll never see illustrated in posh books. In particular, the large plate decorated with a 'boy on horse' motif was breath-taking, particularly so when you consider that it was painted and potted in 480-470 BC.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

More Vintage Swimming

It's been a short while since we last had come vintage swimwear on this blog and so here, for your viewing pleasure, a small selection from a group of photos I bought online recently. The wonder of technology is that thes sometimes very small 2"x2" photos can be scanned and details seen on the screen that even a magnifying glass would be hard pressed to make clear.
For those who might still be trying to pretend that this interest in vintage swimwear is all about the costume, you might like to know that these illustrate swimwear in Italy in about 1925 according to some of the notes on the back!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Paul Ramos The Charioteer

A short while ago I blogged enthusiastically about a book I had bought because of it's cover: the latest Vintage Books imprint of Mary Renault's The Charioteer. Since then, an anonymous contributor added a comment to tell me that that beautiful face on the cover which had so drawn me was Paul Peralta-Ramos, the youngest son of the 30s style icon Millicent Rogers and a little digging led me to a picture of Paul in later life (he died in 2003) which I have put beside the painting. It is not such a well known fact about Milliecent Rogers that she was a major collector of Native American and Spanish Colonial arts and crafts and a dedicated museum now contains both her collection and the collection of her son Paul who continued her work in that field.

Interestingly, (I think I have got this maths right), the artist, Bernard Boutet de Monvel died in 1949 and so Paul in the picture on the book cover can't be more than 15. It's a strange thing to be able to put a name and story to a face which was, presumably, chosen by very dint of its anonymity.
UPDATE: please see the comments for a very helpful link from PJ who takes us to an image of Paul Ramos which clearly shows him at about the same time as the portrait was painted.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Frederick Rolfe's Holywell Banners

I wasn't kidding when I said I had something exciting to announce on this blog this weekend.

We are genuinely excited to be able to annouce the publication of Frederick Rolfe's Holywell Banners by Robert Scoble. The book is published by CJB and printed and distributed by as a 40pp., full-colour sofcover book. This is the first time that all five of the surviving banners have been reproduced in print and the book also contains the first colour reproduction of Rolfe's painting of St George as well as of a pen and ink sketch by Rolfe done for his young assistant Leo.

Holywell in north Wales takes its name from the miraculous Well of St Winefride, which has attracted pilgrims to the town for many centuries. The Well was falling into a state of disrepair and neglect when in 1890 the Jesuits appointed a young and energetic new priest to the Holywell parish. Within a few years Fr Charles Beauclerk had given the shrine a new lease of life, with a particular emphasis on regular processions through the streets of Holywell and on to the Well itself. By 1895 he was feeling the need for new and more splendid processional banners, and when an impecunious artist happened to visit the town, Fr Beauclerk prevailed upon him to stay. The artist told Beauclerk that his name was Frederick Austin, but in reality he was Frederick Rolfe, soon to write the unusual books, some of them under his nom de plume ‘Baron Corvo,’ which were to bring him enduring literary fame. In return for his food and lodging, Rolfe produced some fourteen or fifteen banners, of which only five have survived, as striking and colourful examples of his naïve representational style. His time in Holywell did not end well, however, as he gradually became convinced that Fr Beauclerk was taking advantage of him. This book tells the story of Rolfe’s commission to paint the banners, and reproduces the banners themselves in full colour, together with a detailed description of their fascinating iconography.

You can order your copy of the book DIRECT FROM BLURB

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