Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Few New Vintage Photos

This little cutie fell through the letterbox yesterday- which was a pleasant way to start the day although it does betide some kind of problem in the Atlantic post route as this is the second item recently to have taken more than three weeks to cross the pond!

Then R and I were at Newbury Racecourse for an antiques fair and in one dealer's bargain box I found these two. I've mentioned before how I don't mind, in fact quite like, a bit of damage and wear on an antique photo as it gives some character to the image and a sense of history to the object - and these two have that in spades...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pressed Weeds

In an otherwise unassuming mid-Victorian sketchbook, catalogued in a recent auction as 'pressed flowers' I found these (and many more) specimens of what are, of course, pressed seaweeds. I think they are utterly charming and mounted (matted) and simply framed I think some interior scheme would be very graced by these.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert II

A remarkable set of photographs of the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert II which have come into my possession recently. The yacht was in service from 1855 to 1904 when she was scrapped. If Google imagesearch is to be believed then there are very few photographs of this ship extant. As a paddle-steamer she is quite recognisable and distinct from RY V&A I and II. Two of these photos, which I imagine date to about 1890 have the backstamp of the known Portsmouth photographer Symons and it's particularly nice that in one of the photos of the ship herself she is seen steaming out of Portsmouth Harbour with recognisable landmark buildings in the background. The top photograph is labelled as the Deck House in the Queen's Apartment, the bottom photograph is a 'corridor and staircase in the Queen's apartment', the other interior photo is the dining room. Unfortunately, there is nothing to tell me about the Captain and his dog although it is clearly from the same group of photos.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Advice of the Boys' Own Paper

The BOP was one of the great institutions of Victorian and Edwardian England. It may be surprising to learn that it had an 'agony' column, of sorts. They called it simply 'Correspondence' and it had the same kind of broad reach as say, 'Notes and Queries' dealing with any question that a boy might be concerned enough to write in about but the boys' letters were never published, just the responses and, whilst sometimes it's easy enough to intuit the question from the answer, sometimes that just adds to the humour. Here are a few which appealed to me, all taken from two issues of The Boys' Own Paper from 1893:

SLEEPY HEAD (c. Brown) - 1. You must take all the exercise you can in the open air and an occasional opening pill or two at night. Your blood is not all right. 2. "Indoor Games" can be obtained by order through any bookseller.

CYCLING (Persistent)- Begin with short and train up to long. Do not spurt much as that really does injure or stretch the heart.

ENTERING NAVY (R. W. P.) No, you must have two eyes, or you will not be accepted.

FLATULENCE (J. M. B.) Perhaps charcoal as sold in chemists' shops would afford relief. You give us so little to go by. Pepsine, too, would do good if the digestion is slow.

CANARY DEFORMED (W. Weaver) No, we don't think that anything can be done

"IN IGNORANCE" (Richards) Read your Bible, and you will see where the sin comes in. What you refer to will not stop all at once. What you have to do now is to lead a sinless life, govern your thoughts, and obey the laws of health.

WILD-CATS' SKINS (Arthur) Dress them neatly and let them form the centre parts of two mats or anti-macassars, to place over sofa or on back of chair. The may itself might be light blue with a bordering of flowers.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Vintage workman

I just thought this was a really good photograph: good composition, good contrast, good lighting and, of course, a very sexy back... anyone need their pipes boxing in...?

Photos in Books

It isn't unusual to find books which have photographs as illustrations. I've seen a number of mid-Victorian topographical works which are illustrated with either tipped in or pasted in photos. This one, I found irresistible. As you can see it is the catalogue of one man's collection, a man who is interesting enough to have had his biography written: The Life of Richard Waldo Sibthorp. The blurb to the biography reads: "Richard Sibthorp, youngest son of a celebrated Lincolnshire family, became through his forceful preaching and acknowledged piety, one of the leading Anglican Evangelicals of the 1820s. During the next decade his Old Testament studies turned him into a High Churchman who transformed his chapel on the Isle of Wight into a pioneering centre of ritualism. In 1841, at great personal cost, he converted to Rome. More astonishing was his announcement, in October 1843, that he was returning to the Establishment."

Unfortunately, this copy isn't in very good condition but you have to ask yourself just how many copies could have been 'published', and I think this is the crux of my fascination with this book, just how much work it must have taken to put together. There must be well over 100 photos which not only had to be taken but developed and then stuck onto the pages of the book, probably before binding. Readers may remember that R is a bit of a pot freak, in the purely ceramic sense, and add that to the mix and I could hardly leave this one on the shelf now could I?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Delighting in Dunstan

Back in 2007 R came home from a day out with a present for me. It was a book of what appeared to be war poems from WW2 with a distinctly homoerotic bent. At the time I was so taken with the poems that I put three of them on the blog: "This Tall Horseman, My Young Man of Mars", "The Lay of the Battle of Tombland", and "Field Music II" All of the poems were so vital and vigorous and had a tense, sometimes violent and often sexy energy to them. There was, at the time, precious little else to go on and almost nothing to be found about this poet. A little while later I came across a second volume of poems, with some crossover of contents with the first. And then finally, some long time later I came across an online article "What Became of Dunstan Thompson" by Edward Field. At last, a little more information and I can happily recommend the article to anyone who enjoys this blog, as something I think you'll find worth reading in its entirety, however, we should probably say something here about this mysterious man.

He was a man of contradictions when his life is viewed across time. It appeared to the reading public that after the 1940s with his couple of 'slim volumes' and a couple of travel books, that he disappeared. In truth, there was nothing very mysterious about it. He didn't stop writing poetry, he simply found it almost impossible to get another collection published. There was a personal turning point. During the war as a GI stationed in the UK doing office work, he met Philip Trower and they became lovers but at some point further down the line both men had a conversion to Catholicism (or 'transformation' as Trower calls it in Thompson's case since he had been brought up in a fiercely Catholic home). From that point on the two men lived as platonic friends, together, in the Norfolk village of Cley-on-the-Sea, until Thompson's death in 1975. Trower was Thompson's literary executor and in the last few years, as Thompson has become more and more noticed again, he has been approached on numerous occasions (when he could be found in his remote Norfolk home) about reprinting those early volumes of poetry but he always maintained that Thompson himself had instructed him, shortly before his death, never to allow the reprinting of those early books. Modern sensibilities being what they are, it is difficult to grasp what has happened here. We are used to the notion of the 'ex-gay' and all its attendant problems and politics but this is not that, so much as the more old-fashioned notion of a commitment to celibacy.

Clearly this blooming of devout Catholic life is something of a contradiction and critics have found it problematic. With it, in his writing, came a broadening of subject matter, a move away from the overtly homoerotic tone of some of his earlier work and a somewhat more mature style. It may be a combination of these things, along with changing fashions in poetry which stopped him having another collection published in his lifetime. However, there is a slow resurgence in interest and I was amazed and delighted to find the book at the top of the post which was published last year by the Pleiades Press in their 'Unsung Masters Series'. It consists of essays on Thompson's life and work, interviews with and reminiscences by those who knew him, including Trower and a portfolio of poems which includes a few selected from the two early volumes. I am almost finished with the book now and it reveals an extremely complex and interesting character who genuinely is an 'unsung master' in anyone's book. He should have been up there with Auden and Spender as one of the best poets of his generation but somehow managed to fall through the cracks of history. The two eminent quotes at the beginning of Field's essay (which is reprinted in the Pleiades book) sum-up for me the difficulty and the enjoyment of getting to grips with Thompson: "The gayest poet of WW2" and "The best catholic poet of the latter half of the 20th century"

The new book also includes, in its small selection of his poems, a representative sample from the later work. Philip Trower published a collection after Thompson's death and, as a beautiful example, I've chosen this one. It is not the substantial nor the most representative but as the UK has been in the grip of a wonderful Indian Summer it feels particularly evocative.


The thistles, rooted out, throng in again;
The single regal rose is mobbed by weeds;
The plums, the pears, the ripening apples, rain
In the sun; and past summer plants new seeds.

The chaffinch looks around the world, and takes
His time with August: even wasps relax -
Late afternoon, their metric buzzing breaks
Off, as though they were bees and the light wax.

Here, or there, these common yearly things
Repeat, repeat, and gardens do not range:
Yet thistles, roses, fruit trees, birds, and stings
Come to an end, and the church bells sound a change.

These many soft declensions of the day,
So hard to take to heart, bear life away.

So, read the Edward Field article, read the poems, if at all possible, buy the Pleiades Press book and make a discovery.


This bibliography makes no claims but I think covers most of the obvious bases.

The Song of Time. An English Poem Adapted from the French of Marguerite de Navarre. Cosmos Press: Cambridge (MA), 1941. Printed in an edition of 50 copies with the original French poem facing Thompson's Translation.

Poems. Simon & Schuster: New York, 1943.

The Third Murderer. Poems Privately printed: London, 1944. A 7pp booklet printed in an edition of 60 copies.

Poems. Secker & Warburg: London, 1946. With a slighty different selection of poems.

Lament for the Sleepwalker. Dodd Mead & Co.: New York, 1947. A second collection of poetry.

The Phoenix in the Desert. A Book of Travels. John Lehmann: London, [1951]. A book of travel writing about the Middle East with the journey itself commissioned and paid for by the publisher.

The Dove With the Bough of Olive. Simon & Schuster: New York, 1954. Another volume of travel writing. UK first edition by Cassell: London, 1955.

Poems 1950-1974. Paradigm Press: Bungay, 1984. The posthumously published collected and edited by Trower, mostly unpublished material. Sometimes referred to as The Red Book.

I'd be delighted to hear from anyone who knows of other material which could be added to this bibliography and I will try to update it from time to time. Thompson edited and contributed to a number of poetry magazines both before and after the war and so at some point I may add a 'non-book' section to this list.

Dressing Up

It's not unusual to find Victorian little boys in dresses, it was just what children wore and then, at some nebulously illdefined stage little boys became 'boys' and girls remained children and so the boys move out of the dresses into short trousers. And that was the way it was for much fo the nineteenth century. It's a little more unusual to find a boy of this lad's (on the right) age, or perhaps he just looks a little older than he actually is.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

J & J Jeffery Inkiness

It's been a while since I featured any of the wonderful paper made by J & J Jeffery in Edinburgh but as a sweetener for a large order I placed recently for an upcoming project they sent this sheet. This is about A3 in size and so the pattern is really wallpaper sized (I realise I should have photographed it with some kind of context). The Jefferys cut their own lino blocks and print them and this sheet is just delicious in the blank inkiness and vintage/contemporary design printed on brown parcel paper which is somehow just right.

I have also noticed that so far on this blog whenever they've been mentioned, I've been misspelling their name... ooops... sorry...

And while we're on the subject of printing, these little wooden blocks are rather fun. They were in a crate from an auction that was bought for its other contents. I'm not even sure that these are really for printing with ink, I think more likely they are for impressing designs in butter or biscuits, certainly there was other kitchenalia in the lot. Anyway, clearly I couldn't NOT have a little experiment. I think the results are rather charming.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ghosts And Ghostly Libraries at Senate House

Senate House is the HQ of the University of London. It is an astonishing building whose main claim to fame is its many appearances in television and film whenever a piece of fascist-looking architecture is required, most notably as The Ministry of Truth in "1984". My best friend is one of the denizens of Senate House and he was delighted to discover that the building holds the Harry Price Library, that is, the collection made by one of the most famous psychical researchers / ghost-hunters of the 20th Century. The library is now not easy to access in its entirety for reasons which aren't exactly clear to me but 20 years ago it was an open access resource and there is a great reminiscence of the library at Tom Ruffles's blog. To continue the theme, Senate House must be one of the only buildings in the country which has a blog dedicated to its ghosts, one which encourages up-to-date contributions. The same people also have The Magical Library blog up, an 'artistic response' to the Harry Price Library, but it has been 'coming soon' since April...

Best Ever 'Gay Interest' Photo...

...is how the seller of this photograph on Ebay is billing it. (Click to enlarge). Perhaps the slight hyperbole can be forgiven since the photo is frankly, quite astonishing. I don't normally post nudity on Front Free Endpaper but I don't see how anyone could be particularly upset by this given the oddity of it. Having recently discussed on the blog what constitutes a 'gay' photo its hard to know how this wouldn't qualify: just what are the two men lying on top of each other actually doing...? The shaved heads suggest soldiers, perhaps Eastern European or German, in the first quarter of the 20th century. Groups of naked or near naked soldiers in photos are not uncommon, neither are photos of groups doing acrobatics but combine the two and add in the complete nudity and the very peculiar poses and we have quite the unique item.

The seller has very kindly allowed me to post it here but if you would like to see the photo in situ on Ebay, click here...

O Wonderful Town

A strange trip to London this week. Some wheeling and dealing in the back-streets of Piccadilly, where the high-end art galleries are. Supper with my best friend and then a gentle stroll over the Thames and back to Waterloo for my train. I've said before that London is my favourite city in all the world and with views like this as the evening darkens.... well...

Young Man Abed?

This is a recent arrival. I had thought that perhaps when I saw this image 'in person' as opposed to on the screen that I would be able to resolve some of the strangeness of it. But no. I'm still very happy with it and one of the things the scan doesn't show is that fact that this is a good sized (10"x8") photo. A young man certainly... but why the over-excited expression? is he abed? what's he reaching for? The picture makes me smile!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Callum James Books: Short List #4

Later on this evening I shall be releasing Callum James Books' Short List No. 4. These short catalogues have proved very popular and if you are familiar with the kinds of things that get put up on this blog and that we publish from http://www.callumjamesbooks.com, then you should have a good idea of the kind of things we are selling from these lists. The idea is to have a wide selection with something to suit every pocket, usually between 15 and 25 items. Often these are items new in stock that haven't been put up for sale elsewhere on the Internet as yet. Mostly there are books but ephemera, photos and artwork get an occasional look in too. This list will include items by or relating to Aubrey Beardsley, John Gambril Nicholson, Hajo Ortil and Ralph Chubb among others.

If you are not on the mailing list for this catalogue then please just email us at the link to the top right of this page and we'll happily add you on. The catalogue comes in the form of a text only email which also contains a link to the fully illustrated pdf version.

Funny Ol' Swimwear

Just to prove a point that doesn't really need proving: sometimes vintage swimwear photos aren't super-sexy, they are, in fact, just a little silly...

Friday, October 07, 2011

Identifying People in Old Photos

In an age before television, it wasn't uncommon for the high and mighty of the land to have their portrait taken by a photographer and for that image to be sold throughout the country at stationers and booksellers. So they occasionally turn up in family albums. Many are easy enough to spot: Dickens was a favourite, the Queen of course and members of her family, the occasional Bishop or preacher if the family was particularly devout, like these two above of Mr and Mrs Gladstone that came from a large Victorian family photo album I bought recently.

But then there are others who one suspects are 'personalities' but who can be a little more difficult to pin down. So, a plea for help I suppose: the two photos below are both by Bassano, a very well known photographer of celebrity at the end of the nineteenth century, based in London, and from the Bond Street address on the back of these cabinet cards we know they are post 1876. The National Portrait Gallery has nearly 41000 photographs by the Bassano company and trawling through them for a match isn't really praticable. Of course, Bassano photographed the humble as well as the famous and the name alone is not enough to suspect that these two are personages. However, both these cabinet cards also have a retailers sticker on them as well and the retailer was local to the family from whose album these come. This is enough for me to believe that these are photos of famous people but I don't know who... any thoughts my faithful friends and readers...?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Vintage Gay Photos...

If you search Ebay's photograph section for "gay" or "affectionate" or "shirtless" you will be presented with a host of vintage photos which could be said to appeal to a gay viewer. Most of my vintage swimwear collection has come from Ebay in this way. But nearly every photograph listed as something like: "affectionate men hugging gay interest" is actually a photo of father and son, perhaps brothers, army comrades or simply mates hugging in less uptight times. There is quite a market in such images and if it floats your boat then great...

Much, much rarer indeed are those photos that could genuinely have something to do with a homoerotic situation. Clearly, such photos were rarely taken, the danger was too great, but every now and again one surfaces like this one, sold by the lovely people at the Ampersand Gallery in Portland, and just suggestive enough to make one think there may be more to it than mates sharing a bed, maybe not of course, we'll never know, but the gaydar does ping. Which is possibly why it sold for nearly 200 GBP with this inscription on the back...

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Condition is everything...

My apologies that I haven't been about as much as I would like on the blog for the last week or so. Part of the reason for that has been the amount of work involved in purchasing a large collection of books recently. Above is just a couple of shelves of the more general books from the collection (most of the others are art, photography or transport related) but what is astonishing about all of them is the condition. It's hard to convey in pictures even how these books, printed and published in the 1970s, 60s, 50s, and some in the 1940s are as crisp as the day they were bought. It still gives me chills to pick some of them up. Not a single one of the books on those two shelves is a reprint. How often does a secondhand bookdealer get to use phrases such as "fine in every respect" or "as new" about books of this age? I have decided to make the most of it! the reason they are in such amazing condition is simple: the entire collection has had to be liberated from the paper bags in which it was bought. Every book was found tucked in its original paper or plastic bag from Hammicks, W H Smith or Foyles...

The Churchill books below... also first editions...!

Who links to my website?