Friday, August 31, 2012

Bertram Hiles - Mouth Painter

Bertram Hiles was an artist working at the turn of the last century, for the most part, as far as his black and white design work went, in the Art Nouveau style. These illustrations come from an exhibition of his work held at the Crystal Palace in Sydenham in December of 1900. Hiles lost both his arms in a tramcar accident when he was eight years old. Even at that age he had already determined he was going to be an artist and so the loss of his arms was a devastating blow. Nonetheless, he worked to train his mouth instead and became what we know today as a mouth-painter. The Bristol based artist went to the Merchant Venturers' Technical College and then won a scholarship to the National Art Training School. This suggests a fairly poor background and so his trip to Paris at the end of his formal education must have been something of an eye-opener. He worked in black and white design and illustration like those seen here but also in colour and produced a number of paintings for Tuck's Oilette series of postcards, mainly topographical views, somewhat saccharine perhaps for modern taste. There is a good selection of his work including a self-portrait at Design - Decoration - Craft.  Sadly, he died too early, in Bristol at the age of 55.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Foreign Bodies from the Black and White Budget

You might expect the museum of a place like The Royal College of Surgeons to have some slightly macabre and fascinating exhibits and here, with help from a return visit to the pages of the Black and White Budget magazine of 1902 are just a few. In this instance, they are things taken from bodies. Above is an egg cup removed from the body of a 60 year old man, an inmate of a workhouse....

A collection of foreign bodies successfully removed from the stomach of a girl of ten years old.

A spoon and bowl swallowed by a 22 year old lunatic (sic.)

The top of an iron railing successfully removed from the upper jaw of a builder aged 41.

Bent pins weighing some 9oz. removed from the stomach of a 41 year old woman.

Twenty marbles selected from fifty-three which were swallowed by a boy of fifteen, who never complained.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

John Lehmann and War Poetry

On any given day, any given person will have a number of disparate experiences and every now and again one or two or three of those experiences might seem to link up with each other, by chance, by Synchronicity. I've been having one of those days. I first of all discovered a new variation on a Keith Vaughan dustjacket and as I am collecting these things now I bought it and I have this evening scanned it and updated my ongoing post on the subject here on this blog. Possibly because I was thinking along the lines of all things Lehmann, when I saw a bundle of The London Magazine in the same shop, of course, I picked a few up to thumb through. Anyone who wants to understand literary life in the UK in the first half of the twentieth century, and particularly gay literary life could do a lot worse than to pick up as many copies of this magazine under Lehmann's editorship as they possibly can. 

Then, in an apparently unconnected event this evening, R and I settled down to watch the latest episode of the genealogical program Who Do You Think You Are? in which, this week, the actor Patrick Stewart of Star Trek and Shakespearean fame, took an in depth and quite moving look at his father's wartime career. So, when I came to think about scanning the new Keith Vaughan jacket I put it back on the shelf next to a small pamphlet of poems by John Lehmann himself. I would never have conceived of calling Lehmann a "war poet" but it turns out he was. He certainly wasn't a great war poet but there are some quite powerful turns of thought and image in some of these 1944 poems and so, with the Patrick Stewart's father's difficulties still close to mind, I thought I'd share one of Lehmann's poems. 

Campaign Photograph.

And when he turned the last bend in the road
And saw the end, blue waves and salt-white domes,
And smelt the silence after the great raid,
And children with a noise of seagulls ran
Clustering  with fresh, sweet posies, gourds and wine
All round the armoured car ; behind that grin
So strangely in the picture crossed with grief,
What thought had etched away his boyhood dream
Marking him man for ever? What was won
Out of the years surrendered, out of graves
Where limbs of friends, his limbs, each dusk were brought?
Was it the triumph in the Roman style,
The headline victory they would celebrate
That night and years to come? The conquering steel
Of will and weapon history would acclaim
In senatorial pages? Or did he see
Under reprieve of dying the simple praised
Still the bombed goat-track, the shell-drunken climb,
And only the nightmare roaring like a wind
Through all his future, never to be expressed,
And these huzzaing crowds and homes of joy
Not as once longed for, but a staunchless wound
That soaked away into eternity?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lancashire Wrestling

The Black and White Budget is a Victorian/Edwardian periodical that I hadn't come across before and so as a few volumes have come my way, I've been flicking through them recently. These photos caught my eye. They purport to show wrestling as it is done in Lancashire! Evidently an editor at the paper had something of a thing for wrestling because with the same few months issues there are also illustrated articles on Cornish Wrestling and Greco-Roman style wrestling, (which to my eye appears to have exactly the same participants as these photos here.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Herb Lester's City Maps

Herb Lester Associates have been producing quirky and interesting maps of major cities, beginning with London, for a while now. My recent visit to the British Library was the first time I'd seen one in the flesh so I bought it from the shop there. This is "Writing London". As my ever vigilant friend pointed out about these maps, they're not the kind of thing that you could actually take with you to find somewhere unless you had Google maps on your phone at the same time. But I did enjoy the 68 snippets of literary gossip and direction that the map gives, safe in the knowledge that I was never going to track down any of these places, but that I could if I wanted to now.

It was also from this map that I learnt that it was Mervyn Peake who designed the logo for Pan Paperbacks. He was, apparently, offered either a flat fee of £10 of a farthing per book. His friend the author Graham Greene convinced him that paperbacks were but a passing phase and that he should take the £10 and run!

I would like to see more of the Herb Lester maps (although guides might be a more appropriate term). I think I may buy the East London map "E" next: the design work on it looks like a 1960s Pelican paperback cover design.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Siegfried Sassoon's Bookplate and Website

This is the monogram of Siegfried Sassoon, best known to a generation of school children as a "War Poet" but so much more besides. The monogram was used by Sassoon as an ex-libris bookplate and is often accompanied by his ownership signature. One of the most often de-gayed characters in twentieth century literature. Perhaps because the image of War Hero doesn't sit easily in some minds alongside that of Stephen Tennant's lover, one of the most dandyish and shiny of the Bright Young Things. As is often the way in this business, you sell a book and then discover an interest. In the past few months I have sold a copy of the Sotheby's sale catalogue of the contents of Stephen Tennant's Wiltshire home, and a short while later sold a copy of a book from Sassoon's own library complete with the monogram bookplate and signature. So many author's have a surprisingly small Internet presence that it was a delight and something of a shock to discover the extensive and excellent website published and maintained by a David Gray. It is something of a model for what author websites should be.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Three Small Presses

The work of small presses is continually fascinating because, no matter what ethos or driving philosophy there might be at work, the output of a small press will always be the result of a small number of people, sometimes only two or thee, working together to produce something with a purpose and significance. The skills of a writer, artist, printmaker, typographer, bookbinder, designer and so on are all used to some extent and often more than one of these skills in a single person. It makes each production of a small press something human and narrative in the way that a commercially produced book can't approach.

These three examples are taken almost at random from the draws of material like this here at Callum James Heights. The book on Paul Church in Cornwall is a small production in heavy black type that a purist would probably disapprove of. This copy was inscribed, faintly, on the cover by the author in 1918 - some eight years after the book was printed. As well as your typical antiquarian look at the history of a church and parish, this title includes a list of the liturgical festivals of the year giving both their English and Cornish names. The press was The Newlyn Press and it was run by R. T. Dick and J. D. Mackenzie. Mackenzie in particular was something of an institution in Newlyn, a life-long bachelor who, out of Quaker conviction, gave over his life to improving the lot of the local fishing men and lads. Mackenzie helped found the Newlyn Industrial Class, later the Newlyn Art Metal Industry which produced many of his own designs in repousse copper and gave employment and extra income to the locals when fishing couldn't support them. The press was also published a short-lived art journal called Paper Chase that was edited by another of the famous Cornish artists, Elizabeth Stanhope Forbes. I haven't seen any other titles from this press and so I can't say for certain but as the design below is on the back of the book and the title page, I would say it constitutes a pressmark and a very unusual one at that: I think it is supposed to be a cuttlefish. I don't know the dates of the press exactly but Mackenzie died in 1918 of flu, having spent perhaps too long caring for two local boys who were suffering with it and contracting it himself, and then pneumonia.

The Cellar Press produced a number of hand-printed and illustrated poems in the 1970s (not to be confused with the Cellar Press currently operating since 2005). As far as I can tell, none of the poets they worked with rose to the top rank of 'names' but they had a certain 1970s experimental vibe about them. This pamphlet was illustrated by Julia Caprara who went on to become a leading light in the world of textile art and you can perhaps see something of that in her illustration above. The pressmark for this press is a faux-medieval capital C illustrated with a monk taking a drink from a wine cask.

The Caseg Press was based in Snowdonia in Wales and was very much driven by the artist John Petts, whose striking frontispiece for this long poem Sauna is below. Petts also did work for the Golden Cockerel Press. The Caseg Press spluttered in and out of life from 1937 through to 1951 and until their separation Petts ran it with his poet/artist wife Brenda Chamberlain. This is actually the second edition of this work of which 500 copies were printed. Although I was initially attracted to the book by the illustration, the poem itself is a long and beautiful one, a meditation on the mysteries of heat, cold, friendship and storytelling in the traditional Finnish sauna.

Why Did You But That?

...a question I am often asked by R on returning home with a bundle of bits and pieces. Sometimes he asks with more incredulity than interest, sometimes the other way around. In this case, of course, I was attracted by the cover: strong black and white design always attracts me to a book. Having picked it up I discover it is a small stapled booklet of poetry from 1972. But the clincher, in this case, has got to be that this is the first and only book I have ever picked up in a bookshop that was published in Papua New Guinea.

Fab Ephemera

Just couldn't resist sharing this piece of ephemera. It's only an envelope but sent from Portsmouth to London in 1935, the year of the Silver Jubilee, as evidenced by the stamp, and with the amazing period-piece graphic of the Pickford's removal van: a perfect ephemeral storm...!

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Touch of the Greek

In London today for a couple of meetings at the British Library and a quick meander around the British Museum in between, which is why there is a dose of the Greek for you all today. The adorable young man above is, predictably, in the galleries of Greek sculpture. But the red clay vases below are in one of my favourite parts of the Museum, the Enlightenment Gallery, an old-fashioned assemblage celebrating the great antiquarians, those who put together the museum's earliest collections together, everything from shells and taxidermy to Buddhas and Roman coins... and pretty young men on pots!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Library of Congress : Vintage Swimming

The very lovely John Coulthart just sent me the above photo that he found in the Library of Congress online image archive - one of the best sources of public domain imagery on the internet - and it reminded me that I hadn't been for a good poke around there for a while. So thanks to John's good offices, I have discovered the images below, which appear to be photos of competitive swimmers including one Johnny Weissmuller who was, of course, before he was ever swinging through the trees, an Olympic medalist and world record holding swimmer. And I will resist all jokes about creepers and vines...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Some Favourite Etsy Shops

Whilst I've been putting together the CallumJames/Paper shop on Etsy, I've also been getting my feet under the table there. The website is characterised by a community approach to things which makes it a pretty friendly place. Etsy allows people to sell things of three distinct types: vintage, hand made and then craft supplies. There are some very talented makers of brilliant things selling their wares there but also some great boutique shops of vintage wares. So here are just a few of my favourite little shops so far. Snapatorium is the shop above, which unsurprisingly (the clue's in the name), deals in vintage snapshots, candid photography. The Thanatos Archive (below) also sells vintage photography but with a much darker edge: freaks and medical photos and oddities are their stock in trade. Below them we have something altogether more colourful, the Two Eunices whose stock is full of prints of Vogue artwork and botanical prints. And then the final two shops below are there because I'm currently having a bit of a moment with vintage Soviet era artwork and both, in quite different ways, cater for this taste: Soviet Garden and Soviet Shop.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Birth of a Book

This is a little old now, so apologies to anyone who has seen it already, but it was new to me and rather enchanting.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Winchester: A Decadent Hotbed

Anthologies of school verse are best avoided at all cost. Slightly better, perhaps, are those which only admit alumni whose poetic credentials have been honed in the wider world, best of all, an anthology of poetry by the alumni of a school which has been in existence for 500 years and more. Winchester College is one such school, its denizens known as Wykehamists, and this (above) is just such an anthology. Cataloguing it recently I was struck by the number of names I knew. Two of the biggest names in the 1890s canon in particular stood out: Lionel Johnson (pictured from the book below at the age of 14) and Alfred Douglas, Bosie, lover and mauvaise ange of Oscar Wilde. 

The editor of the book, G. H. Blore, had reminiscences of both as schoolboys. "In the eighties Lionel Johnson, the brilliant editor of the Wykehamist, who contributed to its pages poems and articles of lasting value, was to us juniors a figure apart: he walked Chamber Court like an angel visitant, and his toys in "Third" introduced me to Oriental tiles and the art of Burne-Jones. He became a great lover of Ireland, of its beauty and its legends, and the 'Celtic Speech'... Another editor, not of the Wykehamist but of its witty rival, The Pentagram, was Alfred Douglas, against whom I played in the Fifteens, and whom I saw finish an east winner of Steeplechase when it ended at St Cross."

The book also features another poet who has been on the pages of this blog before, Robert Nichols. And then there is Edward Tennant, someone I hadn't heard of before but whom I should like to know more about. Blore says, "I recall 'Bimbo' Tennant as the most cheerful junior in my house, playing his cricket and football with zest, enthusiastic about beauty and a great lover of home. He was barely 17, when at the outbreak of the war he left school and joined the Grenadier Guards; and two years later he was killed."

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Just in case you thought the defacing of books was a modern sin: in my search for ever more examples of Victorian typography I had turned to sheet music and, in particular, the covers of each piece, which is where I found this delightful piece of graffiti.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bookplate Swap

Every time the matter of bookplates comes up on this blog I have to state, I am not a collector of ex libris plates! I have to state that, mainly to make it true. It is such a large and fascinating field of collecting that it would be simply too much to take on. So: I am not a bookplate collector. However, the wonderful Lew at Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie, most definitely is and when he expressed an interest in a few bookplates which I would have happily given him and he nobly insisted on a swap: I asked for anything with a whiff of decadence or a sniff of homoerotica about it. I think he did me proud with these two.

Friday, August 17, 2012

If Only...

At the bottom of a box of auction 'stuff' which I had quite deliberately only bought for one thing (which wasn't this) was this amazing dark green leather album with gilt decoration and metal clasps. Looks very promising doesn't it. Sadly, inside it was empty. Even the pages have now been made useless as it was used by a dealer to display wares and in order to do that, diagonal slits have been cut in almost every page for the corners of autographs and letters and other manuscript material to be slipped into. All we have left are the occasional pencil note to tell us what was there. And what a collection it would have once been. Letters here connected to Wilde and Whistler, de Quincey, Richard and Lady Burton, Max Beerbohm, A. C. Benson... A wonderful 'if only'.

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