Friday, September 27, 2013

Vintage Swimwear Hiatus

I'm leaving you for a little while, perhaps a week or so... But I thought I'd leave you with these two chaps to keep you warm...

Callum James Books is on hiatus until 6th October...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Callum James Books: The Art and Photography of Ian David Baker

We are delighted to announce a new catalogue published on our website. Ian David Baker is an artist whose current work is as an abstract painter. However, his career began back in the 1970s working as a designer on small, and not so small, magazines such as Follow-Up, Mister, and Playguy where he learnt the photographer's art both for editorial images and nude photoshoots. In 1992, his work was brought together in a classic photobook, Younger Days, that featured portrait, documentary and nude photography, largely taken during the 1980s and very redolent of that period. It's the way of these things that what goes around comes around and so it's great to know that the 1980s is now back as an inspiration for fashion, design, interiors and art and Ian's work documenting this period is finding a new relevance. 

This catalogue includes, not only a selection of artwork and photography, but also a fascinating and very candid article by Ian, reprinted from HIM magazine, in which he gave an insider's view of what it was like to be taking nude photos for a gay market at a time when cameras still had to be wound-on and the film developed in chemical tanks. There is also a short Q&A between Ian and I about his work and career.

The catalogue as a whole is not safe for work but can be found here:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Vintage Photo: Curiosity

I have no idea what's going on in this photo. It's tiny, less than an inch square, sometimes referred to as a 'gem' photo, and laid onto a carte-de-visite format card. I assume the date is 1901 but I can't read the word written below. Just a curiosity but mine own!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Raven by Robert Scoble

This is the beautifully produced Raven. The Turbulent World of Baron Corvo by Robert Scoble. My copy of which arrived a couple of days ago from Strange Attractor Press. At nearly 400 pages it represents the largest book to be published about Frederick Rolfe since the biographies by Donald Weeks and Miriam Benkovitz in the 1970s. Of course, in this centenary year, it's appropriate that a full scale book about Rolfe should be published and it is wonderful that, for once, it is a book that not only looks and feels great (Rolfe has been very good at inspiring high standards in book production) but has content to match. All of the Raven monographs first published by us here at Callum James Books are here reprinted, completely updated to reflect information that has come to light since their original publication.

The book is selling well, even before reviews appear, and can still be ordered from the Strange Attractor Press website. This is the kind of book that would make a perfect Christmas present for those in your family or circle who like the byways of literature.

...and any book that described me as one of "the world's foremost experts in the life and work of Frederick Rolfe" is bound to be high on my list!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Albert Wainwright at the Hepworth

The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, Yorkshire, has a large collection of work by one of our favourite artists here at Front Free Endpaper: Albert Wainwright. The great news is that they are putting a selection of his works on display in their Yorkshire in Pictures gallery, beginning later this month and going forward to March 2014. If you can't get to Yorkshire, or if you have done so and are finding this post through the good offices of Google having just returned from an inspiring visit to the gallery, please consider buying a copy of our book Albert & Otto: Albert Wainwright's Visual Diary of Love in the 20s which is available either through Amazon or from your local independent bookseller (including Gay's The Word in London who have copies in stock)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Striking Portrait Photo

This handsome and striking fellow arrived in the post today. The photographer's stamp tells me it was taken in Milan in Italy. The verso is printed as a postcard and someone has written "Albano Rossi, Milano" but it is difficult to tell if this is referring to the subject or to a potential addressee. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Meanwhile, in the real world...

I'm delighted to say that Callum James Books are now in a real world bookshop. Gay's the Word in Marchmont Street in London has been trading through thick and thin since 1979 and has been an absolutely invaluable resource and refuge to gay to men and women throughout that time. We all know the precariousness of life for the independent bookshop at the moment. so even if you can't make it to Gay's the Word please be aware that if you are looking to buy any of CJB's three titles with ISBN numbers, you should be able to order them through your local independent bookstore (or indeed pick them off the shelf at Gay's the Word).

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Alan Seeger War Poet

Having recently come across the inscription in my friend's copy of Iolaus by Edward Carpenter which seems so unequivocally part of a homoerotic or at least homoerotic story, this evening, we are back to the more normal approach to gay history, that is, reading between the lines. The handsome twenty-two year old above is Alan Seeger as a student at Harvard. Tragically, he would only live another six years after this photo was taken, mown down by machine gun fire at Belloy-en-Santerre, in an attack which saw the death of forty of the forty-five men in his unit.

He had a fascinating life and lived, at Harvard, then in Greenwich Village and then in Paris as a true bohemian in the best turn of the century style. There is a biography of him, which I have not read, that is very well distilled here, in a blog post by the Sandor Teszler Library of Wofford College. He joined the war in Europe early by signing up with the French foreign legion and, as far as he is remembered at all, he is remembered in the context of "War Poetry". His style was old-fashioned for the time, full of high ideals and noble aspirations. His poetry wasn't collected into a book until after his death and it came out at a time when modernism was in full flood. He was reviewed in The Egoist and, by a quirk of fate, his poetry got a respectful nod from the reviewer, T. S. Eliot, who had been in Seeger's class at Harvard, who might otherwise have been expected to dislike the work: "Seeger was serious about his work and spent pains over it. The work is well done, and so much out of date as to be almost a positive quality. It is high-flown, heavily decorated and solemn, but its solemnity is thorough going, not a mere literary formality. Alan Seeger, as one who knew him can attest, lived his whole life on this plane, with impeccable poetic dignity; everything about him was in keeping."

It should be clear that throughout his Poems, there are plenty of full-blooded heterosexual love poems, indeed, sometimes they become somewhat steamy for the time. But there are also a couple of items in the collection which might have a tinge of the homoerotic about them. 


Stretched on a sunny bank he lay at rest,
Ferns at his elbow, lilies round his knees,
With sweet flesh patterned where the cool turf pressed,
Flower like crept o'er with emerald aphides.
Single he couched there, to his circling flocks
Piping at times some happy shepherd's tune,
Nude, with the warm wind in his golden locks,
And arched with the blue Asian afternoon.
Past him, gorse-purpled, to the distant coast
Rolled the clear foothills. There his white-walled town,
There, a blue band, the placid Euxine lay.
Beyond, on fields of Azure light embossed
He watched from noon till dewy eve came down
The summer clouds pile up and fade away.

It is usually my policy in posts such as this where I want to tease just a whiff of Dorothy's eau de parfum from the life of a historical writer, to let the work speak for itself and not offer too much by way of analysis. It should probably be noted, in this instance, however that Seeger was far too well educated to not be aware of Antinous's position as the lover of the Emperor Hadrian and the detail in this sonnet seem, at least to me, to be a description of a real person written into Aninous's shape: the way the grass leaves patterns on the skin when you lay on it is a brilliant piece of observation. And do we know if Seeger is capable of appreciating male beauty beyond this single sonnet? Well, tantalisingly, the blog post linked above from the Sandor Teszlar library was occasioned by a letter they have of Seeger's in which, in passing to the main substance of the letter, he recalls when he last saw his correspondent: "Nothing seems more remote than my last evening with you and all the circumstances of our farewell, - the man from Pittsburg [sic] interested in heraldry, and the pretty boy, whose company over here would be most incriminating." It is merely a hint and should really be left just at that.

But there may be a bigger hint that perhaps that we should approach Seeger as (to use a word a correspondent of mine recently used of themselves) at least 'heteroflexible'.


As one of some fat tillage dispossessed,
Weighing the yield of these four faded years,
If any ask what fruit seems loveliest,
What lasting gold among the garnered ears, -
Ah, then I'll say what house I had of thine,
Therein I reaped Time's richest revenue,
Read in thy text the sense of David's line,
Through thee achieved the love that Shakespeare knew.
Take then his book, laden with mine own love
As flowers made sweeter by deep-drunken rain,
That when years sunder and between us move
Wide water, and less kindly bonds constrain,
Thou may'st turn here, dear boy, and reading see
Some part of what thy friend once felt for thee.

As it turns out this post has been precious little about Seeger as a War Poet. In fact, I found a lot of his wartime poetry to be somewhat inferior to the rest. It may be that his somewhat romantic ideal of war as a theatre for heroism and honour was jarring slightly with the experience of the reality and certainly there is a slightly disjointed feel to some of the war poetry that isn't present in the rest of his work. His most famous poem of the war is "I Have a Rendezvous With Death", written whilst in a military hospital with bronchitis: it is easily found with the aid of Google.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Photographing Victorian Interiors

I find photographs of domestic interiors fascinating. If I didn't already collect a thousand things: photographs like these would be high on my list. I have a fantasy that one day I could produce a book in which each page displays a wonderful interior, not just Victorian or Edwardian but right up into the Twentieth Century, with notes to each photograph detailing the objects in the room and the decoration scheme. I fear it is merely a daydream, but one I enjoy nonetheless. Photographs of interiors are not as common in Victorian and Edwardian photo albums as outdoor photographs and studio portraits. Obviously, a lot of this is down to the technicalities of photography in the period and difficulty of successfully lighting domestic interiors. But interior shots which concentrate on decor and furnishing are scarcer than other subjects in the photography of all ages simply because few people thought of their camera as a piece of technology for recording the way they lived, more for recording the living itself. 

The photographs in this post all come from the same album and the top two photos are two different angles on the same room: as are the bottom two photos. All of them are from a reasonably wealthy middle-class home in the 1890s and certainly the bottom two are from a home in Perth in Scotland. The location of the other photos is not so clear. Any antique enthusiasts among you can spend time picking out various objects and wondering what you might have to pay for them now in an antique shop - which would, of course, be much of the appeal of my book!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Vintage Swimwear: Germany 1969

It's Germany, it's 1969 and two young men are enjoying the sun and the water. Delighted with these five photographs which arrived today. They mean that the collection of vintage swimwear photos here are Callum James Heights has almost filled two albums. A third one waits to be started next to them on the shelf...

Love Conquers Everything...

It's been remarked on this blog a number of times that whilst it is always possible to read over the past our own desires it is actually quite rare to find genuinely homo-erotic or homo-romantic items from the early 20th century or before... So it was a complete delight when the lovely Elin decided to share her copy of Edward Carpenter's Iolaus: The Anthology of Friendship and the inscription therein. Of course we can't know for sure but I'm fairly convinced that, given the context of the book, known in the book trade at the time as The Buggers' Bible, The giving of a book with Omnia Vincit Amor from Gordon to Tony at the end of the First World War, probably signifies more than platonic friendship. It's a lovely thing and, I think, a rare thing.

And how lovely that the only thing that remains of them now should be something as romantic and charming as this inscription.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Frederick Rolfe Centenary: Donald Weeks and the Tragara Press

This year sees the centenary of the death of Frederick Rolfe Baron Corvo. To mark this, from now until the actual anniversary on the 25th October I shall be posting about the Baron and his life and work on a regular basis here on Front Free Endpaper.

Through the 1970s and 80s The Tragara Press in Edinburgh issued a total of 15 monographs about Frederick Rolfe's life and work by Donald Weeks. It is not for me to comment of Weeks's character, I did not know him, and many who are still alive did, suffice to say that like many for whom Corvo appeals, Weeks had a touch of the Corvine about him. 

As anyone who has read Weeks's biography of Rolfe will know, Weeks's prose style was tortuous. The novelist Francis King was initially involved in getting Weeks's biography of Rolfe to the press and was going to edit the manuscript but, in the end, it proved too baroque a task and he opted out. The same grammatically difficult style is present throughout these Tragara Press monographs but they are still a very useful resource. Several of them (Frederick Rolfe and The Times, Reviews of Unwritten Books etc.) are valuable reprints of Rolfe material that would be otherwise very difficult to find.  There is also material by Rolfe which hadn't been published before (Saint Thomas). At other times Weeks uses the opportunity to pursue his one of his ongoing vendettas (Two Friends - Frederick Rolfe & Henry Harland which is entirely devoted to disproving a paragraph's worth of material in his rival, Miriam Benkovitz's biography of Rolfe), and he even has one monograph (Rolfe Without Frederick) which has almost nothing to do with Rolfe at all, focusing on a diplomatic incident in which one of Rolfe's brothers was involved. 

Each title has a different limitation, a decision which was made in each case by Weeks himself and each title had a certain number, about 20, printed with a different colophon, 'for the use of the editor/author'. All are beautifully produced, printed by hand by Alan Anderson and bound in soft card or marbled paper. 

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Glamorous Women and Craggy Men - A Collection of Author Photos

Back in May I posted pictures of some photographs I had bought at an antiques fair: they were agency photographs of authors. On that occasion I had picked out three or four from a folder, and as soon as I left the fair I was already thinking I wished I'd bought more, or even all of them. I have finally tracked down the dealer and bought all the photos they had left. This is just a small selection from the forty or so photographs, all taken, I believe, by a London photographer by the name of Clayton Evans. They are a wonderful selection of glamorous women and craggy men. From top to bottom here we have Margaret Lane (also the Countess of Huntingdon, Eric Williams, Pamela Frankau, Sir Arthur Bryant and Neil Gunn. All of them, I feel, really good photographs.

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