Tuesday, August 19, 2014

1970s Tile

It doesn't quite count as patterned paper but this little delight was something R and I found this weekend on a trip to one of our favourite hunting grounds, Lewes in East Sussex. It's usually R who is the ceramic nut but we both loved this. It's not entirely clear what it is but it was clearly framed in full 1970s style and someone has written on the back the names of all the colours of the glazes: a tester perhaps? a display piece? a reference for a potter? Whatever it's original purpose it now decorates our home.

Gilbert White's Window at Selborne

I have something of a weakness for good stained glass as longtime readers of the blog will know. This window, however, has the advantage of having literary connections as well. If you live in this little part of the world, you can't help by have heard of Gilbert White, the sometime Vicar of Selborne in Hampshire and the man often credited as being the first 'ecologist'. His book The Natural History of Selborne is a must-have of any natural history book collection and I think I am right in saying it hasn't been out of print since it was first published in 1789.  And so, it's not surprising to find, in his own church, in Selborne a beautiful window commemorating the 200th year since his birth in 1920.

This window is on the appropriate subject of St Francis Preaching to the Birds and was designed by Alexander Gascoyne and made by Horace T. Hincks of the firm Hincks and Burnell in Nottingham. The window contains 120 individual bird portraits of 60 different species. Stained glass is notoriously difficult to photograph but I hope these, particularly when you click on them and enlarge them, will show just what a stunning piece of art this is.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Catalogue: British Scouting Photos and Others

It's that time again... as those of you who are on my mailing list know, I have just issued another catalogue. This one is such a beast it had to be published in four parts. Four pdf files are available from the links below. The catalogue is titled "British Scouting Photos and Others" and it follows on from a very sucessful and now sold out catalogue earlier in the year of European Scouting Photos. The photos in this current catalogue are, for the most part by a UK photographer, based not far from here in Southampton, called Derek Blew.

The photographs all come from a single collection and are divided into four parts. Part I consists of photos of scouts and other similar activities and subjects all by Blew, some identified by ink stamps on the verso, others identified by his distinctive handwritten negative codes also on the verso or each. Part II is more of the same but these are printed in a smaller format. Part III may or may not be by Blew but they are all photographs of a couple of scouting events: a National Scoutcar Competition and an athletics meeting. Part IV is photographs from the same collection with similar themes but from other photographers, including press photos and some vintage photos.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bunton Sculptor

 It's a wonderful thing this Internet malarkey sometimes! I was looking for information about this statue today and on the back is written just "Bunton" so, wondering if he might have been the sculptor I googled "Bunton Sculptor". It was a long shot, and I didn't get the information I was looking for but it turns out there is a sculptor called Tim Bunton and, although he is far too young to be the creator of this 1960s head, it turns out that heads are quite the speciality. But as I scrolled through his blog, all the way back in 2008, I found a post with photos of these amazing and beautiful sculptures: classic poems engraved onto 12" granite spheres and placed on low friction bases so they can be easily turned and read... just lovely!

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Champion Studio

Not usually a fan of the beefcake genre but these caught my eye this week on Ebay being sold by (still on sale in fact here, here and here) the lovely Chuck who has received honorable mention on this blog before I think as a purveyor of vintage swimwear images. These are not so much swimwear as skimpywear because the artists and physical culturists for whom these images are intended (see below!) obviously needed the closest to a nude as the law and the post office would alllow them. These actually come from Champion Studio run in the 50s and 60s by Walter Kundzicz, whose output was much more sunny and candid and rather more 'jock next door' than some of the more muscle-bound studios. There was a book published in 2003 about the output of Champion Studio but I like these in particular for the way they look aged and slightly dogeared, as though they have been much loved and often looked at.

The Ditto Press

These are the postcards/flyers that came with a recent order from an uber-cool London-based outfit called Ditto Press. If you have an interest in counter-culture and are feeling a young and creative vibe then I recommend you go and check them out. What's not to like about a place that offers workshops in taxidermy, linocutting, "the mystical art of" Riso printing and designing alien civilisations. And that's just the workshops. Surely any workshop that sees you leave with your own stuffed magpie has got to be worth thinking about!

But it wasn't the workshops that attracted me in the first place. The Ditto Press's main business, unsurprisingly, is printing and they have a really fascinating list of publications (books, magazines, zines and prints) on their website and I had been brought there by The Anonymous Sex Journal, a rather intriguing idea for a zine in which an anonymous web form hoovers up anecdotal contributions from anonymous strangers about their sexual experiences and then illustrates and publishes them (if you have sexy story to tell yourself, from any flavour of sexuality, the current issue is collecting anecdotes about masturbation). I bought a copy and was moved to buy a couple of other things as well and not only am I impressed by the printing but also by the speed of delivery and serious intent of the packaging! So all round, a hearty recommendation if you fancy something a little out of the ordinary and long may they prosper.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Noel Mewton-Wood: Brilliant, Tragic, Genius

This is the second mention on Front Free Endpaper for the tragic story of Noel Mewton-Wood (1922-1953), a lost musical genius. A couple of years ago I found a scan of an obituary and noticed the understated reference to his lover between its lines. I am very grateful to a Swedish reader of the blog, Rickard, for recently pointing me to a 3CD anthology of "The Legendary Recordings" of Mewton-Wood not only for the music, which is stunning, but also for the very informative essay in the accompanying booklet. The opening paragraph gives some idea of the kind of person he was by telling us of his "protean grasp of things musical and beyond - he knew Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire almost by heart, could recite large stretches of the unexpurgated Arabian Nights from memory, had learned a great deal about medicine and atomic physics, and was a expert tennis and chess player. He designed and carpentered model theatres, was a fine driver of fast cars and, according to musician, broadcaster and good friend John Amis, 'was the only pianist I ever met who could (and did) whip out a broken piano string and put in a new one on the spot'" And all this on top of being possibly the best concert pianist of his age. 

He was Australian and spent the first 14 years of his life in Australia where his talent was noticed early on as attested by the photos and concert poster at the bottom of this post. So in the mid-1930s he was whisked away from home and taken all the way around the world to Britain where he was enrolled to study at the Royal College of Music in London. A stellar career as a concert pianist ensued but the essay by Cyrus Meher-Homji hints at darker emotions beneath the ostensibly brilliant and successful facade. "Along with that encompassing joie de vivre was a darker side- self-doubt and frustrations when certain situations did not advance with the speed he would have wanted them to. It simmered beneath that Dionysian exterior and was eventually to triumph." At the age of just 24 Noel met a young man called William ('Bill') Fredericks who worked for the British Council and they became lovers, and set up home together at Hammersmith Terrace in London, next to the river. In 1953 Bill died from complications following a ruptured appendix. Bill was known as something of a hypochondriac and so for the first little while Noel hadn't taken his complaints seriously and this seems to have given his morbid side something to latch onto to lay the blame for Bill's death on himself. Possibly already in a period of depression about professional matters Bill's death caused a serious plunge in Noel's emotional stability and despite the best efforts of friends to keep him under observation in the winter of 1953 he drank a cocktail of gin and cyanide in a suicide premeditated by at the least the weeks since he had secretly acquired the lethal chemical. 

Imogen Holst, assistant to Benjamin Britten, recorded the great composer's reaction to the news of Noel's death, "grey and worried, and talked of the terrifyingly small gap between madness and non-madness." Britten wondered aloud why it was that so many of the people he liked the best found living life so difficult.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Glitterwolf: An LGBT Literary Magazine

I've been reading Glitterwolf more or less since it first came out and couple of years ago, a magazine of "fiction, poetry and art from LGBT contributors" so I am both delighted to be able to plug issue no.6  now that it contains three poems by yours truly, but also slightly shamefaced that I haven't mentioned it before.

It's a great magazine and if you want to catch up with it I can heartily recommend the omnibus of issues 1-3 which is now available. There is, of course, also a website where you can find out a little more about the magazine. It's not expensive: please consider giving it a go.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Happy Birthday Baron Corvo

Although most of the media, when it thinks of birthdays today, will be interested in a certain young prince of this realm, we should not overlook the birthday of another; today marks the 154th birthday of Frederick Rolfe Baron Corvo. To mark the occasion I offer you a few images from an amazing book. These are pages from a copy of In His Own Image by Rolfe that belonged to the poet and schoolmaster John Gambril Nicholson. This copy is extra-illustrated with nine photographs of young men by Rolfe. The book is a series of stories based loosely on Italian folk tales and framed by a group of lusty Italian boys who tell the stories to the narrator and whose own picturesque adventures are also recounted. A number of the photographs pasted into this copy are captioned by hand giving details of which of the boys in the book they are intended to be: they are clearly intended as illustrations. Other material from Rolfe including a drawing and a handwritten note also grace the pages of this unique book. It was once the possession of Dr Rocco Verrill but was sold last month at Bonhams in London along with an astonishing collection of holograph letters and other material by Rolfe forming a large part of the sale on 18th June just gone.

Boris Karloff Reads to the Frightened

One of the most interesting of the vintage paperbacks in my latest catalogue perhaps is this selection of 26 very short stories by Michael Avallone but for which the main credit on the cover goes to Boris Karloff: "recorded by". Further investigation inside reveals that there was indeed a record, on the Mercury label featuring Karloff reading the tales in this book. A little digging on Youtube and it doesn't take long to find them.

Who links to my website?