Tuesday, November 24, 2015

New Full Length Catalogue from Callum James Books

It's always a delight to be able to put out a new full-length catalogue. If you don't already know about this one that will be because you are not on my mailing list. You can rectify that by simply asking to be included by emailing me using the link to the right.

Unlike my Short Lists which go only to people on the mailing list, full-length catalogues are open to all - you can view this one here:


Many items already sold to members of the mailing list, but plenty still there to rootle through. Enjoy..

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Armstrong Sperry Illustrates his own "The Boy Who Was Afraid"

A beautiful fable of a story for young children, The Boy Who Was Afraid by Armstrong Sperry (published in the US as Call It Courage) is about a young Polynesian lad who, since his mother was killed at sea, has been afraid. He is, as a result a disappointment to his father and the butt of other children's teasing. So, he decides to take a canoe and overcome his fear on a long voyage out to sea. It is a charming coming of age tale made somewhat more poignant by the thought that it was written during WW2, perhaps with an eye on talking to its young readers about their own fears.

The book is made all the more interesting by the illustrations by the author. The book has been reprinted and re-illustrated a number of times but to have the author's own imaginings of how his characters look is a lovely touch. He also has quite a talent for strong, graphic depictions of landscapes I think.

Monday, November 16, 2015

More Vintage Swimwear

Rummaging through boxes of old photos in junk shops is, of course, one way to create and grow a collection of vintage swimwear and hunky chap photos but, on the whole, it's the internet where the best ones are to be found in the most accessible way. Today's selection are sadly not in my physical possession but they are all either being sold or have been sold by one of the best and most consistent sellers of 'our kind of photo' on Ebay: Chuck7048. You can find his current listings here. Having been a customer of his on the odd occasion I can thoroughly recommend his services!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Literary Obscurity: Kettleby by Erminois

Kettleby by Erminois

Well here's one for those who are into the byeways of literary obscurity. It is also a perfect case study in why 'rare' doesn't necessarily mean valuable.

It's unusual. Very unusual. Because it is unusual to come across a book published in the Twentieth Century (1935 in this case) which no one at all is selling already online. That's true as far as I can make out at the time of writing this. But much more than this, the Great God Google in its omniscience can't help either. Google can return just one relevant result: a pdf of a 1935 magazine which has this book in a list of books 'out this week'.

Erminois is clearly a pseudonym and it seems likely that might be related to heraldry in some way but no other book is listed in the British Library Catalogue under that name, although they do actually have a copy, and so do four other of the copyright libraries in the UK.

I have tried looking up the publisher. An advanced search of Abebooks for publishers called Mortiboy's provides a small list of titles, a number of which are natural history with the odd book of poetry and a different novel, all within the 1930s. It doesn't give an impression of a coherent publisher's list nor of a prolific publisher. This may be the main reason this book is so scarce. It is possible that although it doesn't display and of the signs of vanity publishing that someone paid to have it published and perhaps they could only afford a few? There are of course a million reasons why it might be so rare.

It looks like it had a rather good jacket too, the front panel of it is pasted onto the endpaper of this copy (below) and shows a rather graphic depiction of a Volcano. Of course, you are now wondering what this book is about. Well, I haven't read it! Helpfully though is has chapter headings which seem to indicate that the action takes place in the UK and then on the Hawaiian islands and then back in the UK again. The few brief passages I have read don't make me think the world has missed a masterpiece! Nonetheless, to be so absent from the Internet in these days of instant information IS unusual and, for the moment, this one has me stumped.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Rare Ex Libris: Leonard Smithers

I was very lucky the other day to see a very rare bookplate. It is an ex-libris for Leonard Smithers: bookman, publisher to the 1890s decadents including Oscar Wilde, peddler in all manner of erotica and "amatory unorthodoxy". It is something of a mystery. Only one other is known to exist. There is no monogram nor signature, which is unsurprising given Smithers's reputation, it would be unfortunate if you were an artist to have your name permanently inside the kind of books that Smithers might have on his shelves. It bears a resemblance to the work of too many artists of the period to use the style as any clue to authorship. The fact that both copies which exist are printed on the same size paper but it is an impracticable size for sticking in a book, and also the fact that is not known to have been used by Smithers in any of the books from his own library, all suggests to me that this was a proof or an example that was never printed in any numbers. Perhaps Smithers didn't like it or simply commissioned it as an artistic exercise rather then to be used in actual books.

[my apologies for the photo quality, I was reduced to using the camera on my phone when I encountered this bookplate and had no scanner nor proper camera with me]

A List of Eroticae

In the days before erotic story archives on the internet, the business of getting your hands on some erotic fiction was both difficult and costly. This small catalogue is an amazing survival, printed on the flimsiest of paper which is now very friable at the edges but nonetheless gives details of an interesting selection of material. It's also true of course that dealing in this kind of thing could have landed you in a lot of legal bother so it is not surprising that no name is attached to the list. I haven't been through and exhaustively dated each item but, given that the list claims both "new and secondhand" volumes, looking at the most recent items on it we might assume a date of about 1890. What is particularly nice about this list is that it sits in a bit of a gap. The exhaustive and compellingly detailed bibliographical work of C. R. Ashbee (writing as Pisanus Fraxi) often doesn't detail more recent editions of 18th century works and so it is nice to have lists like this from, albeit only just after, Ashbee leaves off. I wonder if this is the only copy of this bookseller's list left?

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Three Ex Libris

A day spent at an "International Antiquarian Bookfair" yesterday resulted in my purchasing not a single book - I'm almost proud of that fact. However, I did find a moment to buy three exlibris bookplates. The top one is the bookplate of Siegfied Sassoon's gay cousin, Philip: also a WW1 officer, a politician, writer and society 'host' as well as an important collector of fine things. The bookplate may represent a ship arriving at the Port of Lympne where he famously made his home, perhaps dropping off the next selection of books for the library on the quay brought in from around the world. There is a monogram "TP" in the corner of the engraving but I don't know who that is yet.

The second bookplate also has a monogram, a much less helpful A in a circle, or possibly an "AO", in any case I again don't know the artist but liked the image as a naked youth sits among his books at the window looking out to where a mountain goat stands proudly on the hill.

The third is by a Danish artist called Henry Brokman (1968-1933) who began his artistic career in the cradle of the symbolists but developed into a somewhat more Romantic style later on. This is the bookplate of Francis Marion Crawford, an American writer of a huge number of novels, many of which are set in Italy where he was born and where he later returned to make his permanent home. Many of his novels have a slightly weird, fantastical or supernatural tinge to them.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Sidney Hunt: Painting and Bookplate

It was a delight on yesterday's edition of The Antiques Roadshow to see this beautiful painting by Sidney Hunt, a painter whose work, as the expert on the program made clear, is very scarce. This maybe because much of it was destroyed in the same explosion in the blitz that killed the artist. Fortunately, Hunt made a good number of exlibris bookplates for people and so it is not impossible to own a little bit of art by him. Mine arrived only a few days ago and is a little a-typical in both subject matter and style but I believe Percy Livingstone Jackson was a priest and so maybe Hunt reigned it back a bit. Fore more characteristically homoerotic bookplates and more on the artist, John Coulthart has an excellent post on his blog.

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