Friday, April 23, 2010

Vintage photo: Lord Baden Powell

Following the photo of Mabel Lucie Attwell I accquired the other day it seems it's the week for original photos of famous people. In a album of photographs of boy scouts I came on this original, candid snapshot of the Chief Scout himself, Lord Baden Powell. He looks elderly but still in uniform and obviously still 'scouting'.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Some Notes on the First Editions of Jocelyn Brooke

Jocelyn Brooke's gently idiosyncratic style is not to everyone's taste but he very much falls into that niche market of books by mid-twentieth century gay authors who convey their 'sensibility' rather than their 'sexuality'. Certainly, Brooke should never labour under the title "gay author" with all its limiting definition since he was a man whose life and writing were much broader than that.

I'm not going to attempt to biograph the man nor comment in sage detail upon his works because James Bridle did the world a great service in 2008 by putting up what ought to be a model for author fan sites at simple, judiciously edited and absorbing, there is plenty of biographical and bibliographical information there as well as links to some excellent articles on Brooke's writing.

I have found though, in my life of book collecting that it can sometimes be useful to actually see the covers of the books I'm looking for, and to have a sense of each book and so, with no pretensions to completeness nor to great insight, this post is a short, illustrated meander through some of Brooke's first editions. The illustrations are all from copies in my stock.

The Military Orchid Trilogy

A biographical trilogy which was re-issued in one volume in 1981 under the title The Military Orchid in both hardback (Secker & Warburg) and paperback (Penguin). A cracking introduction to the trilogy as a whole can be found on the Jocelyn Brooke website.

The Military Orchid. The Bodley Head, London, 1948. Brown Cloth.
A slim volume that, whilst it has a colour frontis that reproduces the jacket image, is clearly still being printed on war-economy paper. The jacket/frontis is by Stephen Bone who also provides b/w decorations for the part headings.

A Mine of Serpents. The Bodley Head, London, 1949. Blue cloth.
Again with decorations by Stephen Bone but the jacket this time signed "P. Vinten". If the title of the first book gave away one of the author's obsessions, Orchids, it will be no surprise to discover that a mine of serpents is actually a type of firework, another of Brooke's lifelong interests. This book covers the narrators adolescence and early youth. Each part and the title page is fronted by a reproduction of a mid-Victorian steel engraving. Brooke's use of engravings in his books would reach its zenith in The Crisis in Bulgaria.

The Goose Cathedral. The Bodley Head, London, 1950. Green cloth.
This time a much simpler production, no illustrations or reproductions at all in the text but a wonderfully colourful jacket by the much lauded illustrator and print maker Julian Trevelyan.


Brooke's poetry is often overlooked and even his fans can find it a little less to their taste, but I rather like the languorous somewhat fin-de-siecle feel of it. Which is why I republished his first book Six Poems. I can't show you a picture of the original which was a self-published pamphlet and now one of the great unfindables. But I have examined one so I can tell you it was printed in an edition limited to 50 copies by the Kemp Hall Press at Oxford in June 1928. Eight pages are sewn into green paper wraps with green thread and each is signed by Brooke. If you find one, let me know...
December Spring. The Bodley Head, London, 1946. Blue boards.
Again a poor quality war-economy production with a frankly peculiar typographical jacket design. Contains 39 poems.

Poems in Pamphlet 1952 XII Jocelyn Brookes: The Elements of Death and Other Poems. The Hand and Flower Press, Kent, 1952.
The Poems in Pamphlet series has been examined on the excellent Bookride blog. This title contains 29 of Brooke's poems. They are not individually acknowledge and so a great deal of detective work would be needed to establish if any are here 'first published' but there are general acknowledgements at the back to all the periodicals Brooke is known to have contributed to, including The Penguin New Writing, The Listener, The New Statesman and Nation and the Times Literary Supplement. 36 pages stapled into buff card covers.


Brooke was a respected amateur botanist with a deep expertise in British orchids. He wrote a number of academic papers on botany but his two most accessible books are:

The Wild Orchids of Britain. The Bodley Head, London, 1950. Red buckram. In an edition of 1,140 numbered copies of which forty were specially bound. The book, large though it is, does have a dustjacket but my copy does not. There are forty coloured plates at the read of the book each illustrating a different species, they were originally done by Gavin Bone who was at school with Brooke and, as he says in the forward, the first germ of this book was alive in the 1920s during his school career. The paintings have been given some attention and added to by Gavin Bone's brother and father, Stephen and Muirhead. I haven't yet worked out which was which.

The Flower in Season. The Bodley Head, London, 1952. Blue cloth. Illustrated by Charles W. Stewart. This book is a calendar of British flora: one month per chapter.

Other Novels

The Image of a Drawn Sword. The Bodley Head, London, 1950. Red Cloth.
Jacket Illustration once more by "P. Vinten". This is perhaps Brooke's most homoerotic book although it is thoroughly understated. There is a fascinating and insightful review of this book at The Asylum. Thought by many to be one of his most accomplished novels.

Conventional Weapons. Faber & Faber, London, 1961.
I don't have the first edition of this to show you but I do have a copy of the Uncorrected Proof Copy, the kind of thing that only the most die hard of book collectors / completists would want. The market in Advance Reading Copies or Proof copies was fed by the economic boom and it was, I suppose, something of a conceit to imagine that these were items which predated even the 'true first' edition of a book. Still sought after but not as fiercely as perhaps even five or six years ago. This book was published under a different title in the US as

The Name of Greene. Vanguard Press, [New York], 1961. Black cloth.

Other Writing

Brooke wrote all his life and so there is a host of articles, reviews, poems and so on to track down for his eventual bibliographer however, two books which fall into the category of 'other writing':

Private View. James Barrie, London, 1952. Burgundy cloth.
Four character sketches of personalities from Brooke's life. Very well done but not his best work is the general consensus.

The Crisis in Bulgaria or Ibsen to the Rescue. Chatto & Windus, London, 1954. Red Cloth.
This book is just sheer madness. Brooke illustrates it himself with collages made from Victorian steel engravings, one per double page, and facing each is a paragraph or two of a nonsensical story which he has made up to fit the images. Delightful nuttiness.

There are plenty of items I have missed from this survey but I would recommend that anyone interested in Brooke follow some of the links and make a thorough excavation of Bridle's Jocelyn Brooke website.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How to Make Money

I recently bought three or four cartons full of book catalogues. For the most part these are bookseller's catalogues but as I've been sorting through them I've been finding all manner of pamphlets and ephemeral bits and pieces and this is one of them. As you can see from the cover, this little number was published quarterly and this one in particular in 1919.

The inside has a wonderful selection of recipies for "proprietary preparations" from sealing wax, to chewing gum, from ginger beer and custard powder to sticky fly paper and superfluous hair removers. This last contains: hydro-sulphuret of sodium, powdered quick lime and powdered starch and "is an excellent line to advertise in ladies' paper." (Please do not try this at home).

Also in the magazine is an article on how to make money through transfering photographs to watch faces, ceramics or glass. It seems to be based upon an alcohol solution which in some way lifts the layer of photgraphic emulsion from the paper of the photograph so it can then be stuck to the clean enamel or ceramic surface. If it weren't for the fact that asking for the ingredients at my local chemist would probably result in my arrest under terrorism laws, I'd be very tempted to give it a go.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Vintage photo: Mabel Lucie Attwell

I am really very excited by this photo and jumped at the chance to buy it when it came earlier today. It's a photo of the twentieth century children's illustrator Mabel Lucie Attwell. There are many reasons why I rate this item.

The photo is a silver print by Elliott and Fry in London. It measures aprox. 8" x 6" and is tipped onto a larger sheet of paper which is embossed with Elliott and Fry's logo as well as having a printed 'signature'. Attwell is very well collected still today and it is likely that a lot of people would like to own this. On top of which, it seems on first perusal, that photos of Attwell are not common. There appear to be only two which have made their way onto the internet before now.

Above all I think this is just an amazing portrait. There is a directness and even sternness of gaze from Attwell which, in some ways, seems to be at odds with the flamboyance of her clothing, the stripes of that skirt for example are all beaded. And yet the clothing is so completely of the period. She really does appear as a very self-contained and confident woman. This is no ordinary studio 'snap' but a real and revealing portrait.
My apologies for watermarking the image, I don't normally like doing this but it seemed appropriate in this case.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Christchurch Album by Frederick Rolfe

Much of the last few days has been spent putting the finishing touches to my latest publication and getting the information out to customers. I'm rather proud of this one, it's taken me quite a while to settle on a format for publishing these photos which didn't either try to claim too much for them nor do them a disservice. I think the final result is very tasteful and restrained. Here's the blurb:

The Christchurch Album by Frederick Rolfe.

We are delighted to be able to announce the publication of an album of photographs by Frederick Rolfe Baron Corvo, never before published and discovered among the collection of the late Donald Weeks.

At the beginning of the 1890s Frederick Rolfe returned from Italy and found a temporary home in Christchurch, Dorset. Here, on the south coast of England, among a small coterie of artists, writers and photographers, Rolfe indulged his own passions for painting and photography. He was friendly with the Joseph Gleeson-White, a well respected art critic, editor and designer who went on to be highly influential among the artists of the 1890s period. The story of Rolfe’s relationship with the whole Gleeson-White family is told in all three of his biographies. It is chiefly this family that features among the photos in this album and in particular young Eric White both nude and ‘draped’ in classical attire. The collection includes also a number of rather less formal portraits of the family.

Twenty-three photographs are reproduced at their original size on twelve 7” x 5” sheets of high-quality photographic paper. Two further images, both male nudes, of slightly less certain attribution, take the total number of sheets to 14. These are enclosed in a glassine pocket and inserted into a custom-made envelope along with a sheet of explanation and key to the images. 70 sets have been printed and individually numbered.

Mad Religious Publishing

I just know I'm going to get flamed for this... let me just be very clear at this point... I don't care!

So, there's almost nothing as capable of putting me in a good mood than running into a bit of mad religious publishing at the bottom of an auction box. It cheers me up no end. There's a kind of finicky detail and warping of reality in things like this that reminds me of the wall of photos and newspaper clippings you always see in the movies when we are taken inside the lair of a serial killer.

The Destiny of the British Empire as Revealed in the Scriptures. Christadelphian Publishing Office, London, 1941. 64pp in brown paper wraps. This pamphlet was originally published in 1866, when one might have thought that it would be rather more relevant too. It contains a fully realised political fantasy of the 'future' for "Britain and her possessions in India and elsewhere" which "constitute the territory spoken of by the prophet as 'Sheba and Dedan'" through a fairly convoluted series of predicted events we come to the crux of the matter when "the saints shall utterly abolish the British Empire, and reduce Britain and all her Colonies to perfect subjection to the King of Israel, then dwelling in Jerusalem"

PEARCE, W. Horace. The Vatican, Fascism and Nazism. The Protestant Truth Society, London, n.d. [post war]. 24pp in paper wraps. There's not much can be said about this that isn't said in that wonderfully cosy cover photograph. The general thesis is that WW2 was in fact a "war of the church" in which the Catholic Church lined up with Mussolini and Hitler to do bad things to Protestants.

HIORTH, Albert. Concerning Irrigation in Ancient and Modern Times. The Cultivation and Electrification of Palestine with the Mediterranean as the Source of Power. The Victoria Institute, London, 1923. Author's Copy. 24pp in brown card wraps. This is the best kind of mad religious publishing. At first glance it appears to be something else. Casually, you might look at the title and think it's archaeological or perhaps a civil engineering paper. In fact, in many ways it is both of those but also wonderfully bonkers. Perhaps best illustrated by the title of the fold-out map inside the back cover: "An attempt to record graphically the visions of Ezekiel 47 and Zechariah 14 as to their presumed scheme of irrigation and distribution of hydro-electric energy in the Holy Land"

But I don't want you to think I'm only into Protestant bashing here. The very best religious madness is to be found in some of the auto-cephalus (breakaway) catholic churches: and the very best piece of mad religious publishing I have ever seen came from this direction - I'm devastated to say that I don't still have it. I worked in France for a year or so as a younger man and at some point was handed a photocopied and stapled booklet extolling the the virtues of the auto-cephalus catholic church of something and saint somebody. The first few pages gave details of their churches, liturgy and hierachy and included numerous pictures of their, it has to be said very young-looking Archbishop. The second half of the booklet was an advert for a martial arts dojo run by said Archbishop who then appeared in similarly grainy photos wearing his gi and black belt: wonderful stuff.

Who links to my website?