Saturday, July 31, 2010

Things That Fall From Books #2: 145 King's Road

I often blog about things that fall out of the books that I spend my life cataloguing... These two postcards I thought were a particularly charming example. I cannot now remember what book they fell from except I know it was one which is now in the 'discard' pile to go to a charity shop or the local church.

These are two postcards both showing views of 145 King's Road in Chelsea, London when it was a bakers and confectioners (the verso of the two is the same). The interior shot in particular has a wonderful art nouveau atmosphere. The shop is now a flagship store for the clothing chain, Jaeger. Perhaps I shall see if they would like to buy these...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Otakar Stafl illustrates Little Tom

This is one of those times when you pick up a book and know, almost instantly, that despite it's slightly tired condition, there is something special about it. In this case, it is the illustrations. This is Little Tom by Prof. V. Tille and illustrated by Otakar Stafl (1884-1945). Not much is known about in him in the English speaking world, as has been observed by another blogger some years ago when they came across another of his books in the original Czech. Said blogger found some bookplates and a couple of mentions but that was about all. If you can read Czech then you are in a much better position since you can go to Czech Wiki or even to ArtBohemia where, as well as some more of his images, they also have a couple of b/w photos of the man himself. Several auction aggregating sites have listings for his works, some with images, but it seems that he painted far more for the art market than for illustration.

But despite the paucity of information in English, it's clear that this was a man of remarkable talent and vivid imagination: clearly this is someone who deserves to be better known outside their native country.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Blog Recommendation: This Suits Me

I don't normally do this but I am absolutely smitten with this blog. It's the poetry (mainly) of a 17 year old gay guy (who doesn't do labels) called Marcus from New Zealand. Normally, this kind of poetry blog is a fairly disappointing affair, the kind of thing that used to be scribbled in the back of school exercise books and now is plastered all over the blogosphere. This one is different. Marcus matches up each poem to an image found on the internet: he doesn't say if the image inspires the poem or if he has sought out the image to illustrate the poem, I suspect a little of both, but it's a sign of the internet age that this pairing of text and image works so well. On the one hand, yes, the guy is seventeen and hasn't got quite the depth and breadth of language and imagery that he's obviously going to develop but on the other hand he writes the most disarming verses, usually rhyming, that are often extremely simple and song-like but show, in almost every one, a real feel for language and a layer of thought about his subjects that is rare in a teenage poetry.

I don't want to appear condescending and I shouldn't be reviewing this work differently because of his age so I should also say that he badly needs an editor and someone to teach him how to self-edit but on the whole these are absolutely charming poems which don't pretend to be great art but actually, from time to time, manage to rise way above the poetry dross that clogs the internet. Best of all, they make me smile.

[NB. There is musical accompaniment to this blog which can be turned off but if you go there with your speakers turned right up, you'll have a bit of a start]

Miniature Book

I've been having fun. For a long time I've fancied having a go at creating a miniature book and tonight, while R snoozed on the study floor (he's very like a cat in many respects!) I was tinkering at the desk and came up with this.

Marbled paper boards, buckram backstrip, 48pp., just 7cm tall... It contains a slash story I wrote a couple of years ago - only really because it was the first formatted piece of writing I found of about the right length, that is, about 30,000 words. The real joy of this was discovering that if you have a good enough printer, you can print text in 2pt and still be able to read it under a magnifying glass. There are a couple of adjustments I would make given the opportunity to have another go but I'm a little bit chuffed with this baby. :-)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

More Retro Transport

Just to continue yesterday's theme of retro design and graphics, I also acquired recently these great little ABC books. These are the kind of thing every train-, bus-, truckspotter in the country ought to have had in the heyday of road and rail transport. I have, at times in the past, perhaps fairly, been described as a geek, but I would like to make it clear that I have never in my life been so much as tempted to go trainspotting. However, the graphics on the front of these little books really does appeal.

Retro School Posters

I've been having something of a retro-design time of it recently. Among the great pieces which have come my way in the last little while have been nearly two hundred of these great vintage school poster - of which this is just a handful.

The one's I have are largely 'geographical' in that old sense of geography being about what country produced what crops and so on... there's a wonderful sense of 1940s/50s optimism about their portrayal of technology in particular. I've started the process of listing these on Ebay but I may be kept busy with them for quite a while yet.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

FINALLY: Roden Noel's Ganymede and Bacchus

It's been talked about on this blog more times than I care to remember and for longer than I would care to guess but finally, about six format-changes down the road, I have anounced today the publication of these two long poems by Roden Noel. The blurb follows:


We are delighted to be able to anounce the publication of Ganymede and Bacchus by Roden Noel, a reprinting of two long poems of classical subject and homoerotic tone. This publication fits into a series with Jocelyn Brooke's Six Poems which we published last year, a larger format than the more usual Callum James Books and with fine quality paper. This publication has been on the blocks for a very long time and it is wonderful to be able to finally offer it for sale.

Roden Noel (1834-1894) was a prolific poet. He wrote some ten volumes of poetry and many other works in his lifetime and yet, despite being admired by John Addington Symonds among others, he is, to all intents and purposes, unkown today. His poetry is sinuous and laden with imagery and description, it is not easy poetry, and yet it very much repays a careful reading.

Avowedly bisexual, Noel was a master of sensuously homoerotic verse. A number of his other poems with homoerotic flavours have already found separate publication in the twentieth century but both of the poems reproduced here have only been available in their original states until now. This title also includes, in the appendix, the case study of Noel by Havelock Ellis in his Sexual Inversion.

This publication includes four illustrations printed straight from the artist's blocks.

Callum James Books Website

Friday, July 16, 2010

Things That Falls From Books #1: Dickens Bits

Sometimes, in fact often, the things which fall out of books can be more interesting than the books themselves - so much so in this case that I have actually forgotten which book this wonderful piece of Dickens theatre ephemera came from.

It's a folded card with a second printed card inside giving details of the Christmas performance at His Majesty's Theatre which was to be David Copperfield. The Proprietor, Manager and Star Turn of His Majesty's was Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree who appears on the front of the card as both Mr. Micawber and Dan'l Peggoty - both of which roles he is mentioned for in the cast list. Someone has kindly saved me the research and bracketed the year in pencil as 1914.

As ephemeral items go, this one, I feel, is a real survival and the colour and warmth of the two pieces together makes for a very nice collector's piece. All I need to find now is a collector of either Dickensian, or theatre ephemera...

Historic WW1 Album

At first sight this appeared to be another of many Edwardian autograph album's which have passed through my hands. In fact, if anything, given that these things are usually valued for the quality and number of drawings and artwork they contain, this might be thought to be a little on the poor side.

However, it doesn't take much flicking to realise that this is in fact a book which belonged to a nurse. She was a nurse in Dublin, and this album is where she collected the signatures and details of the soldiers she was nursing as they arrived back from the front in 1915. There is a delightful breeziness about some of the comments they have written: she seems to have asked them all to signed their name, give details of their wounds (what, where and when), their regiment and then even their home address in some cases (perhaps a little flirtatiously). Some of them have elaborated into verse. Now, no one is going to claim that these few lines are ever going to take a place among the works of "The War Poets" but they are both straightforward and authentic....

Private William Young of the 11th Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry writes:

The night was dark and cold / The shells were bursting high, / When the Huns came rushing in, / To meet the H. L. I.

But the Scottish lads were ready, / And with a steady fire / They got the beggars on the run, / And soon their plight was dire.

But the Huns soon had another try, / This time to conquer or to do - / So now in front of us they lie / Slain by the gallant H. L. I. /

The day has dawned, and all is o'er / The Huns lie there to rise no more, / And they who failed but did not die / Are prisoners of the H. L. I.

But the two really stand-out things in this album are a full page watercolour which, as a sketch, betrays quite an accomplished hand, and although unsigned and untitled, one must imagine is a scene from the battlefield. The other stand-out page is a simple photograph.

The photo is contemporary and has been pasted in and underneath, probably not in the soldier's own hand, is the title "Cpl. Smyth V.C." In fact, this is a photograph of Corporal Issy Smith, the first Jew to be awarded the Victoria Cross. His story, which is a long and eventually happy one, can be read courtesy of Wikipedia. The difference in the spelling of the name worried me for a while but there are two pieces of evidence which confirmed the identification for me. Firstly, we know that Smith suffered gas inhalation during the Second Battle of Ypres where he won his V.C. and was returned to 'Blighty' for treatment, in fact, to Dublin. Also, there are a set of cigarette cards which show likenesses of V.C. winners and it is clear that this is the same man as the card which shows Issy Smith. Another nice point about this photo is that it clearly shows him with corporal's stripes which is absolutely correct for this time. After he recuperated under the care of my Nurse and others in Dublin he was sent around the country by the War Office on a recruitment drive and when he eventually went back to active service it was as a Sergeant.

All in all this is a rare and wonderful item in which a number of soldiers from the First World War seem to speak with their own voice across nearly a century.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

He Would Have Been Amazed

I confess, I had no idea that this had happened... but thanks to the newly opened up archive of British Pathe newsreel films I've come across this brilliant piece of high irony. Rolfe's book Hadrian the Seventh was adapted by Peter Luke into a stage play which ran at the Mermaid Theatre in London in the 1960s with Alec McGowan in the lead role. Luke played somewhat with Rolfe's book and, although the stage play too is the story of an Englishman who is plucked from obscurity to become Pope, in the play that character is called Frederick Rolfe.

The Pathe Newsreel is something which would have either given Frederick Rolfe a funny turn or tickled him senseless, it reports that there was a special performance of Hadrian VII in front of 300 bishops taking an afternoon off from the Lambeth Conference of 1968. How Rolfe would have reacted to the thought of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Apostolic Delegate and hundreds of bishops watching such a play one can only guess at but I think, perhaps, whatever the outward reaction, he might have been terribly pleased on the inside.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Baron Corvo Oddments

My colleague Robert Scoble, author of the Raven Series, has sent me recently a list of Internet 'ephemera' to do with Rolfe, I have added a few of my own and, some more serious than others, all interesting in their own way...

The rather exhaustingly upbeat website of Paddy Gormley has among his 'works in progress' a play about Rolfe called In His Own Image, taking its name from Rolfe's collection of Italian folk-tales as told to him by the young Toto. In His Own Image was actually a title to which Rolfe objected on the grounds that he found it blasphemous, but his publisher overruled his objection.

I had known for a long time, of course, that New Directions in New York published an edition of Rolfe's Desire and Pursuit of the Whole with a jacket design by Andy Warhol [above]. (It's fiendishly difficult to find in one piece and in very good condition). But the New Directions blog includes this post on Andy Warhol's design work for the company and shows four jackets they he created including one for Firbank's Three Novels, which I have to say reminds me of nothing so much as a cartoon by Ronald Searle. The post as a whole has some very interesting discussion and details about Warhol's relationship with New Directions.

Not being a big facebook user I am unable to say what benefits accrue to you, but should you wish, you can become a friend of Baron Corvo there.

Two Corvine souls appear on OKCupid listing books by Rolfe as a passion - both very sweet looking so let's hope cupid does his thing.

Please don't make the mistake of thinking that this next one has anything to do with the real Frederick Rolfe but there is a film whose directing credit is given as Baron Corvo. It is called Being Captured and if I tell you that one of it's aka-s is The Erotic Dwarf perhaps that gives you an idea. The director using the Corvine pseudonym was actually Alberto Cavallone. If you can bear it then there is a clip on Youtube.

I was rather struck by this painting on flickr by Ruben Fernandez Santos, which, although Italian is not a good language for me, appears to be a painting inspired by reading The Quest for Corvo. It stood out among the otherwise rather paltry results for a search on flickr for Baron Corvo.

The Find a Grave website has an image of Rolfe's grave on the cemetery island in the Venetian lagoon and a good number of rather sweet, and surprisingly knowledgeable tributes on their virtual flowers page. I was particularly touched by the gentleman who remembered that Hadrian VII liked yellow and white flowers best and so chose the correctly coloured clip-art.

The contemporary artist Julian Gordon Mitchell has painted a modern portrait of Rolfe. I confess, while I can see it is an acomplished painting in its own right, it doesn't portray much about Rolfe to me.

The author Brendan Connell wrote a slightly Corvine Italian clerical romp called, The Translation of Father Torturo, which I have read and enjoyed. On the author's blog he has many times expressed his devotion to all things Corvine and, in this post last year, published the whole of Rolfe's story The Armed Hands.
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