Friday, November 30, 2012

Save on Callum James Books from Blurb

If you have not yet bought copies of any of the three books that Callum James Books published through Blurb I would urge you to think about doing so before the 13th December. If you do so, when you reach the checkout stage you can enter the voucher code SAVE7 (uppercase is important) and get 7 whole pounds off your order. This is a very substantial discount being offered by Blurb on these titles. The offer ends on 13th December though so don't hand around.

Digby Mackworth Dolben on The Public Domain Review

A brilliantly written article has appeared on the ever-delicious Public Domain Review about "The Strangely Troubled Life of Digby Mackworth Dolben" by Carl Miller. When I say brilliantly written I am not simply being polite, it is wonderful prose that makes you remember once more how the writing of non-fiction is also an art form. On the Oxford Movement he says, for example, "In Oxford in the 1830s these high church Anglicans had hammered their theology into a fine gold leaf: they were dazzled by the beauty of their work but failed to see that it was far too fragile to survive the ecclesiastic contest it invited."

Miller is kinder to Bridges in his role of mini-biographer and posthumous literary agent to Dolben than I and others have been in the past and, he is so convincing in this regard I feel I'm going to have to go back to the original and give Bridges another chance. The last time Dolben featured here was in an article about the strange living arrangements of Henry Newbolt and the wonder of a good association copy.

I am in the process of reading every word every published by this amazing website and I would recommend the same to anyone.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vera, The Boy in Skirts

21 Years as a Girl.

A quaint story of a boy having been raised to manhood as a girl comes from the little island of Ocracoke, off North Carolina, wither, after a brief struggle for a living in Baltimore, Charles C. Williams, 21, has just returned, declaring that he much prefers wearing skirts, sewing, household work, and the companionship of girls.

When Williams was born his mother was bitterly disappointed that he was not a girl. She called him Vera and dressed him as a girl. Ocracoke supports some 600 persons, mostly fisherfolk, and with the exception of the mother none knew that Vera was a boy.

He grew up to be a quite good-looking girl with blonde hair and fair complexion, and he did not leave the island until his 21st birthday, when his mother took him, dressed in women's clothes, to the mainland where he made the discovery that Ocracoke was only a small place in the world.

On his return to the island Vera wrote to a mail-order house and obtained by parcel post an outfit of men's clothes. He cut off his long hair, took the money had earned by sewing, and rowed to the mainland. Then he wrote to his mother that he was tired of being a girl.

She replied telling him that his real name was Charles. For two months Charles worked as a waiter in Baltimore. then he became disgusted with the world. He has now returned to Ocracoke and the society of his girl friends.

Daily Mail, 22nd September, 1921.

What I find most remarkable about this poignant tale is the lack of shrill voice. On a day which saw the publication in the UK of the Leveson Enquiry Report into standards of the press, can we imagine today the Daily Mail, of all of them, reporting this story with such detached bemusement and no shrieking and pointing? It's quite an affecting story and all the more so for the fact that there is no mention of the locals waiting to greet Charles/Vera on his return with pitchforks and flaming torches: in fact, towards the end of the article it is even hinted that Charles/Vera had a very strong sense of morals.

A Google Earth tour of the island reveals that is probably has not many more inhabitants today than it did 90 years ago...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

More on Ambassador of Loss, Michael Scarrott, A S T Fisher and B. H. Surie

Back in September we had a look on FFEP at the book Ambassador of Loss by Michael Scarrott and its illustrations by B. H. Surie. One of the joys of the internet and this blog is the way in which it brings disparate sources of information together. A little more information has come this way about both author and illustrator. The author, you may remember was, in fact, writing under a pseudonym, the Rev'd A S T Fisher was his real name and, given that he was a chaplain at Bryanston school in Dorset, publishing his novel about schoolboy romance under his real name may have seemed a little close to home. He took Scarrott as a pseudonymous surname, slightly obscurely, from his Mother-in-law's maiden name.

This is the Rev'd Fisher working on a sermon but it turns out that he wasn't the only one connected with the book to also be connected to the school. Surie, the book's illustrator was also at the school as a boy. When he was one day overheard swearing he was sent to see the Chaplain. Fisher encouraged him to start an art society and nurtured his obvious talent and in the holidays, Fisher took Surie home with him as his own parents couldn't afford to fetch him. It was on one of these trips to the Chaplain's home that Surie met Fisher's daughter who would one day become his wife. Thus, A. S. T. Fisher and B. H. Surie were father- and son-in-law. Surie went on to work for an advertising company in the 1960s and was responsible, among other things, for the creation of the Home Pride man and various London Underground graphics. He had to give up art after that but was able to return to it during his retirement in Southern Spain where he still lives.

Ambassador of Loss is something of a love story and family history has it that Fisher wrote it as an antidote to Golding's Lord of the Flies so shocked was he by the violence and bestiality of that newly published novel.
Unfortunately, Surie's daughter, who has very graciously provided all this information and allowed its publication here, didn't see my post in September until after I had sold the copy I had and it is one of the few of her Grandfather's books that she doesn't have. If anyone out there has a copy at a reasonable price I'd love to hear from you.

Typographical Pleasures

I think this has to win the award for the most striking typographical book design of the day, three different fonts that, strangely, do rather work together. The jacket is signed by I can only make it out as "tingdnum" which doesn't sound right at all. Published by Harrap, London, 1937.

Seasons of Darlington

I am completely charmed by these two images, side by side in a photo album I have of c.1910. The same view of Darlington Park is repeated, one titled "Summer Night" the other "Winter Day"

Monday, November 26, 2012

Free Books

Yes, really...

These are all books which have featured on Front Free Endpaper, usually but not always, for their illustrations. They are in very mixed condition (some are very rough, some ex-library) and not worth a great deal but, probably because they have been featured here, I can't quite bring myself to get rid of them. So, if you want one or more of them, they are yours... The rules are very simple: it's first come first served by order that your request enters my inbox (, you can request up to two of the books, you must be willing and able to pay the cost of postage to where you are in the world by paypal, I will email you back as soon as I can with either a 'sorry you were pipped to the post' or a paypal invoice for the postage. FYI, in the UK, the cost of shipping any one of these will be 2.20 GBP.

Never done this before and if it goes well, I may consider doing it again. The books in this giveaway, with links to where they appeared on FFEP are:

The Maxims of Methuselah by Gelett Burgess

The Water Babies by Charles Kinglsey

Lizard Island Expedition by John Mercer

Gianni and the Ogre by Ruth Manning-Sanders

The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier

Star Man's Son by Andre Norton

'A Sad Farewell to my Books' by Lorenzo da Ponte

Delving back into the archives of Columbia University, we find that in the 1950s they bought a handwritten poem by Lorenzo da Ponte with which many a bibliophile might have cause to sympathise. To say Lorenzo was something of a character would be, perhaps, understating the case a little. He was born a Jew in Venice in 1749, converted to Catholicism, was ordained, took up a church in Venice where he fathered two children and was charged with "public concubinage" as well as living in a brothel and organising 'entertainments' there, he moved to other parts of Europe where he became a librettist, including for three of Mozart's operas, he moved to North America where he was a bookseller and then a professor at Columbia University (and so the circle closes) and he died in America at a good age in 1838. He led, to my mind, something of an exemplary life! However, among the many ups and downs of his life he wrote about the moment that inspired this poem:

"In the year 1831 I had on the shelves of my private library 3000 selected volumes [ ... ] which contained the most beautiful pages of out literature. I sold 2000 of them [at] auction to procure the funds necessary to settle the drama of which the [pains] and expenses were left to me with volumes of nebulous pr[omises] and merchant-like generosity."

A Sad Farewell to my Books

Farewell, faithful friends, companions of both my
    happy and sorrowful days, farewell.

The ominous wrath of an adverse fate takes you
    from me, a misfortune much bitterer than death.

The nightingale, mourning his lost mate, does not
   fill the countryside with more desperate grief,

Nor does a father suffer more when from the shore
   he sees his sons take to the sea,

Than I, my heart rent, feel in giving you away; for
   in one moment I lose with you all I cherish.

It was only through you that in the changing course
   of life I was able to give respite to my sorrows
   and to turn them to joys;

And only you could have given birth to my fame,
    had your light remained whole and united.

Having you, I did not expect greater gifts from
   heaven; having you, I did not envy kings their
   riches and their thrones.

When the sun scorched the fields I would find in
   you, in a cool meadow, sweet comfort and

When the evil wrath of winter had killed the grass
   and the flowers, through you Favonius would
   smile in my cell.

From you my soul learnt Piety and Charity, through
   you how to forget the insults of ingratitude.

Reading through the night I drank the nectar of the
  gods; often dreaming of you in my dreams were

Alas, fate takes from me my only treasure! Death
   would have been less bitter than this last fare-

The translation into prose was done in 1958 Luciano Rebay an Italian instructor at Columbia. The final genius of this poem has to be that in the Italian it was written as an Anacreontic, an ancient Greek metre usually reserved for poems that hymn the wonders of love and wine!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gay Old Methuselah

This is neither a rare book, nor an expensive one, nor is it a gay themed book. It is, in fact, about as heterosexual as it gets, a piece of early 20th century humour in which aged Methuselah gives advice to his son on the wooing of women, with all the attendant sexism and attitudinal challenge one would expect from the time. But doesn't it look good!? The illustrations and the design are just fabulous. So I thought it might be ripe for a bit of gender swapping and fun to gay-up at random some of Methuselah's maxims...

  • My son, ere thou takest thyself a husband, engage him in a game of poker and much shall be revealed.
  • My son, if a man confesseth that he love thee and thou lovest not him, leave him not, forsake him not in his anguish; make him laugh, and let thy conduct be merry.
  • My son, beware of the boy next door [plain damsel] who charmeth thee, for he needeth much wile, and useth diverse weapons.
  • He who spilleth ice-cream upon his front shall be forgiven; but whoso mention last night's indiscretion shell be dspised.
  • Teach thy son to love an older man with his first love, for he shall know much an come to no harm.
  • Woo him not till thou hast seen his father, for a score of years worketh wonders.
  • Two kinds of men there be who smoke cigarettes: he who wishes to, and he who wisheth two.
  • Some men are to be captured by storm and some taken by seige; yet if there be not a traitor in his heart that shall deliver up the garrison, thou shalt not prevail over him.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Correction: Mera Sett

Illustration by Mera Sett from Sculptured Memories by Mera Sett, privately printed and published for the author by Grant Richards, 1922, in a limited edition of 500 copies.

Back at the beginning of the year, I posted the covers of a number of book catalogues by Jaqueline Wesley and it's been pointed out to me that I erroneously attributed one of the cover images to Mera Sett. This was a result of confusion caused by the fact that Catalogue number 6 also had a supplement. The original post has now been corrected but, for the record, this is the cover to which I had meant to refer.

Also, for the record, I should say that every time I mention Ms Wesley here, I get a small flurry of 'whatever happened to...' emails. I'm sorry I can't help. I never had any personal contact with the lady myself but if anyone does know of her current disposition I know there are many who would like to think that her disappearance from the world of bookselling was neither an easy and happy retirement so please do lets us know...

Dances of Vice, Horror and Ecstasy

Although I am a little late with the news, Side Real Press have recently published what looks to be something of a masterpiece of the boutique publishers' art Dances of Vice, Horror and Ecstasy by Anita Berber and Sebastian Droste (above) was originally published in 1922 at the height of the Weimar decadence and has had something of a cult following, although hadn't been fully translated into English until now. It's a riot of drugs, dancing and homoeroticism, or as one critic of the original said: "it is difficult to imagine, let alone find, a more bizarre and complex relation between dance, writing, speech, nudity, and image than that found in this little book".

One of the problems with this kind of publishing is that, because a book is obscure, no one has enough background knowledge to know that they want to buy it when it is reprinted. This has been masterfully overcome by Side Real by the a brilliant, illustrated essay on their blog about both the authors and the book itself.

Anthony Reid's Lake Dawn

In every field of collecting there are some uber-collectors whose collections and/or passion for their collections becomes legendary. The late Anthony Reid for much of the Twentieth Century, was probably one of those in the field of gay book collecting. His home near Ringwood in the New Forest was called Lake Dawn and, as my informant on this matter points out, probably because of that impossibly romantic sounding name, many might have assumed it was a mansion. In fact, it was the somewhat less imposing bungalow above. It turns out that Lake Dawn is to be sold and replaced, according to the particulars on a Hampshire Estate Agent's website, with a the modernist wonderland pictured below... (hat-tip: pjpost)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lionel Wendt of Sri Lanka

Those lovely people at Bonhams have emailed to point out these two photographs by Lionel Wendt in the same lot in an upcoming sale of theirs. Wendt, (1900-1944) was a musician, film maker, intellectual, critic, and photographer was one of Sri Lanka's major figures in the arts of the twentieth century and his photography often, though not exclusively, offered images of the male nude or male body. His style was distinctive and very recognisable: a simple Google image search will confirm this. There is an interesting overview of his life and work at the Sri Lanka Sunday Times website. The Bonhams sale is fascinating beyond just the Wendt photos, they are in a section of the Polar II sale called "India and Beyond, Travel and Photography" on 4th December, which is well worth taking a look at as a whole.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Topographical Albumen

If you spend any time buying old photographs then you will almost certainly amass a pile of topographical albumen print photographs from the 1880s onwards. Almost every corner of the globe, it seems, was photographed and then printed for the edification of the tourist. There are probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions of scenes of the UK available and, with a few exceptions, where the photographer is important or the subject matter particularly interesting, these photographs make for a very affordable (or, ahem, cheap) collection. If you want to collect other places in the world, your pocket may determine where you can vicariously time-travel to: most of Europe is easy and cheap enough to buy and if you have a particular penchant for Alpine scenery you could certainly put together a very large and extremely inexpensive collection, Alpine and Swiss lake scenes are almost impossible to sell today. India, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Japan were popular but are still very affordable. The real money starts to change hands for Victorian albumen photographs of Hong Kong, China generally and certain early photographers of the American West.

On Tuesday I was at John Nicholson's auction house for their book auction, not actually bidding on books as it happens but on the prowl for any of a number of lots made up of piles of nineteenth century prints, drawings, photographs and ephemera and I was being consistently outbid by the only person in the room younger than me and was about to leave when he got up and walked towards the accounts office, sensing I might actually have a chance at the one or two lots still marked on my catalogue I moved in for the kill and snaffled up a few mixed lots and among them were these photographs. The photographer's ink stamp on the verso tells me they are by J. Daziaro of Moscow and St Petersburg: of all the countries in the world I think this might be the first time I have ever had topographical albumen photos of Russia - and nice that they have been coloured by hand.


I have finally taken the plunge, opened a Twitter account and will be attempting to join the twittering world from tomorrow. If, by any chance, you would like to follow me...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Oh Yeah, Typography

There's not much, subject-wise, that makes for more intent 'flicking-through' a new batch of books here at Callum James Heights, than typography. There's just something so satisfying about all those beautifully laid out fonts and printers' ornaments and embellishments and the crisp diagrams. This is only a small part of a box of material that has come in recently on printing, publishing, typography and bookselling. I was thinking of having the diagrams of different font families (bottom two photos) turned into t-shirts...!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Albert Wainwright: A Matter of Style

Regular readers will, by now, be familiar with the style of Albert Wainwright, an artist we have been championing here at Front Free Endpaper for a while now. He is known for his strongly Art Deco use of line and very 1930s strong, rich colours but, like many very good artists, his style in his mature work is such that one can almost always see one and say "that's a Wainwright". However, no one falls fully formed from the heavens in body or in style and my recent trip to visit the collection of Nik Elm in London meant that I was able to look through his large folio of Wainwright sketches and paintings and find among them some earlier work showing a much stronger influence from the black and white masters like Beardsley and Heath Robinson. I think the sketch below of St Vitus, although not as finished as some, is particularly charming. This was a style which he favoured in the 19-teens and he soon began moulding it to his own taste and sensibility, but it was still in evidence as a background flavour by the time we get into the 30s and 40s when he providing black and white line illustrations for books.

And since we are talking about style and how it can vary within the output of just one artist I thought I would also include the image at the bottom of this post: one of my favourite Wainwright images so far, and yet, also one of the few which somehow falls a little outside his usual style.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wonderful Egyptian Ephemera

I think it's possible that, despite their torn and damaged edges and the stains and creases, these might be the coolest pieces of paper ephemera I have every owned. They appear to be a kind of Grand Tour version of brass rubbing, except instead of crayon and paper on the floor of an English cathedral, these would appear to have been held up to some ancient Egyptian monument and pressed into the hieroglyphics and images on the surface until the paper was permanently embossed with a record of them. The paper is clearly at least nineteenth century in age and just a wonderful ephemeral survival.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

William Vizor Collette

Today was spent in a the friendly and treasure-packed home of friend and collector, Nik Elm, literally a stone's throw from the house where Philip Kains-Jackson and his young cousin set up home together, around the corner from Gleeson White's London pad and just down the road from William Morris's house - an auspicious place obviously, and you may be treated to more items from his collection in the near future hear on FFEP, but for tonight this very beautiful and delicate pencil drawing, the photo of which does nothing to showcase the delicacy of the image. This is a drawing by William Vizor Collette, signed and dated 1902 and Nik believes may be from Capri or even from Taormina itself. However, this is one of the few items in his collection where the artist has remained obscure so we were rather hoping that perhaps someone out there in internet land might have come across him before and be able to share...?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Vintage Swiming Group

I haven't bought a new photo for this collection for quite some time and as this one arrived today and it has been an otherwise long, and very tiring day today, I thought I would simply share it and say good night...

Thursday, November 15, 2012


If I had to give two pieces of advice to a would-be book collector (or dealer) they would be first, read the books you collect and, second, read about the books you collect. If I had to get rid of everything on pain of penury I think I would fight hardest to keep the part of my collection which is books about books, bibliography and booksellers' catalogues. Obviously, my interest is in gay literature but I guess in every field of book collecting there are dealers who have, over the years, specialised, and there is very little in this world that can best a well-produced bookseller's catalogue for education (and often entertainment) value. These are, sadly, the only Elysian Fields catalogues I have at the moment (and I'd be delighted to hear from anyone who wants to offer me more..) but these along with the catalogues of G. F. Sims, Jacqueline Wesley, Michael deHartington, David Deiss, and many others, have a special place on my shelves and in my bibliophile heart.

Who links to my website?