Saturday, August 31, 2013

French Line Gay Pulp Cover Designs

My recent introduction to Don Kelly's collection on Library Thing has enabled me to write a post I've been hoping to do for months. French Line was one of a number of paperback imprints from the 60s and 70s offering pulp erotica and this imprint in particular was known for its gay titles. Actually, for books which are supposedly for a gay audience, many of the titles and straplines bordered on the homophobic (The Chocolate Speedway, the only route to go in a ghetto of homos : The Fag Chaser, how long does it take to make a straight guy gay : The Reamers, now listen here boy, when I say 'on your knees' I don't mean pray) and even if those have an element of black humour, it's hard to not see Homo Horror as something of a lapse in judgement: 'an island of ex-Nazis replay the Concentration Camp game'! So why am I remarking on them at all? It's all in the cover of course. This is something I noticed a while ago but haven't been able to illustrate it with decent images until Don Kelly's collection appeared on my horizon.

French Line, like many other imprints had a whole range of poorly drawn covers that featured somewhat awkward or cheesy pencil drawings or paintings of hunky young men in suggestive poses but French Line, uniquely, also seems to have had someone working for them who had a real eye for cover design and among their titles are ones like these pictured here in which the graphic element is very strong and often involving the Male gender symbol, silhouetted figures and strong colour work. Some are almost reminiscent of 1960s Pelican/Penguin covers. I have no idea who the designer was but I would be surprised if all the covers featured here weren't created by the same person.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Frederick Rolfe Centenary: Free Books

This year sees the centenary of the death of Frederick Rolfe Baron Corvo. To mark this, from now until the actual anniversary on the 25th October I shall be posting about the Baron and his life and work on a regular basis here on Front Free Endpaper.

We've done free books on Front Free Endpaper a few times before and probably will again but on this one occasion I'd like to do something slightly different. For the first unspecified number of people who get in touch via the email address at the side of the blog, I will have delivered to you a book by Frederick Rolfe and/or a copy of The Quest for Corvo. I can't promise they'll be great copies, maybe just an old pocket edition or a paperback, I can't take requests either for any particular title, but it will be delivered to your door free of charge wherever you are in the world. The photo with this post doesn't necessarily include books that will be sent but, who knows...

So what's the catch? Normally when I give away books I like to do it without any strings but on this occasion there is a small caveat. All I ask in return is that when you've read the book (or done your very very best to get through it), you write a little review to be posted here on Front Free Endpaper. It could be a couple of paragraphs or a longer piece, just some kind of response to what you've just written. It doesn't have to be an academic criticism, just a quick summary of the plot and how you felt about it would be just fine. 

So, drop me an email... include your postal address... mention any of Rolfe's books you may have already read... sit back and wait for a free book to arrive... read it... write me a little something... 

...couldn't be simpler!

A Gay Library Thing

I have always found the website, Librarything a little off putting and difficult to use. However, I was recently contacted by a lovely gentleman named Don who suggested I might like to have a look at his collection which he has painstakingly scanned and uploaded and catalogued on the website.

It's a truly magnificent collection numbering several thousand items and it take a bit of work to get into, but it's thoroughly rewarding to dig in. The signed section alone is a small miracle of book collecting. And, as Don noted to me, many of these items, especially pulp fiction and periodicals haven't had their covers scanned and made Internet-able before.

You can start at the collection's Home Page or, perhaps the best way of beginning to navigate it is to start with the complete list of tags.

For anyone with an interest in obscure gay literature, interesting book covers, bibliography... this collection can't be recommended highly enough for a good dig around. It does take a little while to get used to the website if you haven't used it before, but definitely worth the trouble.

It would be foolish of me to attempt a description of the collection so I'm going to simply reproduce Don's own description:

"Collecting and reading interests include gay history and gay literature -- and historical and fictional books about the City of Houston (this latter collection of 630 books has been acquired by the Houston Metropolitan Research Center and has been removed from "My Library").

Collecting emphasis in FIRST EDITION SIGNED books by William S. Burroughs, James Purdy, Coleman Dowell, James Robert Baker, Paul Bowles, Harold Brodkey, W. H. Auden, Carl Van Vechten, Daniel R. Brown (Daniel Curzon), Richard Howard, Daryl Hine, James Broughton, Martin Duberman, Michael Rumaker, Larry Kramer, Bruce Benderson, John Ashbery, James Baldwin, Edmund White, John Rechy, Christopher Bram, Robert Duncan, "Jess" Collins, Samuel Steward (Phil Andros), Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Tony Kushner, Robert Chesley, Lanford Wilson, Doric Wilson, William Inge, Truman Capote, Felice Picano, Alan Hollinghurst, Michael Cunningham, Christopher Rice, Langston Hughes, Edward Albee, David Leavitt, James Merrill, Harold Norse, Dennis Cooper, Donald Windham, Adam Haslett, Eric Garber (Andrew Holleran), Paul Cadmus, Cy Twombly, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Merce Cunningham, Antony Sher, Arthur Evans, Derek Jarman, Colm Toibin, Armistead Maupin, Joseph Hansen (James Colton, Rose Brock), Richard Fullmer (Dirk Vanden), Tom Wakefield, Patrick Gale, Paul Jones (Paul Mariah), Tim Dlugos, Kenward Elmslie, Joe Brainard, Winston Leyland, Parker Tyler, Charles Henri Ford, Ian Young, and Allen Ginsberg.

There are also many signed editions of gay "small press" poets writing during the years 1960-2000.

Also unsigned editions of Jean Genet, Andre Gide, Edward Carpenter, Gordon Merrick, Wallace Hamilton, Jim Kepner, John Horne Burns, Carl Corley, Thom Racina (Teryl Andrews), Victor J. Banis (Don Holliday, Victor Jay, J. X. Williams, Victor Dodson), Christian Davies (Chris Davidson), Thom Racina (Teryl Andrews), George Davies (Lance Lester, Ricardo Armory), Vincent Lardo (Julian Mark), Marcus Miller, George Haimsohn (Alexander Goodman), William Corington (John Coriolan), Jay Greene, William Maltese (William J. Lambert III, Chad Stuart, Alex Mann, Cort Forbes, Kyle Reich, Raymond Lange, Bryant Tyler, Lambert Wilhelm), Douglas Dean Goodman (Douglas Dean), John H. Kimbro (Kym Allyson), George Scithers (Felix Lance Falkon), Philip H. Lee (Carl Driver), and Peter Tuesday Hughes.

There are a near complete run of issues of TANGENTS; ONE magazine (including representative runs of ONE Newsletters and ONE Confidentials); ONE INSTITUTE QUARTERLY; THE MATTACHINE REVIEW and other publications of the Mattachine Society (including some issues of INTERIM); publications of the Gay Academic Union; DORIAN BOOK QUARTERLY; VECTOR, a publication of the Society for Individual Rights; DRUM, a publication of the Janus Society; S.T.H. (Manhattan Review of Unnatural Acts) chapbooks; the first issues of PACE!; RFD; CHRISTOPHER STREET; MANROOT; and, the GLQ Journal; the first two issues of PARAGRAPH; GAY SUNSHINE; GAY COMIX; MAGNUS; Boston FAG RAG; Chicago GAY CRUSADER; GREYHUFF REVIEW; and, AYE! Newsletter of the National Gay Lobby. There is a complete run of the first 16 issues of the ADVOCATE, as well as several early issues of GAYS ON THE HILL.

There are many early issues of Directory Services (DSI) publications: VAGABOND Catalogs, BUTCH, GALERIE, TIGER and RUGGED.

Also included are some early issues of European gay periodicals: AMIGO:THE HOMOPHILE MAGAZINE; (German and English); THE SPIRIT LAMP (Oxford University); VENNEN/DER FREUND (Danish); EOS (Danish); VRIENDSCHAP (Dutch); ARCADIE (French); DER WEG; (German); DER RING (Dutch/German) DER NEUE RING (German); DER KREIS (Swiss/German); and, ICSE Newsletters (International Committee on Sexual Equality).

There is a complete run of the following gay magazines and journals: LITTLE CAESAR; CITY LIGHTS JOURNAL; GANYMEDE; GAY LITERATURE:A New Journal; SEBASTIAN QUILL; MOUTH OF THE DRAGON; THE EUROPEAN GAY REVIEW; TRIBE: An American Gay Journal; and, PROVOCATEUR.

The collection contains a near complete series of the classic gay pulps of the 60's and early 70's, including those published by the French Line (PEC), Parisian Press, Grand Prix, Barclay House, Brandon House, Eiffel Classic, Hamilton House, Greenleaf Classics, Guild Press, 101 Enterprises, Classic Publications, Golden Boy, Frenchy's Gay Line, Continental Classics, Centaur, SVEA (published in Denmark), Pleasure Reader; and Phenix. There is also a near complete set of the famed online "Gay on the Range" collection.

There are the Number One issues of some of the 1950-60's famed "beefcake" magazines, including FIZEEK ART QUARTERLY, ADONIS, FIZEEK, MALE FIGURE, MARS, MUSCLE BOY, THE YOUNG PHYSIQUE, MUSCLES A GO-GO, VIM, HOMBRE, BOYS IN LEATHER and the rare MANHATTAN MALE.

There are first copy issues of the early 
gay comics, including Joe Boy; Wendel; Gay Comix; Rage Gay Crusader; Chicos Modernos; and, The Uncensored Adventures of Harry Chess.

And finally, there are the number one issues of the following: the short-lived BACHELOR magazine (published by Lucius Beebe); HARVEY MILK ARCHIVES NEWSLETTER; AMETHYST:A JOURNAL FOR LESBIANS AND GAY MEN; the short-lived THE FORUM OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA and DRAGONFLY of Sidney Smith."

Monday, August 26, 2013

So What Have I Learnt About Books and Publishers Today?

In any given day I could find myself handling hundreds of books: sorting, pricing, cataloguing, sending to the charity shop, and occasionally selling. It's not a bad life! I mention this because you might better imagine that it's not often I come across a new publisher but Elkin Matthews and Marrot Ltd is one such. Of course, anyone familiar with the 1890s in books will be familiar with Elkin Matthews: it was Matthews who worked with John Lane on some of the biggest authors of the period, including Oscar Wilde. But over time publishing partnerships divide, combine and dissolve and one has to assume that this imprint was just another manifestation of that process. What I liked in particular, however, on discovering this was the strange card bookmark sewn into the book I was looking at. It has the somewhat clumsy logo of the new firm along with a little advertising copy on the back suggesting that EM might also stand for "Exceptional Merit". Judging from the British Library catalogue, I fear that exceptional merit may not have taken them more than five years to exhaust.

What else have I learnt today? On the jacket one of the Knockout Thriller titles, A Scent of New Mown Hay by John Blackburn, published by Secker and Warburg in the 50s, we discover that any reader who feels that a book in the series has failed to meet its aims may write to the publisher and an address is given. "If the publisher feels that the reader has made a convincing case, he will present a free copy of any one book priced at 21s and below which the reader may care to choose from the Secker and Warburg list." Now, aren't you dying to know how many people wrote in? Me too.

And then, not so much a learning point, just a wonderful little scrap of ephemera. Many publishers included between the pages of their books, a postcard that could be mailed back to them, requesting a spot on their mailing list. I have a small collection of these now and this (below) is the first one I've found for Constable & Co., this one from 1925. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

1939 Illustrated Telegram

Another piece of ephemera which has caught my eye this afternoon is this illustrated telegram from 1939, not only for the very fetching illustration by Alan Sovell but also for the message which reads best in full-on Aunty Beeb* English accent!

PS. Please see the comments for clarification and for an excellent bit of picture hunting, thanks to Self-Effacing Ghost.

*For our overseas readers: an affectionate nickname for the BBC

Around the World in 12 Menus with P&O

These menus are all illustrated by David Knight (1923-1982) who was a freelance illustrator of books, magazines and other commercial items working through the 1950s-70s. His book credits include Eleanor Farjeon's Mrs Malone (1950), Paul Gallico's The Small Miracle (1951) and John Pudney's The Smallest Room. He was particularly noted for his architectural illustration. I suspect that shipping line menus are one of those things which dealers like to imagine are highly collectible, whereas in fact, there are probably very few people genuinely interested in them for their shipping connections. However, I could see the virtue in collecting the 1960s/70s ones for their use of illustration. As I understand it, the coloured cards were printed up and taken on board en masse and an printing press on the ship was then used to add in the menus each day. This set, all of which feature the indigenous form of small boat from various places in the world, were from a cruise by S.S. Chusan in 1961

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cockerell Marbled Papers in the 1970s

Thanks to R today who found this fab video on making marbled paper via @simongoode on twitter. If you can get past the amazing 1970s infomercial do-be-do music at the beginning it's actually a far more detailed look at the rather closed world of commercial marbling than is normally allowed and, in this case, we're peeking into the world of some of the best because this film was made at the Cockerell paper workshop
Simon Goode, who pointed the way, also pointed my way to the London Centre for Book Arts, whose website is well worth a visit.


A beautiful day yesterday in the UK and in London in particular where I was visiting the British Library. It's very civilized these days: order the books you want to look at in the morning from your computer at home in Portsmouth, walk down the road to the train station, and by the time you are strolling through the Piazza outside the library, dodging round the bronze of Isaac Newton by Paolozzi in its puddle of sunshine, the books are waiting for you in the Rare Book and Music Room (which is my reading room of choice). So I ordered books and pamphlets that I'd never read before by two authors known for their Gay and Uranian poetry and prose, Leonard Green and Philebus (i.e. John Leslie Barford) and having read all the way through all of them I found just one poem of any relevance whatsoever. The poem "Tolerance" by Philbeus is published below for the first time probably since it appeared in Whimsies (Roberts & Newton, London: 1934). It is a collection of verse just one remove from doggerel about gnomes and fairies and yet it begins with this paean for tolerance which seems somehow out of place amongst the daisies and strangely modern in argument.

After the Library there was a pleasing few moments spent in Gay's The Word bookshop, the UK's only surviving, dedicated, real-world lesbian and gay bookshop. It's been going since 1979 and struggles on still. I remember visiting regularly as a student in London in the 90s. But the highlight of the afternoon had to be spending a couple of hours in Russell Square chatting about all things gay art and literature with a very knowledgeable friend whilst the dappled sunlight kept us warm and the children frolicked in the fountains. It was all too, too Brideshead and very enjoyable.

by Philebus
(pseud. for John Leslie Barford)

Is it too much to ask that I should be
    Allowed to prove
God's gift of infinite variety
   In human love.

I do not seek that all should understand,
   Much less forgive;
But surely heed man's commonsense command
"Live and let live,"

And, if the greatest Lover's word divine
   Further can move, -
(Who had Himself all natures, even mine,)
   Love - and let love.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Callum James Books Short List #12

It's that time again... we've just issued another Short List catalogue. If you're on our mailing list, you will be receiving an email any moment now to tell you where to find the new list of goodies. If you're not on our mailing list - why not?! All you have to do is send an email asking to be added. It's not an onerous list, you won't be flooded with mail you don't want and we take discretion and the confidentiality of our customers extremely seriously.
This list has, among other things, a first edition of Radcliffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness with a pile of contemporary news clippings about the banning of the book and subsequent court case. Also, we have a number of items in this list which might be described as 'adults only': explicit photographs and letters from the 1970s and before, that provide a real insight into life before the Internet for sexual minorities. Customers waiting on more supernatural fiction needn't look at this list but can be assured that we're working on another list of strange and supernatural books right now.
If you would like to see these catalogues but aren't currently on our mailing list please just drop us a line using the email link at the top right of this page.

Things That Fall From Books #15: A Clue!

There seems to be a theme developing this week on Front Free Endpaper: scraps of paper! Nonetheless, I intrigued and delighted by this little scrap that fell from a copy of Stevenson's Treasure Island. At first I assumed it was a child's copy of something that appears in the book itself but rack my brains as I might, I can't remember any such note appearing: so I searched an online text file of the book for any of these phrases and can't find them. I then put searched more widely using Google and again a blank. It is written on the back of a piece of paper torn from a letter which, fortunately, retains the date, 1923. A delightful clue perhaps to a game long finished. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Scrap

Can you imagine how happy I was when I found this? A Victorian (most likely) scrap of paper, actually larger than a postcard, printed in real ink from real wood blocks. I don't even mind the missing corner which, I think, just makes it more beautiful.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Vintage Swimwear and a scrappy little photo

Another piece of vintage swimwear photography through the post today. All I can tell you about this very handsome guy is that he was standing in a stream in France in July 1948. And he's certainly worth enlarging! And then below him is a tiny little photo, a contact print from a 35mm negative. Presumably, given the wonky edges of this little scrap of photographic paper is was cut from a larger contact sheet with other image on it. As I've said before it's the damaged, wonky, decayed and ephemeral bits and pieces of vintage photography that really appeal to me and, if there was a word which described all those qualities (suggestions welcome!), this little image of a young guy walking through a door, would have it in spades.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Baron Corvo. A Centenary Catalogue

Long awaited in this centenary year is Timothy d'Arch Smith's catalogue Frederick William Rolfe Baron Corvo (1860-1993). His Family and his Circle, which has been dropping through letterboxes in the UK this morning. I was fortunate enough to be having coffee with Tim this morning, which is always a delight, and got mine hand-to-hand. What other writer could merit a section in a book catalogue, "His Friends, His Enemies and His Votaries"?

There are treasures great and small in this catalogue including a number of autograph letters and a copy of the first edition of Rolfe's Tarcissus. What makes this catalogue special, and a fascinating read at the same time is that Tim has cast the net very wide into the Corvine cultus: A. J. A. Symons, A. T. Bartholomew, Shane Leslie, Donald Weeks, Mr d'Arch Smith himself and others all make appearances here in letters, books, association copies and ephemera. The 'Family' in the title is no empty boast either as there are a number of items from the Rolfe Pianoforte business, including a Piano!, as well as items relating to Rolfe's brothers. It is an astonishing collection and I believe that copies are still available but I would hurry if you want one as this is sure to become a collector's item in its own right.

Copies can be had for £20 post paid from :

Timothy d'Arch Smith
PO Box No. 59367

A Vintage Postcard Through the Post

Every now and again correspondents send me little items that they think might appeal to me and sometimes I like to share them here as well. I fair near squealed with delight when this vintage postcard was actually written and sent to me, that is, it was used as a postcard! Sent from a correspondent in SW France who says he saw this and thought of FFEP, he apologises that this young man is not in his swimwear but says, and we must agree, that he is "surely a handsome and dapper chap". Thank you, you have made my day.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Things That Fall From Books #14: Tatty Photograph

The collection of Ariel Poems I blogged about yesterday had one final surprise for me. Within the W. H. Auden envelope, along with the poem booklet was this dilapidated photograph. I love it when photographs have deteriorated. This one is torn in half and taped back together at the back, and obviously has losses all round the edge and other chips and tears but I think that's a marker of real character. I'd alway have a photograph like this over something which has been digitally 'restored' and 'enhanced' and then reprinted onto a flat piece of paper.

This is one of an occasional series of posts about Things That Fall From Books.

A Selection of Ariel Poems from Faber & Faber

I have been delighting in these this evening. They are five titles from the second series of the Ariel Poems, published by Faber and Faber in 1954 after a first series on similar lines in the 1920s. Each envelope contains one poem, printed and sewn into coloured card covers with a full page colour illustration by a significant illustrator of the day facing the first page. Often there are b/w illustrations also. I can't decide if my favourite is the art my Michael Ayrton or by Robin Jacques.

Lynton Lamb illustrates Sirmione Peninsula by Stephen Spender

Robin Jaques illustrates The Winnowing Dream by Walter de la Mare

Edward Bawden illustrates Mountains by W. H. Auden

Michael Ayrton illustrates The Other Wing by Louis MacNeice

James Sellars illustrates Nativity by Roy Campbell

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