Monday, July 18, 2016

The Miracle of Man...

 I couldn't resist this rather battered copy of The Miracle of Man from the 1940s in a charity shop the other day. The impressive illustration on the jacket (above) reproduced again in fuller form on the endpapers (below) give an idea of the tone of this book. Optimism. This is a book about how wonderful humanity is and about its achievements are amazing. It would be hard to imagine a book being published with such a message today of course, but is it not equally remarkable that this book contains plenty of references to the Nazi Party "setting Europe alight" and yet still, promulgates that upbeat, optimistic, progress-is-everything view of the world that we have come to love from the the 1920s and 30s?

The last scan below is from a chapter titled, "Science - Miracle of Menace?" (the answer to which not being that much in question), and the caption that went with it captures the tone nicely "The ugliness associated with factories is gradually disappearing. Serious attempts are made not only to erect places entirely convenient for their main purpose - 'Functionalism' is the word coined for this - but to render them attractive to the operatives. The above representation of Power, in stainless steel, is on the building of an electric light company, and typifies the function of the structure. Art has found its way into the modern factory"

Needless to say, if anyone can supply a photograph of that statue and/or a location, it would be gratefully received.

UPDATE: Thank you to the ever resourceful J who, in the comments identifies this building as the Niagra Mohawk Power building in Syracuse NY. This photo below is from the buildings Wiki page but there are better ones at this link provided by J:

Monday, July 11, 2016

ONE Magazine Covers

ONE was a gay campaigning organisation in the US that grew from The Mattachine Society in the 1950s. The archives of ONE are being digitised and fun things from within have been featured here on FFEP before. The digital home of the archive is now at The University of Southern California and you can browse through yourself of course. ONE also produced a magazine throughout the 50s and 60s, the first gay-positive magazine in the US. The covers displayed various styles during that time but there was a strong trend towards the very graphic, mirroring the best in design of the era. So here are a handful that caught my eye in particular.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Bibliographical Gold for James Stephens

James Stephens is one of a group of Irish poets/novelists/playwrights at the turn of the 19th century and into the 20th who wrote somewhat fey, mystically aware work. Or, as a young chap I was talking to about them in a bookshop the other day said; "weird vision shit". Head and shoulders above the rest in my view is George Russell, writing as A.E. and no one would claim greatness for James Stephens (I don't think, perhaps I wrong) but he is good to thumb through for nuggets. So the upshot is that I always tend to pick up his books if I find one. And this one had a nugget of a different kind: bibliographical gold.

Now I do understand that the people who will find this exciting are few and far between but also, I hope, some of those who will are likely to be reading this blog. So tucked inside this copy are a couple of typed sheets from the publishers, Macmillan, obviously responding to an enquiry, and on which they list all the substantial differences between the first and second edition of the book. This is the kind of thing serious bibliographers spend hours and hours doing, and the kind of thing publishers don't do anymore! Not only do they list the change in the running order of the poems from first to second edition but also list the revisions to the poems themselves which, to anyone seriously interested in the poet would be fascinating.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Albert Wainwright illustrates Wilfred Rowland Childe

In the first two or three decades of the Twentieth Century, there was a genre in literature, a minor one to be sure, that we don't see so much if at all now: the 'prose sketch'. Not an essay, perhaps only a couple or three hundred words long, a description of a place, a person or an event. It was a minor piece of writing about a minor subject but done with care and love. In the realm of gay literature we might look to Leonard Green and his 'prose fancies' describing the fleeting beauty of a lad on the train, or perhaps a stunning Gloucestershire landscape and the handsome shepherd who walked through it.

Wilfred Rowland Childe was a poet, an editor and critic, a minor writer who rejoiced in a Harrow and Oxford education and in the friendship of Tolkien. He fought in the First World War and is therefore sometimes counted among the 'war poets'. He was born in Wakefield and lived in Leeds for much of his life and so his literary and artistic circles were northern to a large extent. This is surely how he came to be occasionally published by The Swan Press, an independent concern run by fellow Leeds-man Sydney Matthewman. The Swan Press was also where Front Free Endpaper favourite Albert Wainwright found an outlet for his writing and book illustrating. And this is how I came to receive the book above in the post today: a collection of prose fancies illustrated, and decorated by Albert Wainwright and published by Matthewman. The fancies in this book are Roman Catholic in tone but of a particular kind and of that particular age where the native paganism of Britain still infused them: an elegy to Bacchus in a British Yew wood sits next to a description of the sensuous darkness of the sanctuary at High Mass. It is a delightful book and ensures that I shall be looking out for more of Childe in the future.

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