Monday, March 23, 2015

Two New Additions...

Two new additions to the vintage photo collection arrived this morning: a delightfully happy looking young man showing off his long-johns and a rather beautiful soldier (sadly unidentified) from WW1 who, although reversed here, is actually on a glass negative that made it safely to me in the post!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Three Ghosts Illustrated by Laurence Scarfe Part II

A couple of days ago I posted the colour illustrations from Three Ghosts by Laurence Scarfe. As threatened, here are the black and white drawings from the text that I also rather enjoyed.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Comrade Loves of the Samurai by Saikaku Ihara

This little book has been on my shelves a couple of years waiting for the right time to be taken down. This week I have been working in London most days and so the train journey back and forth has provided the perfect environment for a book of short stories like this one.

Saikaku Ihara (1692-1993) was writing in Edo Period Japan, the time of Samurai warriors and Shoguns. I am no expert in Japanese history and literature but I can appreciate that these were not written as 'historical' fiction, but rather as contemporary observations with a little humour and satire thrown in. This collection of thirteen stories was first translated and published as one of the 12 volumes in E. Powys Mathers' great anthology from the 1930s, Eastern Love, sometimes called The Eastern Anthology. These are tales extracted from Saikaku's oeuvre and drawn together by their theme of same-sex love and romance. The copy above is the 1970s paperback printing by Tuttle.

In Edo Period Japan the dominant ethos of homosexual love was that of a grown man with an adolescent boy, very similar to the pattern more familiar in the west from Greek civilisation. These stories are not pornography, they are charming and beautifully observed tales of devotion, love that makes men do mad things, of honour and of eternal love that continues beyond the grave. The titles of the tales give something of the flavour: "The Soul of a Young Man Smitten With Love Follows His Lover On A Journey", "All Comrade Lovers Die By Hara-Kiri", "A Samurai Becomes A Beggar Through His Love For A Page."

Having suggested a comparison with the model of Ancient Greece there is suggestion in these tales that the model wasn't so strictly adhered to in Japan. We have even in this small selection, stories of life long devotion and of relationships between young Samurai of the same age. In one story, "They Loved Each Other Even to Extreme Old Age", the rather self-explanatory title suggests a relationship well past the boundaries of pederastic love and, whilst there is regret expressed for the loss of youth and beauty, it doesn't stop the depiction of a loving and devoted life-long homosexual relationship. 

The stories all fall within what is known at The Floating World genre of Japanese literature of the period, of which Saikaku was a founder and exponent, a genre set in the 'floating world' of urban life, of samurai and merchants, theatres and prostitutes: very very roughly perhaps a 'bohemian' setting. The Japanese word for 'floating world' is also an ironic play on the homophonic Japanese term meaning 'sorrowful world', that is, the earthly plane from which Buddhists seek to escape. That tension between the 'sorrowful' and the 'floating', between the eternal qualities of love and honour and the earthly qualities of passion and bodily beauty is, perhaps, one of the things which makes these tales so affecting to read.

There is a very slight undertone of the supernatural in some of the stories which only goes to strengthen the impression, from the lightness of touch and the lilting narrative, that one is reading a collection of fairy tales. And the collection does not lack for humour either, though it is of the most gentle sort. Beautiful boys are described beautifully in every tale, but you will find nothing much more explicit here than, 'they lay down together for the night'. To be honest I found that rather refreshing to read. Fifty Shades it ain't! If you would like to try something a little different in 'gay literature' that is enchanting without being demanding and yes stays with you a long time after you put the book down, I can't recommend this little paperback enough.

(Whilst we hear there are other booksellers out there, Callum James Books do, of course, try to keep some copies to hand, please ask if we have one currently in stock)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Laurence Scarfe Illustrates Three Ghosts

Laurence Scarfe has been mentioned on Front Free Endpaper before, about two years ago when R and I visited Poole Museum and saw some screenprinted tiles from the Poole Pottery from the 1960s, some of them by Scarfe. He was a Yorkshire born lithographer, mural painter, book illustrator and a graphic and commercial artist. He was the art editor of The Saturday Book and a regular illustrator for The Radio Times and whilst he trained at the Royal College of Art, his longest full-time post was as a lecturer at The Central School of Arts and Crafts.

He comes from the same artistic garden as the likes of Ravilious and Bawden but, because he survived them both, and perhaps because of the necessities of his commercial work, his style moved with the times and his work from the 1970s in particular has a real feel of the decade about it.

This little paperback is called Three Ghosts. As well as the illustrations here, there are also some delightful and detailed black and white work in the text which show more clearly his links to Ravilious et. al., and may yet find their way onto the blog. The three ghosts in question are from three stories, "The Red Room" by H. G. Wells, "Rats" by M. R. James and "The Return of Imray" by Rudyard Kipling. I like them because they manage to be both lighthearted and eerie at the same time.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Richard Siken: War of the Foxes

Ten years ago, Richard Siken won the Yale Young Poets Award for his debut collection of poetry, Crush. It was a brilliant tour de force of language and personal revelation and raw emotional states described in ways that felt new and revealing. So every year or so I would check about to see if there had been another collection.... not until now!

... And it's being crowd funded.

Watch the video above and then go to the Indiegogo page and put your money where my mouth is.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Jessie Marion King illustrates Eric by F. W. Farrar

Well, my work here is done... My lovely husband came home yesterday with this book. Jessie Marion King (1875-1949) is well known as a book illustrator, jewellery designer and painter of pots, but it can be surprisingly hard to find her work. This is a copy of Eric or Little by Little by F. W. Farrar. It was published by Collins and is undated but my best guess would be this is just pre-WW1, certainly King was doing very similar work for the publisher T. N. Foulis at that time.

This is one of a series of books published by Collins under the title Collins Bumper Presentation Books and they were clearly designed to be cheaply bought by schools to be given as awards. Sadly, this has translated into the quality of the production and, as you can see with this copy, the paper covered boards and the thin hinges have not survived well. This is probably why I cannot find a single reference to this edition online anywhere: I imagine very few have survived. Also notable is that there is a list of titles inside 'uniform with this volume', Alice in Wonderland and Hans Andersen at least were published using the same illustration with different titles. An indication of what kind of publishing job this was is that the only illustrations inside the book are a coloured frontispiece and title page vignette of the most dull and traditional Victorian type. The title page gives the publisher's impression as the Collins Clear Type Press of London and Glasgow. Clearly, the new cover design by King was the only expense Collins was willing to go to in these books as the inside seems an entirely recycled affair from editions they had previously issued.

It is, like most of King's work, a striking, stylised and colourful design. Regular readers I am sure will be able to see a similarity between this style and some of the work of FFEP favourite Albert Wainwright.

(NB. If you have found this post searching Collins Clear Type Press, please DO NOT email me asking about the date, value, or details of your book. I don't wish to appear churlish but I know no more about it than you do.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hendrick Van Loon's Marvellous Maps

Hendrik Willem Van Loon is much better known in his native Netherlands I think than in the rest of the world. He was a prolific author and, in some cases illustrator, mainly of books for children and young adults. Today I picked up a copy of his 1932 book The Home of Mankind. The Story of the World We Live In. It's a delightful book and similar in style and idea to his more famous The Story of Mankind. But he illustrated these himself and, because this book is a mixture of geography and geology, a book about The World, there are these wonderful maps. The style is so fabulously naive, it looks like a child has coloured in a printed map with their felt tips, but they work so well. I was charmed by them.

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