Monday, November 24, 2014

Song of a Boy by John Holland


This is a lovely book which I have had before, but not for a while now, so I was delighted to acquire a copy again today. Song of a Boy by John Holland (Privately Printed, London: 1939) is a mother's tribute to her dead son. It is an anthology of John Holland's youthful poetry and painting, youthful because he died of Polio three years before this book was created at the age of eighteen. It is a beautifully crafted book printed on laid paper, with colour reproductions of John's paintings, each protected by a tissue guard with the title and size printed onto it and all bound in cream buckram with one of John's paintings rendered in gilt on the upper board and then slipcased. Truly a lovely thing. Also included are three likenesses of John (below). The pastel drawing is by P. Harland-Fisher made when the subject was 12 years old and the two photographs were taken with his dog at the age of 13 and on horseback at 17. John Holland was the only son of Phyllis and Rear-Admiral Lancelot Holland and, as you would expect and understand, the praise for John's youthful talent is high indeed in the short preface to the book. Nonetheless, in this instance, the high praise seems highly justified. Granted that these poems were written from the age of fourteen onwards and have moments of unevenness, it is clear that John stood every chance of being a formidable poet had he been given the chance to find his mature voice. Sadly, that was not to be and so we are left with just this beautiful book as a memory of his passing. Which is made all the more poignant by the opening lines of the strangely prescient opening poem from which the collection takes its title, 

"Song of a Boy"

What have I done or left behind,
God, if I were to die this day
What thing of beauty could men find
To show that I had walked my way?
No good behind me and no sin,
No pearl of beauty fine and rare,
No simple song, not anything
For which another man might care,
Oh, what would future humans say
If in my youth I died this day?

Yet I have lived and seen and known
And yet if I did die this hour
My strength and knowledge would have flown
Before the bud could burst to flower,
Before the flower could turn to seed
To grow upon the barren ground.
I have not done one single deed
For which I then would be renowned
Oh, lost would be my gifts and power
If I were now to die this hour.

Some day perhaps some one will find,
One of my songs, swift time has left behind
And in that song, that man perhaps may see
A little corner of what once was me.
Perhaps a petty wish, a sudden fear,
A stroke of ink wet with a lover's tear.
Some simple thing that once my spirit saw
And find through it that men have lived before.

Clearly his obituary notice in The Wykehamist can't be far wrong when it said, "His single-hearted devotion to beauty in nature, art and literature, and still more his courageous independence of mind, will long be remembered by the many friends who had watched the development of his rare and ardent personality."




PS. A small bibliographical note for any who might find this post because they are researching to catalogue their own copy. There is a lithographed facsimile of John's signature in orange ink on the first page of the book. This is NOT as some internet sellers have it, a book which is "signed by the author" - clearly so, you would think. Nor is this signature drawn by a crayon by another hand as others have it. The signature is the same in all copy and is a printed facsimile.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Albert Wainwright Illustrates Castle in the Sun by Hilda Brearley



Hilda Brearley was a teacher, poet and author of just one novel for children, Castle in the Sun (Thomas Nelson, London: 1947), from which these illustrations by Albert Wainwright are taken. Brearley first met Wainwright twenty years earlier when they were introduced by a mutual friend and this novel and its illustrations were long in the production, so much so that the book wasn't published until after Wainwright's death. Unusually for Wainwright's book work, these are actually illustrations of the story as opposed to many of the books he 'decorated' for Sydney Matthewman at The Swan Press were his contributions did tend towards the decorative rather than the illustrative. The real added joy of this book is the colour dustjacket design, also by AW, the copy in front of me at the moment doesn't have a jacket but I have one on the way and no doubt I will share it here in due course: couldn't wait to show these off though. 

And for those of you with an interest in Wainwright who may have wondered what he looked liked, at the bottom of the post is a snapshot of him cutting quite a dashing figure taken from a page in one of his notebooks.





Vintage Swimwear: Beach Buddies


It's been a while since I have added any bona fide vintage swimwear photos to my physical collection so when these two sexy chaps dropped onto the mat this morning I felt you all might like to share them too.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Diary of a Dead Officer by Arthur Graeme West (1918)




WEST, Arthur Graeme. The Diary of a Dead Officer. The Office of the Herald, London: 1918. 

Posthumously edited by C. E. M. Joad, a contemporary of West both at school and at Oxford, the book consists of an introduction by Joad, extracts from this young officer’s diary and then his poetry, often thought to be the first realistic poetry of WW1 including titles such as “God! How I Hate You You Young Cheerful Men.” and “The Night Patrol.”. According to the sketch by Joad, West was an unhappy schoolboy on account of his conspicuously un-athletic nature and his love of caterpillars which he kept in his room and which created quite a stink, both of which things rather alienated him from the general schoolboy populace. At Oxford, however, he found life much more congenial but again Joad paints a picture of a young man with a sensitive nature that, like so many others, would be damaged beyond repair by the experience of war. "He was so devoid of push and advertisement, so quiet, tranquil and unassuming, so eminently companionable, and above all, such a good listener, that, though these things did not constitute his charm, they went some way to explain it... he was... one of those few people who really liked being alone, not so much because other people bored him, as because he did not bore himself."  

Beginning with his enlistment in a fever of duty and patriotism, the diary charts how the experience of war took away those beliefs and eventually even his belief in God. Although it has been reprinted, including in a beautifully illustrated edition by The Old Stile Press just this year, the first edition is very scarce. It was produced by the left-wing paper The Herald and printed by Francis Meynell’s Pelican Press, whose press mark is at the back of the book and this was in 1918. By 1919 publication had been taken over by George Allen & Unwin and most institutional copies bear their imprint on the title page. Some authorities even give 1919 as the year of first printing. Meynell also published Siegfried Sassoon’s Protest

[Francis Meynell was the son of Wilfred and Alice Meynell, both of whom were considerable forces in the world of publishing. Wilfred was the Managing Director of the catholic publishing house Burns and Oates and his son Francis, after an education at Downside and University College Belfast joined the company and showed a very high level of aptitude for the design of books. But Francis was something of a political radical and became a Director of the left-wing paper, The Herald, was involved in the suffrage movement and was rapidly becoming slightly embarrassing to the rather conservative Burns and Oates. It wasn't long before he went off on his own, or rather until he went off with his assistant at Burns and Oates, Stanley Morison, and the two designers/typographers set up The Pelican Press. They were exactly the kind of outfit that were going to take on an anti-war and rather anti-establishment piece like these works by West.]





Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Paintings by Alfred Waagner


These intricate and beautiful paintings are by Alfred Waagner and I am grateful to their owner for allowing me to photograph ans post them here. Waagner (1886-1960) was an Austrian painter and illustrator who looked set fair, as a young man to be a chemist or an engineer but he took a swerve in his education and began studying art under Berthold Loeffler at the Vienna School of Applied Arts until 1912. in 1913 he was an exhibitor at the Vienna Secession and continued to be associated with the Secessionists. His work is in a number of styles but he is best represented by the top two paintings in this post with their strong colours and patterns and sense of almost illustrative design. 

(These images were photographed when framed and so had to be tilted a little to avoid too much flare on the glass)



Monday, November 10, 2014

How To Be An Edwardian In The Snow


I've been photographing and scanning a huge pile of photographs of an Edwardian party in some, as yet, anonymous Alpine resort ready to put them all up for sale but some of them are just such great images I thought I would share a few here.






Sunday, November 09, 2014

Vintage Swimwear on a Sunday


I thought, it has been a little while since we've seen any vintage swimwear here so this is a Sunday Swimwear treat for us all. I don't own any of these, all come from the Internet: many but not all from the sold lots of a great Ebay seller called Chuck who lists such things on a weekly basis and is well worth a visit.










Saturday, November 08, 2014

1958: The Atomium


Those who follow me on Twitter will know that I've been at the ABA Chelsea Bookfair today in Chelsea Town Hall. I don't go to buy but to help on the stand of a shop I work with, but every now and again at these things something catches my eye. So I was delighted to come away with this set of photographs from "Expo 58", one of the last of the great world trade fairs, this one in Belgium. The Atomium is still something of an icon of that moment of technological optimism in the 1950s and 60s when we honestly believed that technology held the answers to all the worlds problems: it's a representation of a basic iron crystal.

These photographs, although about 8" x 6" don't have ink stamps on the verso just some handwritten captions, which makes me think that these are by a talented amateur who took them and then developed and enlarged them him/herself in a home darkroom. Very evocative I thought. 








 
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