Friday, April 18, 2014

Vintage Photos: Irish Travellers near Belfast in 1958

These photographs of Irish Travellers, sometimes called gypsies, that's I have acquired recently, were taken in March 1958. The presence of a policeman in some of them and the date on the captions on the verso being the same on all of them, suggests that these were taken by someone in in official capacity at the Ministry of Commerce land at Tillysburn in Belfast. But if anyone was ever under the impression that the nomadic lifestyle was somehow romantic or 'free' these photographs ought to put them right. The grinding poverty is evident in all these images. I find them both sad and captivating at the same time.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Baron Corvon in a 1970s Look and Learn

Readers from the UK of a certain age, and probably the men to be honest, will get a little frisson of recognition at the banner above, I'm sure. Look and Learn was almost ubiquitous in the 1970s in newsagents, libraries and schools: the educational magazine for kids with lots of pictures to "make learning fun". I was surprised therefore to discover the other day that they had, in 1973, a two page article on Frederick Rolfe Baron Corvo. For a moment I couldn't think why it would have appeared out of nowhere but then remembered that Peter Luke's play Hadrian VII was contemporary with this and sure enough the popularity of the play is the hook on which the article is hung.
The title is perhaps a little unfair and blunt "The Writer Who Hated Everybody". Look and Learn wasn't the kind of magazine to give bylines but despite a few errors of fact this is clearly written by someone who knows their Corvine apples. And it is worth its paper and ink for the illustrations alone. The one immediately below shows Corvo writing himself as the Pope in Hadrian the Seventh. The image of Rolfe is taken from the same photograph of Rolfe in the study of Dr Hardy at Oxford as was used on the cover of Robert Scoble's recent book, Raven. The Turbulent World of Baron Corvo. The other images illustrate the story of Rolfe falling into the canal that he wrote as one of his three Venetian tales that were originally published in Blackwoods Magazine. How apocryphal the story is we will never know but it seems unlikely that in many years of boating about Venice Rolfe didn't end up in the drink at some point accidentally and as a strong and regular swimmer, getting to the side, pipe still in his mouth, wouldn't have been out of the question. On the whole, a wonderful ephemeral find.

Monday, April 14, 2014

1930s Polish Folk Dances

Also from a box of ephemera from a recent auction are these gloriously camp images from the 1930s illustrating various Polish Folk Dances. They come as twenty images printed on loose cards and inserted into one side of a card folder and on the other side, loose cards with the music and sometimes lyrics for various polish folk tunes. The artist was Irena Lukaszewicz. A little bit niche I grant you! but what colour and life!

The "B" Strong Chart and Book

I love these two piece of ephemera, harvested from a box of auction bits and pieces. Aimed at boys obviously and presented with the boy's magazine The Wizard. And if you were wondering what the advice is on 'how to overcome a bully'... basically it boils down to fight back... and includes detailed and diagrammatic information about how to do so!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Angus McBean: A Personal Photo Album

In an amazing auction sale back in April of last year, Bury St Edmunds auction house Lacy Scott & Knight sold a collection on photo albums by legendary photographer of the mid-twentieth century, Angus McBean. Whereas you and I might once have received our snaps back from the chemist and stuck them willy-nilly into a photo album, as you might imagine, the personal albums of such a luminary of the photographic world are a little different. McBean prints his own photos, of course, to much larger sizes then usual and he is able to use the technology available to him as a professional to enlarge his own photos and add titles to create photographic covers for the albums as well.

Just how different from your average Joe these albums were is now amply demonstrated as one of them appears in the latest catalogue from art dealers Abbot and Holder Ltd and they have had the whole album put online as a digital book you can flick through (well worth clicking on 'full screen' too). The album is a record of a trip through Italy with friends in a VW Camper Van in 1958 - with a fair bit of vintage swimwear interest as well!


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Clarity of the Tintype Photograph

There is something about the tintype photo that I love, despite the uniformity of tone because of the dark metal ground, they often have a clarity you just don't get in other photos of the period and even when they start to decay like the one above, they do so in interesting ways. These two are from an collection I bought yesterday and show the same family at the beach a few years apart.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Original Dust Jacket Designs from the 1940s

More from the talented hands of Gwendolen K Young whose patterned paper designs I posted a couple of days ago. Another common exercise in art school was to set the students the task of designing book jackets. As far as I can ascertain (and I didn't spend hours on this) the only real book is W. H. Hudson's Green Mansions.

Monday, April 07, 2014

A Letter from Ferederick Rolfe Baron Corvo about Fr Beauclerk SJ of Holywell

It is not everyday that I get to publish previously unknown writing by Frederick Rolfe Baron Corvo but I am delighted to say that a lady called Sue, a researcher who has often worked with Callum James Books, recently noticed that the National Library of Wales has digitised a large quantity of Welsh newspapers and in the North Wales Times of 26 March, 1898 in column 1 of page 8, she found the letter that follows from Frederick Rolfe (signed as F. Austin, a name he used a lot at this time)
A little context is necessary. Rolfe spent a number of years in Holywell on the North Wales coast, and during his time there he attached himself to the shrine of St Winefride which was a Catholic shrine administered by a Jesuit priest, Fr Beauclerk. Rolfe and Beauclerk were both big personalities and when they fell out, as Rolfe did eventually with most of those he came into contact with, the scale of their encounter was something quite epic, even for Rolfe. Much has been written about it in all of Rolfe's three biographies and Rolfe's letters to Beauclerk have been published in part at least. This was one of the real low points of Rolfe's life and if you detect a level of instability in the letter below I don't think you would be far wrong.
When I came to write an introduction to the Callum James Books edition of the The Attack on St Winefride's Well, an uber-rare pamphlet by Rolfe of which only one complete copy is known to exist, I realised that there was an incident in Holywell that was hardly touched upon by his biographers: a local entrepreneur attempted to get permission to bottle the spring water that fed the shrine's waters. This brought Fr Beauclerk into conflict with the town and Rolfe wasn't shy to wade in to those muddied waters himself of course if he could use it to trounce Fr Beauclerk in public. At the time of writing that introduction I discovered a couple of letters to the press about the controversy from Rolfe that hadn't been noticed before. This letter is another.
To the Editor of “The North Wales Times”


I yearn for enlightenment. I cannot reconcile the public utterances of the Reverend Father Beauclerk, of the Society of Jesus. They bewilder me, and confuse my mind.
In 1896, he preached, scornfully sneering at “frivolous Wales”.
In 1897, on some-one’s flouting him in High Street, he incontinently cursed the town of Holywell, praying that all industries might be stopped, all work people thrown out of work, and grass grow in the streets.
In 1898, our Urban Council has licensed a financier named Atherton to bottle water from St Winefride’s Well. Fr. Beauclerk (S.J.) has (1) protested against this license; (2) canvassed and town to oppose Mr. Atherton; (3) contradicted himself by telling the Urban Council that he favoured Mr. Atherton’s scheme; (4) contradicted himself again by preaching against the license; (5) denounced the ‘sordid hypocrisy of this little town’; (6) complained of the ‘unfairness of the local papers’ as neglecting to print his news and ‘only fit for the cesspool’; (7) preached to London Catholics breathing threats of litigation against interferers with his will.
Now the jade Rumour calls Father Beauclerk (S.J.) the Benefactor of Bankrupt Holywell, and he himself asseverates that all his acts are philanthropic, and that he only strives for the public welfare.
If this indeed be so, why does the Reverend Gentleman jeer at ‘frivolous Wales,’ or ‘this sordid little town?’. Why did he curse the place last May? Why is he not consistently glad to see his curse verified and the ruin of Holywell (for which he prayed) progress? Or, in a parenthesis, has that curse come home to roost in the shape of Mr. Atherton’s license to bottle, injuring Father Beauclerk’s Church’s bottling business? Why does he inflame himself and furiously rage against the Will of the People og Holywell, as manifested in the acts of their Urban Council? And why does he say to the town at this juncture, ‘don’t be sorry for me, be sorry for yourselves?’
I want to know whether this is Real Philanthropy, so that I may know it again. Sometimes a Philanthropist acts for love of notoriety; and makes the cynic and worldly minded man chuckle and chortle with an open joy.
Time was when Father Beauclerk boasted that he held Holywell in the hollow of his hand.
Then perhaps these utterances are due to that wounded amour propre of an irresponsible cleric which is akin to spretoe injuria formoe of ‘a woman scorned.’
I merely ask for information. What IS the Reverend Father’s Beauclerk’s object?

I am sir,

Your obedient servant

F. Austin.

3, Bank Place, Holywell.
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