Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ralph Lavers illustrates Redskin Morning by Joan Grant II

As foreshadowed in yesterday's post in which I put up some of the colour illustrations from this book. These are a selection of the black and white work of Ralph Lavers illustrating Redskin Morning and Other Stories by Joan Grant. 

UPDATE: I am reliably informed by a correspondent that this Ralph Lavers is indeed the same as the architect designer of the 1948 Olympic Torch. He was a friend of Joan Grant's and shared her beliefs in reincarnation/past life memories and believed he had himself been a  Pharoah. He was involved in some Egyptian excavations and was employed to draw 'artist's impressions' of sites being excavated. It is also believed he had some contact with Ralph Chubb.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ralph Lavers illustrates Redskin Morning by Joan Grant

These are the colour plate illustrations for a book of stories with folkloric Native American settings called Redskin Morning and Other Stories by Joan Grant (Methuen, London: 1944). Normally, when I blog about a book which has both colour and black and white illustrations, it is immediately clear to me which of the two I prefer from that particular artist. Not so in this case and I shall show off some of the black and white work in another post. 

Joan Grant was a curious character who was catapulted to literary fame by her 1937 novel, The Winged Pharaoh,  which was rapturously received by literary critics across the world, a story set in Ancient Egypt. She later claimed that this novel and her other stories in historical settings were, in fact, "far memories" of lives she had actually lived. 

I can find nothing more of Ralph Lavers, the artist, in any of my reference books, although there are at least three or four books available (including another by Joan Grant) which list him as the illustrator. Is it possible he was the architect who designed the Olympic Torch for the 1948 London games? Whoever he was these are some delightfully stylized and colourful illustrations with more to follow of his black and white work in this same book.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Lionel Wendt's Ceylon

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944) was born in Colombo, Ceylon, in 1900 the son of a Supreme Court Judge. He was educated at St Thomas's College, Columbo but as a young man spent time in England studying piano at The Royal Academy. Coming from such a privileged background it was assumed that he would become a lawyer and he did indeed qualify and even set up a practise in Columbo for a short while but it would have been no surprise to his friends when that venture didn't last very long and he quickly settled into the life of a concert pianist and teacher. For ten years or so he concentrated on his musical career until about 1935 when he photography became his main preoccupation.

These images are all taken from the book, Lionel Wendt's Ceylon which was published posthumously in 1950. You might legitimately expect that a book with such a title would be full of images of beautiful landscapes. There are such photographs in the book but they are outnumbered by images of lovely young men in various states of undress (and some female nudes too), and there is more than a flavour of the surreal in the work too with long and intricate titles given to images like the one immediately below called, "The Misery of Balanced Perplexities".

Francis Edwin Murray: A Bookseller's Label

Sometime ago I wrote a long post here on Front Free Endpaper about the bookplate of the bookseller Francis Edwin Murray. It was the practice of nineteenth and twentieth century booksellers to stick often tiny labels inside the books they were selling. There are those who collect these labels although it's an admittedly very niche field. I was delighted though to find this in the back of an otherwise unremarkable book yesterday. If you look closely at Murray's bookplate in the previous post you will see that this image (of himself I believe) is also inset into that design.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dennis Wheatley, you can't give him away... or can you?

There was a time when Dennis Wheatley's first editions were very sought after or, in a phrase I hate with a passion, "highly collectible". Most of his books have never been very expensive, although my 2010 copy of R. B. Russell's Guide to First Edition Prices suggests that his 1930s titles might be worth a few hundred pounds, but for years, those reasonably inexpensive firsts were the staple diet of a provincial bookshop. Not any more. He's dead in the water. Don't get me wrong, I don't think they're bad books, I have very fond memories of a long summer as a teenager in which I hoovered up the whole of the Gregory Sallust series and all the black magic books. I suggested on Twitter the other day that finding a pile of Dennis Wheatley books in the middle of an otherwise decent lot of books is the bookseller's equivalent of a gardener finding Japanese Knotweed growing under your shrubbery! And it happened to me. A lot of books I bought for other things happened to include a big load of Wheatley, not many are first editions, some have great covers, some are ex-library but not all, the condition is mixed. So, let's see if it really is true that you can't give this stuff away...

On Tuesday next week I am donating these to a charity shop near here. If you would like any one or more of them before then, drop me an email. I ask only that you pay the cost of shipping to wherever you are in the world. In the unlikely event that more than two people want the same book I shall doll them out in the order the requests appear in my inbox. Go Wheatley....!

James Cummins Halloween Catalogue

Love it or loathe it, Halloween approaches. One of the undoubted benefits of the season for the bibliophile is the sudden promotion of books on supernatural subjects. James Cummins in New York has made an online catalogue from appropriate items in their stock and it makes a lovely eclectic mix. There are all manner of goodies here from an autograph letter by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in which he quotes a stanza from his "Haunted Houses" and a first edition of M. R. James's Ghost Stories of an Antiquary to a couple of 1920s tomes on Vampirism and the wonderful original, if unfinished, Rackham illustration above of a witch and her broom from The Ingoldsby Legends. There's something very satisfying about the breadth and interest provided by even such a short list.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Printing Art of George Ratcliffe Woodward

The phrase "Private Press" is used to cover all manner of ventures. If anything seems to fit the description properly, these wonderful booklets by George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848-1934) must do surely. Each sports the proud words on the front "Privately printed at 48 West Hill, Highgate Village", Woodward's home, presumably printed by the retired Vicar himself on a press in the back room somewhere. As a hobbyist he is really very good and whilst I say they are 'proudly' printed, in fact, one of the reasons these booklets are so appealing is their humility. Each is a few pages of beautifully set type sewn into buff card covers. Among the collection I have he stirs into coloured type only once and that is for the little booklet of Christmas carols. All the texts are verses or translations of verses by Woodward himself and yet, true to his calling, he presents them with restraint and not a little dignity. These are all printed well into Woodward's retirement in the late 1920s and early 30s but during his active life, as well as a parish clergyman, Woodward was a musicologist who edited numerous collections of church music with a particular emphasis on Carols.

I have had and enjoyed this little collection for a while but it wasn't until I stumbled on the description of one of them them by another bookseller that I discovered they even contain a little gay interest. One of these booklets contains a couple of translations by Woodward of same-sex oriented love poems by Christophe Ballard, part of the 17th century section of a family dynasty who pretty much had music publishing sewn up in France for seven generations. This is one I like:

j'ayme un Brun depuis un jour

Long I've loved a nut-brown youth;
For beauty, none above him.
He requites my love, in sooth:
Be not astonied if I love him, I love him.

He in wisdom doth excel;
More sweet than she who bore him,
He can keep a secret well:
No wonderment if I adore him, I adore him.

Pale of cheek I wax apace,
When absent he sojourneth:
But when I behold his face,
My colour as before returneth, returneth.

Travel Posters at Swann Auction Galleries

A stunning collection of twentieth century travel posters is about to go under the hammer at Swann Auction Galleries in New York. And when I say it's 'about to' I mean in about two hours time. It's the collection of an anonymous Australian collector and so there is a strong representation of Australian posters but they really are from all over the world. There are nearly 200 posters and I have just gathered a few here that appealed to me but it's quite a catholic collection in terms of style. There is an accompanying Ebay Live auction which, if you are here in time you can follow here and browse the rest of the images.

Between the Hills by Leonard Clark

I'm of the opinion that almost every secondhand bookshop of any size also contains rare books. I don't say valuable rare books mind, just rare ones. On a recent trip across the water to the Isle of Wight I was combing through the poetry section of the very good Ryde Bookshop and came across this pamphlet: Between the Hills by Leonard Clark (Stockwell, London: 1924). It is in parlous condition but it turns out also rather scarce not being found in the British Library nor for sale online. 

I've had an idea for a long time that I'd like to put together either a collection or a handlist or something based around the idea of 'books by boys'. It's not a very developed idea but it's been around for a while. There are a number of problems, two of which are illustrated by this book. The first is that books don't have the age of their author on the cover, finding them relies on information which is often relegated to the preface or dustwrapper or sometimes not mentioned at all in the book; in this case we are enlightened by a Preface which begins, "These poems, written by a boy of eighteen..." The second issue is that such publications are often ephemeral and small: in this case we can gauge the nature of the publication because the publisher, Arthur H. Stockwell, was essentially a vanity set-up, hence the book is so scarce today. So, for these and many other reasons, my project may not really take off for a while but whenever I see something that relates I either buy it or note down the details.

This book is charming. It begins with a lovely 'Author's Note' - "I desire to thank my foster-mother, who, all my life, has been my best friend..." but the collection also has a slightly more poignant note from it's dedication to "The memory of William Thomson George who died for England, October, 1918." George was a 25 year old Private in the Machine Gun Corps and, when he died, the author of these poems was only 12 years old: I have yet to discover the relationship between them. The short Preface is by F. W. Harvey (1888-1957) a soldier and poet of WW1 and a well-established regional poet who became known as "The Bard of Gloucestershire". This World War One theme is continued on and off through the short collection and it is notable, even though this book was published in 1924, how the effect and repercussions of The War were still strong in the mind of a young and impressionable boy like Clark. 

Clark went on to become a 'grown-up' poet publishing several more collections in the 1940s including two with The Fortune Press, he was an anthologist as well with a particular interest in creating poetry for children. As well as a poet he was a teacher and sometime school inspector. His poems are, like F. W. Harvey's, very grounded in the Gloucestershire countryside and in particular on the Forest of Dean where he grew up. A series of autobiographical reflections on his childhood were published in 1965 as, A Fool in the Forest and I'm much looking forward to reading it and getting more of a sense of the man, the boy, his life and his writing. 

There is always more to discover in this job and if any of you lovely people out there in the world of the Interweb should happen to know either more about Mr Clark or indeed, have any suggestions to add to my list of 'books by boys', I'd be delighted to hear from you either in the comments below or in my email inbox using the link to the top(ish) right of this page.

I expect Front Free Endpaper will see more of Leonard Clark yet but, for now, let's hear the eighteen year old Clark speak for himself:


I am the soldier. Here I lonely stand
And keep my watch, because you planned
It so. I hear the country-people's feet
Go echoing in the Market Street.
"Am I e'er cold?" No chillier now than when
I knelt in mud with other men
Or shivered as I felt them drop - 
And so I stand upon this granite top.
Weep not for us, but pray that you
May live more wholesome lives. We knew
How sweet life was - and yet we died.
I here - they slumber side by side.
I am your soldier. Here I proudly stand
Firm as an oak in this our Forest land. 

November, 1923.

Monday, October 13, 2014

My Husband Went to Berlin...

So, you may have noticed that I have been away a while. My best friend and I have been away in a cottage in North Devon and very lovely it was too. And whilst I was away R also went off on his own and spent a few days in Berlin. Being the lovely husband he is, he couldn't walk past this display of Insel-Bucherei books in a Berlin bookshop without taking a photo for me and buying a few to bring home to titillate my love of patterned paper with. It's not the first time the wonderful covers of this innovative German publisher have featured on Front Free Endpaper. For those in the UK, these books are rather like grown-up Ladybird Books, board covers in patterned papers with paper labels on the spine and upper board, contents usually cultural and artistic. Just delicious!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Carrots by Jules Renard

In May this year I blogged about the story of Robert Lynen, an exceptionally brave young man who fought in the French Resistance during World War II. I came across his story because of a postcard of him in his pre-war role as a film actor in a film with the Dutch title of Peenhaar, or Red Head. I was delighted then to come across this book in a shop this morning, Carrots by Jules Renard, the first and only English translation of the original novel on which Lynen's film was based.

Frank Meadow Sutcliffe: 1901 Rowing Crew

Frank Meadow Sutcliffe is a turn of the last century photographer best known for his study of a group of naked boys in the harbour at Whitby called "Water Rats" and two or three other similar photographs. Flicking through a book of his photos today I came across this handsome bunch: a Whitby Friendship Rowing Club crew in 1901. And for completeness I shall tell you that they are, from left to right: J, Pearson, T. Henderson, A. Thompson, J. Howard and seated is their cox R. Coulson.
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