Monday, March 30, 2009

A Stationary Post

Amazing what one learns along the way. During research into The Stationers' School following up Rolfe's early career I came across this reference explaining the origin of the term 'stationary'

"The origins of The Worshipful Company ofStationers and Newspaper Makers, in oneform or another, stretch back to the fourteenthcentury. However, in the year 1403 the “textwriters”,who made copies of books, and the“lymners”, who illuminated them, petitionedthe then Lord Mayor and Aldermen of theCity of London with the object of forming asingle trading company. Approval of theproposal was given to the formation of aguild, the members of which were text-writersand illuminators of manuscript books,booksellers, bookbinders and suppliers ofparchment, pens and paper. They set upfixed-position stalls in St Paul’s Churchyard– hence the term “Stationers” as opposed tothose operating as itinerant vendors."

Frederick Rolfe Baron Corvo: The Piano Man

Frederick Rolfe, sometimes known as Baron Corvo, was the son of a family of pianoforte makers. It was a business which was on its last legs by the time Rolfe had anything to do with it and it finally petered out during his lifetime. Even during Rolfe's childhood it seems that Rolfe's father's work might have been as much as a piano tuner as a manufacturer. However, I've always thought that a collector of Rolfe ought one day to have a Rolfe piano.

Sadly, this one came along at just the wrong time. It was offered for sale at a provincial British auction house this month, estimated at £200-300. Rather pretty I thought!
There is much more about Rolfe's family, and his relationship with them, in Robert Scoble's Raven monograph no. 7: The Constant Family.

Ralph Chubb Painting

How naughty, nearly ten days without a post. Here's hoping that this will make up for it. For sale on Ebay as I speak, a large painting (20" x 30") said to be by Ralph Chubb. Now, I don't put it like that because I in any way disbelieve the attribution, the seller seems to have done a great deal of research, the painting looks fine to me, but I am no expert on Chubb and wouldn't like to be taken as one. However, I do enjoy some of his Blake-ian outpourings and this in particular is rather colourful.

Starting at 99p it will be an interesting one to watch.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Vintage Venice

It is odd how things come in cycles. I will spend a period of time buying nothing but books and then suddenly a host of opportunities to deal in photographs comes along. These two are pleasant but ultimately unremarkable Edwardian views of Venice, but I do like these old shots of St Mark's Square in particular where you can wonder about the buttoned-up tourists and what they were like...

Mr Norris and the Hogarth Press

Mr Norris Changes Trains
by Christopher Isherwood
The Hogarth Press, London, 1947 (fourth impression)

I bought this copy of Mr Norris Changes Trains the other day because I saw it for just a few pounds, it has a reasonable jacket and my interest in Isherwood's first editions has just been rekindled a little by the appearance in my life of one or two of them at reasonable prices. If I wanted the first edition of this title though I'd be lucky to get any change out of £3,000. Of course, this is largely because in 1935 when the first impression was created, Leonard and Virginia Woolf were still setting the type and operating the presses - admittedly not in their own home any longer - but it was still a very hands-on operation. By the time this fourth impression was issued, Virginia Woolf was gone, John Lehmann who replaced her as a manager of the company had also come and gone and Leonard Woolf had done a deal to become a subsidiary of Chatto & Windus.

That said, this is marked as a fourth impression not edition. This ought to mean that the same type was used as for the first impression and therefore it would have been the type owned by the more 'cottage industry' incarnation of the Press and would quite possibly have been set by Leonard himself.

This shows. Although the printing is now done by Lowe and Brydone, you can see damage to the type in the 'by the same author' list: there is too large a gap between the R and W in Isherwood on the title page: there is a lumpiness to the distribution of ink on the type probably cause by an uneven surface and damage on the type: and the bold effect on the title and author's name on the title page is uneven (compare the weight of the C and the H at the beginning of Christopher).

None of this is real criticism, in fact I abhor that kind of anally-retentive bibliography (or perhaps bookmanship would be better) that picks constant and niggardy holes in things like that. I think that rather, this makes the book feel much more hand-made, it is charming, it is as though there is some artisanship showing between the pages.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hugo and Nebula Collection

The Fine Books Company is offering for sale a pretty unique collection: all the Hugo and Nebula winners. 126 books in fine or better condition, 95% of them signed by the author, which in some cases might almost the only signed copy to have ever been offered for sale. Astonishing and at an astonishing price of £85,500.

The title of the listing on Abebooks does kind of give away the problem with trying to shift a collection like this in one lot: "FOR THE WEALTHY SCIENCE FICTION ENTHUSIAST WHO HAS NOTHING" Precisely! The only person who is going to buy this collection is going to have to be all those somewhat contradictory things. Good luck to them though, that's what I say. It would be a great piece of recession-busting news to hear that it had sold.

Just the collection of cover photos Abe has pulled together for their page on the collection has me fascinated already. It is said that it might be the last time such a collection is offered for sale and this is probably true. The signed copies make this nigh on impossible to replicate and even collecting, unsigned, the first editions of all these titles is now well outside the reach of all but the wealthiest collectors.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Updated: Tribal Men

I've just uploaded another fifteen or so images to my tribal men set on Flickr. Most of those images come, once more from vintage copies of The National Geographic. I was particularly interested in these above though. Having a boyfriend who's potty about pots I have, over the years, picked up a thing or two myself so it was quite a surprise to see these photos of Japanese ceramics workers in Kyoto in Japan. It's not quite the image one has when the expert on the Antiques Roadshow bends low over someones pretty cloisonne tes service and say, 'ah yes, of course, this comes from turn of the century Japan'.

W Heath Robinson: Black and White

Everyone knows of Heath Robinson's crazy inventions. They have never appealed to me. I don't know why. So it came as something of a shock a few years ago to be introduced to his early work. I was reading Nicolas McDowell's piece about where he takes his inspiration from in designing and producing books in the Bibliography of The Old Stile Press in the Twentieth Century. In this essay Nicolas reproduces, on a large full page, this illustration above which the half-title to Act IV of A Midsummer Night's Dream (Constable, London, 1913) and speaks of how, even as a small child, he was held entranced by its pure black and white. I was equally entranced and began to discover that as a proponent of black and white illustration Heath Robinson was a master, every bit as good as Beardsley or any of the other Nineties illustrators, if not better. The Midsummer Night's Dream illustration in particular I think is a masterpiece of exact balance and simplicity and the creation of drama through shape. I have been able, since then, to look through the signed, limited edition of this title that Constable released at the same time and it is simply a beautiful book with illustrations that almost spill ink off the pages.

I was intrigued therefore recently to review the illustrations Robinson did for Kingsley's The Water Babies, also for Constable and only a year later. Among them I found this image below, strangely redolent of the Act IV title. Personally I think the earlier one remains the better image but it was interesting to find this as a comparison.

I'll be posting some more of the illustrations from The Water Babies in due course.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Michal Chelbin - Photographer

Just a heads up really to point you towards the website of the photographer Michal Chelbin which I've been enjoying of late. There are a number of series on the website (the navigation of which could be a little easier) both in b/w and colour. Often, it's possible to say that a photographer's work in colour or in b/w is the most succesful but this chap seems to have a real feel for both and does very different things with the two media.

There are a number of b/w series on the website which are almost documentary portraits but which aim to capture something about everyday life. However, there is always something slightly 'off' or slightly wierd about these pictures that makes them a little disturbing to look through.
The colour series are much more impressionistic, often taking direct inspiration from classic paintings.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

National Trust Illustrations

It's always nice to come across this kind of book. Thoroughly appealing and yet of no financial value at all. On Trust For the Nation by Clough Williams-Ellis (Paul Elek, London, 1947) is a celebration of the National Trust and is thoroughly illustrated, mostly by black and white photos. But there are just four or five colour illustrations by Barbara Jones which, in both style and palette are wonderfully evocative of the period. There are b/w sketches too. I think they are completely charming.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Arnold Smith: A Boy's Absence

It wasn't until after I had published my little edition of A Boy's Absence by Arnold W. Smith, that Tim d'Arch Smith reminded me of a photo of the author in his book Love in Earnest. Tim says he found it in an issue of the boys' magazine, The Captain. He does look a somewhat tormented soul!

Patterned Paper: Insel-Bücherei

I delight in patterned papers whether printed by hand or machine. If it weren't for the fact that of all European languages, German is the one for which I have the least aptitude, I could imagine becoming slightly obsessed with these little numbers from the Insel-Verlag publishing company. They are very reminiscent of Ladybird books in size, shape and feel. These four came through my hands today but are by no means the most beautiful. Don't take my word for it... let a Google image search take you to patterned paper heaven.

The library of the Grand Valley State University rather helpfully explains what we are looking at here:

"The German publishing company Insel Verlag was founded in 1899 by Anton
Kippenberg in Leipzig. In its early years the firm only printed expensive,
beautifully-produced volumes. However, to answer the demand from readers of more

modest means, the Insel-Bücherei series was begun in 1912. Relatively
inexpensive but with the same careful sense of design and typography, these
smaller-format books reprinted shorter works from a variety of German, European,
and world authors. The series numbers considerably more than a thousand titles
and is still being issued.

Special Collections holdings of the Insel-Bucherei
editions currently consist of about 200 volumes and the collection is
continually growing. "

Short Break

My apologies for having been away from the blog for a little while. In the period of about a week after I send out an anouncement of a new title, every waking hour (it seems) is given over to making sure that the right books get sent to the right people at the right addresses and in as timely a fashion as possible. Every time 1 or 2 a.m. comes around, going to bed becomes a much more attractive option than logging in to sort out a blog post.

The Attack on St Winefride's Well is now sold out in the special state and all the copies ordered are on their way around the world. It also seems that at just the moment I let the world know about a new book someone invariably contacts me, always a new customer, saying they would like a large order of other titles. I'm not complaining, simply explaining why blogging hasn't been at the top of the priority list.

But I wouldn't want ya'll to think that The Attack is my entire world at the moment. R and I had an extremely pleasant Sunday morning at an antiques fair in Woking - is it only me who sees the irony of holding such events in the sports halls of leisure centres!? And then, in the afternoon we 'discovered' three large antique centres in Farnham. I had been a little wary of that at first since my only experience of the area was when I cleared a house of thousands of books in nearby Farnborough; an experience which left me wondering what the point of cartography might be if road maps could bear so little resemblance to the route of roads on the ground. But it turned out much different and although I didn't find vast numbers of things to buy I did come across the charming chap on the CDV above looking somewhere half-way between sheepish and proud in his get-up as a mini Highland Laird.

Also, there were some large Lehnert and Landrock photogravures which I snapped up for a fiver each. Lehnert and Landrock were a pair of photographers working at the turn of the 19th/20th century in North Africa and the Middle East. Never as explicit as Von Gloeden and his ilk, L&L were of a school of European photography in the Arab world which included the likes of the Zangaki Brothers - views, postcards, and the occasional 'Type Arabe': a semi-draped Arab girl or boy looking directly and supposedly seductively at the viewer. You don't have to be a genius in the field of pictorial analysis to know that their primary erotic gaze was directed towards the girls and young women of the region but there was, from time to time, a nod to the travelling queers in the production of the occasional homo-suggestive image. Their output was mainly to be used as postcards but they occasionally created larger images in photographic and photomechanical formats. Some of these can sell for reasonable amounts of money. As always though, the thing that sells best is sex; the silver/platinum print images they produced of naked Arab girls can be worth upwards of £100 each, even when printed as simple postcards.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Not So Vintage Photos: The Tricorn

I've been going through a box of old photos...
Before Portsmouth had a premiership football team it was really famous only for HMS Victory and the whole Nelson vibe, and also, every time the press had a 'ten worst buildings in Britain' thing going on, The Tricorn Centre would invariably be up there...
Built in a 60s as a piece of unrelenting concrete modernism, it deteriorated into what you see in the photos by the 1990s and finally, after some fairly concerted campaigning to keep it, was demolished not so long ago now to be replaced with a 'temporary' car park. The cark park was to be temporary until the much heralded Northern Quarter Development, another massive retail empire, was brought "on-stream". Well, then the bucks hit the fan and how long the car park stays now is anyone's guess.
Anyway, by the time I knew it in the 2000s, The Tricorn looked like it does in these rather grainy b/w photos from the bottom of my photobox.

Tintype: A Penny Farthing

Am too exhausted tonight to think about blogging much, The Attack on St Winefride's Well has gone winging its way around the world, stock has been bought, auctions have been attended, boyfriends have been tended to, books have been wrapped and packed and taken to post... it's been a busy weekend. So just thought I would share with you this little gem I bought over the weekend. A 1/4 plate tintype photo (i.e. 3.25" x 4.25") of a man on a Penny-Farthing bicycle. A fantastic thing in rip-roaring condition. The fact that there is some hand-tinting on his hat and trousers just makes it all the more desirable. I've just listed it on Ebay for a come-and-get-me starting price of £29.99 but such things normally sell for much more than that!
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