Sunday, September 25, 2011

Titanic Brochure

I once had my own degree of success with Titanic memorabilia when I came across a large photo of her in a local auction which had been taken while she paused on that fateful maiden voyage in Ireland. However, nothing on the scale of this little beauty which sold the other day on Ebay. For the time being you can view the listing here. This was a Souvenir Number of Shipbuilder Magazine, a fairly impressive production and was published in 1911. To say it is now a very sought-after book is probably underselling it somewhat - Ebay auction end price: 3,550USD / 2,299 GBP! after 44 bids by 6 different bidders. Interestingly the winning bid was by an Ebay newbie with no Ebay feedback, which might worry the Vendor for a little while but needn't do as this often happens with standout items - a serious collector who wouldn't normally have anything to do with Ebay is told about the item and registers specifically to bid on the one thing.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Monochrome Boy

I've mentioned R and I recently had a day out in Brighton, digging around in the Lanes for treasure and this was among the stuff we brought home with us. I was delighted to find this really very sweet monochrome watercolour of a young boy. There are actually two of them and they are so fine that we first thought they must be prints but there are a host of small differences between the two representations and the other one is monogramed MB

Friday, September 23, 2011

In Camera...

A while ago I posted about how damage to vintage photos wasn't necessarily the end of the world to a collector of old vernacular photos... the same could be said about poor photographic focus. I have been saying how life is currently a little hectic and, adding to that is that is the fact that R has recently been confirmed redundant at work. This means that come the middle of November, if he hasn't found something new, things could get a little hairy... but the flip side is that he got to keep the two weeks of annual leave he had booked off and so we went yesterday to Brighton for a day out and, this is a long-winded way of saying, it was there that I found this magnificent specimen for 50 pence at the bottom of a box. we are, of course, used to the 'mirror shot' genre of photo in this facebook age but this must have been something a little more avant garde when this was taken, no wonder his focus was a little off... which I think just makes the image rather more compelling...

Raven 14: The Artist and the Scholar

As I mentioned in the previous post, the penultimate Raven has flown the nest. This one is a particularly fascinating insight into the life of one of Rolfe's most singular friends/combatants, Professor Dawkins. It also includes the text of the infamous letter 30 (ominously but not particularly appropriately lettered XXX in roman numerals!) that was omitted from Cecil Woolf's edition of Rolfe's letters to Dawkins that he published in 1962. The blurb below will fill you in on all the details...

If you have ordered on of these Ravens then it should either be with you by now or (in the case of overseas order) be on its way. There are just a couple of orders still to be sent out so please don't panic yet if you haven't had yours, it is coming...

Callum James Books runs two mailing lists. The first carries the announcements of new publications (including the Ravens) and the second contains the occasional Short List Catalogue of rare and interesting books and ephemera that we issue from time to time. Both the titles we publish, and the books and other items that we sell, often but not always have a flavour of gay history and literature about them. If you would like to be included on either or both of the lists, please drop me a line at

Raven Fourteen: The Artist and the Scholar
by Robert Scoble

It was Frederick Rolfe's good fortune to find himself invited to accompany the archaeologist Richard MacGillivray Dawkins in the summer of 1908 on a trip to Venice. Dawkins was intelligent, good-natured and equanimous, and it would have been a great advantage to Rolfe had he cultivated this new friendship in the conventional way. True to form, however, Rolfe squandered the opportunity, quarrelling with Dawkins and subjecting him over the next few years to a barrage of insulting letters.

With the publication in 1934 of A J A Symons’s The Quest for Corvo, the more disreputable aspects of Rolfe’s life became public knowledge, and Dawkins came under pressure to explain his friendship with Rolfe and his bankrolling of their trip to Venice. This he did by emphasising Rolfe’s charming and unusual personality, hinting that he had had to terminate the friendship when he realised Rolfe’s propensity for unseemly behaviour.

Subsequent commentators, including Rolfe’s several biographers, have reinforced this narrative. Rolfe has been portrayed as grasping and ungrateful, with Dawkins as his kindly and long-suffering victim. This telling of only half the story, with its homosexual subtext downplayed, does a disservice to Rolfe.

In this penultimate addition to the Raven Series, Robert Scoble describes the trajectory of the short-lived friendship between Rolfe and Dawkins, a friendship unable to survive the incompatibility of their temperaments.

The Raven Series has been planned as a set of fifteen scholarly essays which will add substantially to our knowledge of the life and work of Frederick Rolfe. Each essay is being published in a strictly limited edition, and there is little doubt that complete sets of the fifteen monographs will be sought after by collectors in the years to come.

Of a full edition of 70, the first 12 copies of The Artist and the Scholar constitute the special state, case bound in bright green paper-covered boards with gilt titles, and signed by the author. Numbers 13-70 form the ordinary state of the edition, and are sewn into bright green card covers with a paper label and acetate wrappers.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Busy Times...

It's been an unusually busy time for the last couple of weeks. Among other things, I have just published the penultimate in the Raven series of monographs about Frederick Rolfe by Robert Scoble (more of which shortly). I have also been buying a huge collection of books from the house of a gentleman bachelor who died recently aged 100. The sad and strange things that one comes across in the process of clearing books from houses will surprise no seasoned bookdealer but this one was particularly peculiar. The books were stacked horizontally from the floor to a height of about 6' all around the back bedroom: the absence of shelves is not entirely unusual in such circumstances but the fact that every book was still in the paper of plastic bag in which it had been bought was a new twist. I could run a seminar on the evolving design history of W H Smith for the last 60 years with the materials from that room. The piles of books were covered in many years of dust and dirt but, of course, inside the paper bags... new books. I have never in my life seen books from the 1950s in such pristine condition: they look as though they have been lifted carefully from the bookshop shelf just yesterday. How often does a bookdealer get to use the words 'as new' to describe a late 1950s first edition? but it is true of many of these. It's a huge collection with some literature but mainly focused on trains, trams, ballet, the stage, art and photography. I think the last trip to the house should be tomorrow.

On top of all this I was also helping my very good friends A&R move from their house in Portsmouth to a boat! on the Isle of Wight. The entire contents of a house had to be manhandled up a gang-plank some two feet wide at a 45 degree angle over a two metre drop into the icy water of the Medina river on a day when the wind-power research centre across the water seemed the most appropriately sited building in the country. Believe me, a double mattress with a person at each end acts a lot like a sail in a force 6! How someone didn't end up in the water with a sideboard on top of them I'll never know... but in the end, of course, it went well and as straightforwardly (if not entirely painlessly) as could be expected.

A few weeks ago I was selling a collection of old maritime postcards and among them was the picture above of the paddle steamer Ryde proudly going about her business on the Solent. One of the stranger moments of the moving day was the moment I realised that this piece of metal below, which was my friends' new neighbour, is all that remains of her...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Septembeard and Crazy Victorian Beards

I hadn't heard of the Septembeard charity until it was too late to join in this year (grow a beard through the month of September and get sponsored to raise money for Prostate cancer charities) but, next year, with inspiration from these guys who fell from the pages of a Victorian album yesterday, it should be a snip...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


The vintage swim collection has a good number of handsome young men in it but this guy takes some beating for sheer captivating, striking good looks. I have no idea who he is, where this was and only the vaguest sense that this photo dates from some time in the 1920s or 30s... but here he is, in 2011 and an image made on one sunny day perhaps nearly one hundred years ago is now being beamed around the world through satelites orbiting the earth in space... it's a funny ol' world...

Sunday, September 11, 2011


The title of this post is not a word I knew before today but, Alistair, who runs one of my favourite blogs: We Made This, is off on a charity cycle ride from Lands End to John O Groats and so they are having a series of guest posts over there on all aspects of design and the whole series has been great. The one on matchbox labels however, Phillumeny I now know, by David Pearson, was particularly brilliant and if you have any form of the collecting virus you should not go near it.... The montage above is from a flickr set by Jane McDevitt which Pearson points us to and which I have spent the last hour or so clicking through... sigh...

Friday, September 02, 2011

Sam Steward Video

I've posted now and again about the remarkable character Samuel Steward aka Phil Sparrow aka Phil Andros and as a follow on to the publication of a biography of his extraordinary life The Secret Historian by Justin Spring and an Obscene Diary: The Visual World of Sam Steward also by Spring, there is now an exhibition about his life and work at the Museum of Sex in New York. The video above is one of the best introductions to Steward's life that I've seen yet and is well worth putting aside the entire ten minutes to watch...

Vintage Swim B.S.C.S.C.

Three absolutely stonking vintage swim photos - or in this case Water Polo photos - just added to my collection. If you were wondering, BSCSC stands for Bishop's Stortford College Swimming Club. Particularly nice is the fact that many of the lads here are identified on the back of the photos.

Just a quick word about the watermarking. I would like to not put my web address on these photos but all too often I find them being used elsewhere on the Internet with no attribution or link. The worst offender in this regard is back and yesterday I discovered nearly all the images this blog has ever had by, about or of Ralph Chubb cobbled together into a new post on his blog. Let me be clear: if you have a blog or tumblr or flikr account and would like to use anything from this blog I do not mind at all, I'd be delighted, chuffed to mintballs... all I ask is the courtesy of a simple link back here, an acknowledgement. I understand that the internet is a bit of a free for all and I understand that occasionally we all find things we want to repost but can't remember where they came from, I'm very laid back about this kind of thing on the whole but until one blogger in particular who does it time and time again starts showing the courtesy of an simple acknowledgement I'm sorry but I will have to add the occasional watermark to the images posted here. Rant over...

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Ralph Chubb: Painter

Reader's of this blog, if they know the name Ralph Nicholas Chubb, will know it mainly in the context of the beautifully illustrated, hand-printed books in super-limited editions and with his own calligraphy that he produced in the early 20th century. Every now and again he has featured on this blog and I used one of his prints to illustrate the front of one of my Short List Catalogues recently. It's certainly true that much of his creative energy was poured into his printing press but he was also an accomplished painter and the BBC's new website Your Paintings, has a bigger selection (9 pictures) than I've ever seen in one place.

Some of them are below. Of course, he is best known for his depictions of nude youths disporting themselves in a variety of semi-mystical settings and even in this small selection of paintings, in the more stylised ones, you can see the simplified curves and lines in the bodies that he used in his print-making. It also strikes me how very 'of its time' some of his work looks, in a good way: the landscape with the farm could almost have been painted for a 1920s or 30s railway poster.

The Bathers, Southampton City Art Gallery

Nicholas Drew Chubb, Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum

Landscape With a Farm Building and a Field Gate, Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum

Ganymede, Reading Museum

Contemplation, Leamington Spa Art Gallery

Unfettered Joy, Hereford Museum

Enchanted Valley, Ferens Art Gallery
Who links to my website?