Saturday, December 31, 2011

Seven Puffin Picture Books

There's nothing guaranteed to make this vintage heart of mine sing more than a bit of Penguin/Pelican/Puffin design and the Puffin Picture Books of the 1950s onwards are just dripping with period juiciness: these are seven of them currently in my stock...

Friday, December 30, 2011

Six Great Blogs to Explore

Six blogs which I don't think have been mentioned here before but which feature on my favourites list and may of of interest to readers... perhaps you know some of these, perhaps not, all of them are, IMHO, worth both watching and exploring...

An amazing blog where, almost daily, the owner manages to find incredible pieces of ephemera for sale on Ebay and posts a picture, link and the first part of the seller's description. Always the most interesting things... great for learning about things you didn't know were sought after...

Book Dedications
This is a new one to me but I'm slowly working my way through the back-entries: "does exactly what it says on the tin"

M. S. Corley
This is a slight cheat because this blog has been mentioned just the once, and quite recently, as it is by the designer of the Harry Potter/Penguin book covers I mentioned a couple of days ago but, an extremely talented artist and designer with plenty to show off...

Illustrated in Colour Throughout
This is a 'finished' blog. A student working for a masters degree in design and illustration used the blog to catalogue and showcase the illustrated books they found during the course of their course! So no new stuff but plenty to surf through.

Academic Nudes of the 19th Century
The most artfully astute of you may have noticed that the illustration I plucked off this blog is, in fact, from the 17th century, but that only goes to indicate the catholic, generous nature of this blog in which a very cultured blogger explores the male and female nude from the 17th century onwards really, with a bent towards art with a sense of draughtsmanship about it. A great deal of this blog is illustrated from the blogger's own collection which I always think is a bit nicer than a blog made up entirely of reposts from elsewhere on the Internet. You'll find it behind a mature content wall but I haven't found anything on here that would make my mother blush.

East Village Boys
An art, culture and lifestyle blog that's modern, urban and very sexy. This one does have a good amount of full frontal nudity, but no pornography, so probably best not clicked at work.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Five Small but Perfectly Formed Publishers

Five publishers whose catalogues would be well worth perusing by anyone who has the same kinds of interests as this blog:

Elysium Press
Among their titles are the huge and superb An Obscene Diary: The Visual World of Sam Steward by Justin Spring which was published as a companion to The Secret Historian also by Justin Spring. The Secret Historian is a biography of Sam Steward aka Phil Andros (pornographer), Samuel M Steward (Professor of English) and Phil Sparrow (tattoo artist). Both books are completely un-put-down-able. Other recent titles from Elysium include The Photographs of Frederick Rolfe by Don Rosenthal and others by Stephen Tennant, Denton Welch, Baron Fersen and so on...

Ex Occidente Press
"Ex Occidente Press is an independent publishing house from that doubtful place that was once called "la Porte de l'Orient" by travellers, seers and esoterists, generals and freemasons, poets and spies, prostitutes and rakes, salon artists and theologians, but which is known nowadays under the name of Bucharest. " So says their website and who am I to argue. A simply unmissable website for anyone interested in the literature of the bizarre, the weird and the ghostly. If anyone were to ask me what they should collect as an investment that is being published now I would say buy each of these titles as they are published. Also, this publisher has a knack for creating books in such a way that you hold them in your hand and immediately sense the quality; this is a publisher producing some of the best quality books currently available from anyone, anywhere...

Old Stile Press
Of course, this list wouldn't be complete without mention of Nicolas and Frances, tucked away in a pastoral idyll at the bottom of the Wye Valley producing stunningly beautiful books combining word and image in an instantly recognisable way. The press has a fair number of titles which fall into the homoerotic bracket and that was how I first encountered them but they have much, much more to offer besides. The blog is currently headed by some breath-taking photographs of the environs of the press and the website is dripping with gorgeous books to buy.

Tartarus Press
Known for their beautiful cream-colour dust-jackets, the Tartarus Press is another which specialises in the strange and mysterious. Robert Aickman, Ambrose Bierce, Walter de la Mare, Beresford Egan are just the beginning of the catalogue. Also, among a great and glorious list of titles is the Wormwood Journal edited by Mark Valentine. Well worth an extended browse...

Valancourt Press
An independent publisher which describes itself as 'small' but has an extremely healthy output of scholarly editions of neglected classics in the field of Gothic, Victorian, Mystery, Gay interest, Edwardian, 1890s stuff... They even have a couple of Rolfe titles and have recently published a two volume edition of Forrest Reid's Tom Barber Trilogy: the first volume containing the trilogy, the second containing a study of Forrest Reid and explanatory notes by Michael Matthew Kaylor. James Jenkins, who runs the show at Valancourt started things up in 2005 and their list is quite an achievement for such a space of time.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Four 1930s Shell Oil Posters

Surprising at it might at first seem, Shell was one of the twentieth century's most important patrons of the arts. The company had a huge collection of original artwork as well as commissioning some of the greatest artists of the time to design their posters and other commercial images. These four 1930s posters are all from a recent sale. From top to bottom they are by Duncan Grant, Edna Clarke Hall, Rex Whistler and Algernon Newton. All had estimates in the low hundreds but all failed to sell save for the Whistler which sold under-estimate for £160. If this kind of 1930s commercial art floats your boat then you might like to explore the Shell Collection at The National Motor Museum in Beaulieu

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Three Sets of Harry Potter Designs

So today we have a set of three different designs for the Harry Potter books. There are a number of places where you can see the various covers that have graced these incredible books over the years in various editions, countries, languages and versions. in particular, the Harry Potter Wiki has a fairly comprehensive summary page. It's fair to say that, unlike the novels themselves, design-wise, on the whole the Harry Potter series has NOT been a great. Bloomsbury themselves quickly realised that these were books that appealed both to adults and children and, in an effort to make them less embarrassing to read on the train to work, they began issuing each book with its own 'adult' cover. This was the first attempt at this and the most promising, but it faltered and stopped at book 4. There is a complete set of adult covers now available but they are just a bit shiny to be of much graphic interest to me.

Much more interesting in many ways were the Swedish book covers, much more Manga then any other country's editions and slightly edgier to boot, these are by a Chilean-born Swedish illustrator called Alvaro Tapia:

But, by far the most interesting designs for the Harry Potter series have never been published. M. S. Corley, an incredibly talented and interesting designer and illustrator posted a series of concept designs for the Potter series to his blog in 2009: Harry Potter meets vintage Penguin - genius!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Two Amazing Bodies

We have been watching the stunning Eike von Stuckenbrok on Front Free Endpaper for a while now so imagine my delight when this elfin piece of human plastic turned up on, of all things, The Royal Variety Performance, this year. He's found a new friend, Remi Martin (not the drink but an extremely talanted 26 year old 'equilibrist') to perform with and, whilst this isn't video of their Royal Variety performance, it is the same routine. Breathtaking...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

One Christmas Video

A very happy Christmas to all my readers, friends, family and colleagues. For the next 12 days Front Free Endpaper will be devoted to a numerically expanding imbroglio of interesting items: a galloping gallimaufry of graduated goodness... and we start today with this classic piece of internet Christmas joy.

If you don't know them aleady then you really do need to go and have a listen to Straight No Chaser at their website, an all male a cappella group from the US who shot to Internet fame for, among other things, this wonderful arrangement of The Twelve Days of Christmas. They are in the UK this year and part of R's Christmas present is a couple of tickets to see them in February... so what better way to start our own twelve days....

Friday, December 09, 2011

Today's Delivery of Vintage Swimwear

Your weekly dose of vintage swimwear... This rather charming postcard fell through the letter box this morning (well, I say morning, this is the Royal Mail we're talking about so it was almost midday)...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Speed in 1950

I did warn you that we were in for a bit of a vintage graphics binge: which is really because I know what I've been acquiring recently, including these great images by Kenneth M Sibley from c.1950 that were published in The Wonder Book of Speed, a book free entirely from all modern considerations of things such as the avoidance of hubris, environmental concern, and any limitations on the notion of 'progress' at all.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Vintage Swimwear Madness

I don't own this photo, nor did I bid on it. It seems at the moment that the whole vintage swimwear thing is really going some on Ebay. If you have the right photo, like this one, with plenty of bulge and a few good looking young guys, you can really be in the money. The original of this one just sold for 150 GBP!! And this is not the first vintage swimwear photo that I've seen go for silly money in recent months... I do hope this blog hasn't had anything to do with the rise in popularity...!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Retro Glasgow Theatres

 It's been a peculiar day today. The boiler has broken and a very nice man from British Gas came and assessed the situation but can't actually effect a repair until Tuesday so until then it's gonna be chilly...! Wrapped up in my study though, it seems the chill might be good for my productivity as I managed to reduce the 130 emails sitting in my inbox to just 30...

We're going to be having a bit of a binge on vintage graphics I rather fancy for the next little while. These theatre programmes from the late 1950s are just up my street. And, from the back (below) of one of them it appears that Messrs Howard & Wyndham had a stable of theatres in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle, each with their own fab linocut (I think) illustrated covers on the programmes. A little digging on Ebay shows me that they printed them in a variety of purple, red and turquoise... how fab would a collection look all framed up together...

Saturday, December 03, 2011

A Portrait in a Snapshot

Although this is clearly just a snapshot, I love the way that it's almost like a renaissance portrait in the arrangement of small details which are suggestive of the bigger life of this young man beyond the instant of the photograph. The boots and turned up jeans suggest a kind of 1950s 'rocker' look, the dog is a slightly softer element, the first word of the title of the magazine is visible when you enlarge the picture and is "Hunting...", I have no idea what the little piggy's head on the sofa is about but the detail I love most, balanced on the back of the sofa, every rocker's must-have accessory: his comb!

Friday, December 02, 2011

A Book Collector and His Cat

A must-see video in which writer, editor and collector Mark Valentine discusses his collection. According to the Youtube write up:

"Mark Valentine discusses the following writers: Arthur Machen, Walter de la Mare, Lord Dunsany, M.P. Shiel, William Gerhardie, R. Austin Freeman, William Hope Hodgson, Algernon Blackwood, Hubert Crackanthorpe, H.A. Manhood, Claude Houghton, E.E. Dorling, David Lindsay, Ronald Fraser, Park Barnitz, Norman Boothroyd, Francis Brett Young, Sarban, W.F. Morris, Denton Welch, Oliver Onions, Eric Lyall, Peter Vansittart, J.C. Snaith, Mary Butts, Frank Baker and Phyllis Paul. He ends with a discussion of the classic "British Rainfall, 1910".

Mark Valentine is an English author, biographer, editor and book collector.

His short stories have been published by a number of small presses and in anthologies since the 1980s, and the exploits of his series character, "The Connoisseur", an occult detective, were published as The Collected Connoisseur in 2010. As a biographer, Valentine has published a life of Arthur Machen, and a study of Sarban. He has also written numerous articles for the Book and Magazine Collector magazine, and introductions for various books, including editions of work by Walter de la Mare, Robert Louis Stevenson, Saki, J. Meade Falkner and others.

Valentine also edits Wormwood, a journal dedicated to fantastic, supernatural and decadent literature, and has also edited anthologies.

The cat that appears in the video is called Percy :-)

As I was watching it, I was struck by how little you actually see of other people's collections. It's a quite unusual thing to be given such access to someone's ongoing collection, perhaps a testament to the usually solitary nature of the activity. In this video, you never quite know what Mark is going to pull off the shelf next and this gives it an almost compelling quality.

Timelapse Cities

This is a little off-topic for me, but I'm very into timelapse films at the moment, and it's nice to share... This one is absolutely beautiful, took a year to film in cities in Canada and the US. Some of the images are just stunning. Its called "The City Limits" and its by a chap called Dominic Boudreault.

Turn the volume up and turn on the HD and sit back and enjoy...

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Callum James Books Short List #5

We have just released Short List Catalogue No. 5, a list of 27 items this time, of books and ephemera. If you know and like this blog then you will probably find something of interest in our catalogue. Our aim is to present an eclectic mix of items with a range of prices.

We run an email mailing list which contains the text version of the catalogue and a link to a fully illustrated version online. If you would like to receive these mailings then please do drop us a line using the email link to the top right of this page.

Vintage Venice and Serendipity

This was going to be an ordinary post about the handful of vintage Venetian postcards that I picked up at the local postcard and ephemera fair I mentioned a few days ago. I was going to simply muse about how one could almost imagine Tadzio skipping along the Lido in the top image and to comment on how I have tried, in my recent gathering of Venice postcards to stick to buying only images of places off the beaten track or which have something to distinguish them from the millions of postcard images created of this most photographed of all cities.

It seems that philosophy has served me well because in the process of scanning these for the blog, I was idly reading the back of the card of the Rio delle Maravegie above and my heart skipped a beat as the rather spidery handwriting on the back began to resolve: in a completely random way, in a church hall near Portsmouth, I had managed to pick up a postcard sent from Venice to Oxford by the Rev'd Canon Lonsdale Ragg. For those who aren't already gasping in amazement, that's okay, we can't all be Corvine obsessives, the good Canon and Mrs Ragg were an independently wealthy couple who lived in Venice and who gave lodgings to Frederick Rolfe. It was whilst he was staying in their palazzo that Rolfe wrote the bulk of The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole. It was the same book which resulted in Rolfe having to forgo their hospitality: Mrs Ragg begged Rolfe to show her the manuscript that he'd been working on so assiduously, and Rolfe eventually, but ill-advisedly gave in. The book paints a viciously Corvine picture of the English community in Venice at the time and Mrs Ragg couldn't countenance more of it being written under her roof and so matters came to a head.

The card is just a note really from Canon Ragg to a Professor at Oxford with whom he was going to stay and annoyingly the stamp has been removed which has, in turn, removed the postmark and therefore the date. There is, however, every possibility that this card could have been written in Venice when Rolfe was staying with them. A delightful and serendipitous find!
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