Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Dis-appointments Diary 2013

If you are still looking for the diary that is going to see you through to 2013 then how about the charmingly pessimistic Disappointments Diary by Asbury and Asbury. As well as being a numbered copy in a "disappointingly limited run of 1,000 copies" the diary also includes spaces for you to record the names and numbers of "people who will never call" and a helpful page giving details of "notable deaths" from history. There is also a page "accidentally left blank" towards the end of the diary which, it is presumed you might find a use for. Wonderfully quirky stuff...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Vintage Swim: Memories of Summer

As the wind whips around the chimney and the rain falls in crackling waves against the window, it's nice every now and then to be reminded of warmer, more relaxed days just lounging about on the water...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Demophon as a Prize

Well, here we are, back again after the Christmas feasting. R and I have been with family on the Isle of Wight for a couple of days and we are now easing ourselves back into the swing of things. This time last year I made a resolution to blog every day and, barring a couple of days of illness here and there I managed to keep to that and have enjoyed the discipline of doing so. I don't intend to make any formal commitments to myself this coming year of a similar nature but I imagine things will go on as you have been used to for a while yet.

Thank you to all those who have sent holiday greetings of one kind or another and if you are waiting to hear from me about some matter, please do hang on, I am getting through my inbox as quickly as I decently can at the moment.

One of the items in that inbox was an email from regular reader Noctambulate that contained these photos of a copy of Forrest Reid's book Demophon (Collins, London, 1927). The book itself is possibly my favourite Reid book after the Tom Barber trilogy: it is a fictional weaving of Greek myth in an overtly classical setting with a story that showcases all of Reid's usual themes and motifs. There is something very light and airy about the book, the classical Greek landscape always feels fresh and bright and never overbearingly hot and stuffy. Perhaps I have a fondness for these quasi-historio-mythical books as my favourite Rolfe books are probably his historical fantasies Don Renato, Hubert's Arthur and Don Tarquinio. I have a soft spot also for Norman Douglas's In the Beginning which is, again, a quasi-mythical piece of fiction/fantasy. Anyway, it was delightful to see this copy was not only a school prize presentation copy, in the year after the book was originally published, but that the school had gone to the trouble of finding such an appropriate book for a young man who excelled in their Greek lessons.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Horseless London

There is nothing quite so charming as people predicting the future in all earnestness from the data they have around them. This is probably why clips of the 1980s BBC programme Tomorrow's World on Youtube are such fun to watch. Its why I was stopped in my tracks the other day by a book called Computers in the Year 2000 - published in 1971. And this is why I love these illustrations from The London Magazine in 1908 which accompany a story titled 'Horseless London' by Harris Burland.

The caption for the one above reads "The broad thoroughfare was filled with moving vehicles as far as the eye could reach; and the swift rhythmical flow of the cars in perfectly straight lines had a dazing effect. The speed of the ones near the centre of the roadway was terrific"

The caption for the illustration below reads "They ran down to Dorsetshire after lunch, and returned in time for dinner. The motor moved as swiftly and easily as a bird. There was no dust, no overcrowding of the broad, clean track; no pedestrians or cyclists or dogs, or anything that might obstruct the path of the motorist." ...ah! happy days!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Playing Cards by Jean Picart le Doux

We're staying with yesterday's mid-century design theme as, by chance, I have just acquired these brilliant playing cards from the Thomas de la Rue printing company in 1957 to mark the 125th anniversary of the company and the First International Playing Card Week. The company was one of the biggest and first publishers/printers of playing cards and these designs were chosen through competition. The designs are by the French tapestry designer Jean Picart le Doux: not a household name in this country but a Google image search of his name reveals an astonishingly rich colour palette and very striking designs in tapestry. If this page is anything to go by, in the world of playing card collecting, this set is very highly thought of.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dreams of Space: A Collection

Sometimes a collection just works! And often, a blog is a really good way of showcasing a collection to the world. In the case of Dreams of Space it's a dangerously time-consuming combination of both. It's the subtitle of the blog that gives form and boundaries to the collection, "Non-fiction children's books about space flight from 1945 to 1975" and as soon as you read that and begin travelling back through the luscious images on the blog, you begin to realise the sheer 'rightness' of this collection. It also has scope - and then some. This is a collection which has been the focus of this blog since 2009 and seems to show no signs of running out of steam. Period graphics, childhood, neatly bounded parameters... what more could one ask for? 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lesley Barnes Wrapping Paper

While we are having a bit of a pattern-fest and yes, I am aware this is a little late now, have you ever seen such beautiful wrapping paper. These are two designs by Lesley Barnes: Peacock (above) and Kings (below). Lesley's work also featured in The Enchanted Forest, an recent exhibition of work by female illustrators inspired by Grimm's fairy tales, just finished at Foyles Bookshop in London. I was pointed to them and to the wonderful 'Wrap' website by the ever-ingenious John Coulthart

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Soviet Fabrics of the 20s and 30s

I think my heart genuinely skipped a beat when I came across these amazing patterned fabrics - and many more - from Soviet Russia in the 20s and 30s. Stunning images so perfectly 'of their time' and therefore so very appealing today.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Skinny Dipping: A Little History

We have more than a passing interest in the vintage swimming costume here at Front Free Endpaper but don't claim to be an historical authority. Nonetheless, a little light bedtime reading of newspaper clippings about the practise of naked swimming the nineteenth century make it clear that the somewhat 'off the cuff' characterisation of the Victorian period as a time of repression and modesty might not be the whole picture. The small sample of material we have looked at seems to suggest that the idea of men and boys wearing 'clothes' to go swimming (i.e. some form of 'drawers') was one which only came in very slowly over a period of half a century or more. In the newspapers of the day, the first references to the need for drawers to be worn for bathing in public occurs in the late 1850s and early 60s but the issue is debated often, all the way up to the 1890s and it seems only by the twentieth century is it both socially essential and legally enforced that men should not bathe naked in public (the appearance of boys swimming naked in public on a regular basis continues at least into the 1930s).

One particularly amusing and instructive clipping is this letter published in Reynolds's Illustrated Newspaper in September 1899.

Sir.- Your delightful paragraph about Felixstowe in last week's issue prompts me to offer a few considerations on the subject of bathing costume. During the last fifteen years or so there has arisen a diseased and artificial dread of viewing the human body. We see the tendency widespread. Those detestable vices known as bathing drawers have crept in, even upon our quiet rivers, to hide our self-made shame from the unspotted swans, and are enforced at closed and high-walled swimming baths. I begin to feel more and more Walt Whitman's respect for the animals who never reach our depth of degradation.

Is it really true that the modern Puritan regards the supple forms of youth - "the fair young larch-poles of our Empire" as "Branco" calls them - as being unclean and impure? Pink coral statues, with the breath of hay - are even they corrupt to the alleged moralists' view? Perhaps; for the Puritan's mind is coarse and it is the revolt against himself that makes him a Puritan. What is called morality is convention. It cannot be in sanity that men can say that the human shape looks better and more seemly with a piece of red rag round it.

I will only briefly assert, as a diver of some skill and a devoted bather, that water garments are insanitary, preventing much that is most beneficial and threatening much that all would wish to escape. A good half of the benefit of swimming consists of drying in the sun and open air. Through drawers the wind strikes chilly and the pores of the skin are kept covered. I will only say on the "morality" side, that if these very "modest" people would study the origin and purpose of clothing in the history of savage races, they would discover that garments were mostly worn to allure others and that no attraction is considered to be so strong as that which is unseen.

I am glad to see that on the Thames they have apparently gone a little too far even for the heavy British public and that there seem a chance of a good row. May the day come when only in absolutely public places will anything so ugly and inconvenient be tolerated as clothing for a swim.
B.A. Cantab.
George Ives"

If the name of the author of this letter seems familiar, it is probably because, if you are a student of gay history and literature, you may know him from another angle. For all the poetry and forceful argument of this letter, it is possible that the author of The Greco-Roman View of Youth may have been arguing here to maintain an entirely more contemporary view! Ives was also the author of a couple of volumes of Uranian poetry and one of the founders of the secretive homophile Order of Chaeronea and The British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology. However, mixed motives aside, it is an interesting letter and one which would indicate that naked bathing in semi-public environments was still an ongoing issue in public discourse even as late as 1899.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cartoon Mania

One of the reasons I love doing this job is the surprises. This very plain and straightforward, pocket-sized, cloth bound book fell into my hand in a bookshop the other day because I have a mental rule that if I'm scanning a bookcase and there's a book with no title on the spine, I always pull it out to have a look. This one turned out to be a wonder... Every page has a couple of the panel cartoons, "Animal Crackers" by Dick Ryan and Warren Goodrich from the 1940s and 50s meticulously cut out and pasted onto it. I haven't counted but there must be hundreds. How much work was involved? Why was it done? Who did it? None of these things I can answer. Did I buy it from the bookshop? Yes, I did.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Period Dust Jackets in Ryde

No trip to Ryde on the Isle of Wight would be complete without a visit to the Ryde Bookshop, a rambling, old-fashioned kind of establishment on four floors with many a nook and cranny. Whenever I'm in there I am constantly finding the most amazing dust jacket designs. These are the ones I didn't buy! 

(I should apologise also about the quality of image here and in some recent posts. I have recently entered the smart phone age and I'm delighted with my new personal assistant who goes by the initials HTC, however, taking really good quality photos is something I'm still working on...)

Rough and Ready Ryde

A trip to the Isle of Wight today to visit my lovely friend A who lives on a boat in the Medina River. Fortunately on a river and not on the sea as this was the scene in Ryde this afternoon. Decent weather is so exhilarating...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Another Zodiac Pattern

Zodiac Books have featured here before. A cross between Ladybird Books and King Penguins with an exquisite taste in pattern, this short-lived series is a collector's dream. Saw this one today in a bookshop and couldn't resist - especially as it seemed so seasonally correct.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New From Callum James Books: A Carnal Medium

We are delighted to be able to announce a book that has been a long time in the making has now been published.

A Carnal Medium: Fin-de-siecle Essays on the Photographic Nude

Edited by James Downs

Paperback, 144pp, ISBN: 978-0957450103

The final decade of the nineteenth century possesses a power to intrigue and fascinate that seems only to grow with time. More than a mere decade, the 1890s continues to inspire works of both fiction and non-fiction. It is a period known by many names - fin-de-si├Ęcle, Decadent Nineties, the Beardsley Years, the Yellow Decade, even the Naughty Nineties - and populated by a coterie of literary and artistic icons whose work captured the spirit of the passing age. Despite a number of important developments in photography during this time, the subject has tended to be treated in isolation from this surrounding culture. The seven essays in this book on the subject of nude photography were published in The Studio, The Photogram or the Photographic Times between June 1893 and September 1898, and although their focus is on practical photography, the three authors make frequent allusions - veiled or explicit - to the wider world of arts and letters. A scholarly introduction by James Downs clearly shows how these essays formed part of a larger conversation about aesthetics, sexuality and representation in art at the turn of the last century.

The collection of texts includes a reprint of Joseph Gleeson White's long meditation on the photographic nude in The Studio and included reproductions of photographs by Baron von Gloeden, which was the first time he had his work published in the UK. There are also photos by Baron Corvo as well as by the other authors, Robert Hobart Cust and James Rooth, and others, all of which are reproduced from the original publications in this current title.
You may purchase a copy on your regional Amazon site or your local bookseller will be able to order a copy from their wholesaler using the ISBN number above, however, for the moment, you can order a copy direct from us at the publisher's price of 6.99GBP + postage (UK=2.00GBP; EU=3.50GBP; Everywhere else=5.00GBP). You can pay through paypal, using the email address you do not need a Paypal account to use it to pay by credit/debit card. If you would like to pay by sterling cheque, please email for details of where to send to. 

If you don't receive automatic emails about new titles from Callum James Books but would like to, or would like to receive our occasional short lists of rare and secondhand material, please let us know.

Vintage Photo: Watch the Birdie

Arrived today... How could these two possibly know what a life their playful gestures would take on nearly 50 years later? I wonder if they are still alive.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Quiff

I have been treating myself recently to a few extra items in the collection and they have included these two snaps from, I guess, the early 60s of this rather hunky chap with his devil-may-care approach to quiffing.
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