Tuesday, January 31, 2012

1960s Austria

Two favourite things of mine are combined in these fantastic images: retro graphics and a nerdy interest in maps of all kinds but particularly in graphically representative ones. 1960s Austria, from a guide book. I thought the colours and the almost surreal graphics were just charming.


Beefcake isn't usually my thing, just a bit too, well beefy for me. These kinds of oiled-up, slightly cheesy stud shots were the stock-in-trade of organisations like the Athletic Models Guild (AMG) and countless 'physique' magazines and were, throughout the 40s and 50s, about the only acceptable form of homoerotic image out there. This chap just has that little extra something and despite my aversion to such photographs normally, in this case I found my mouse finger exercising the 'right click manoeuvre'. I'm sorry, I don't know where I nabbed the picture from.

UPDATE: A good friend of Front Free Endpaper has mailed to point out that in the original version of this post I had inadvertently typed 'Amateur' for 'Athletic' in the name of the AMG. This was just the result of brain freeze but it was an error not without irony since it was actually the case that many of the Models were in fact not amateurs at all but professional hustlers. One of the best glimpses into their world I have come across comes from Justin Spring's The Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist and Sexual Renegade. Sam Steward, aka Phil Sparrow and the author Phil Andros, was a long term client of these hustler/models and the biography, brilliant on so many levels, also opens up this hidden world in a very insightful way.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Rocky Mountains in 1917

I have a weakness for 'books of views'. They come in all shapes and sizes and from almost every era since the invention of photography, in fact, since the invention of drawing really. Anyway, this one is particularly nice. The photos are all mechanically printed - I've no idea if the process has a name - in colour. This is fairly large (oblong 4to) book of 24 views "made exclusively for the Van Noy Inter-State Company, Denver, Colorado. For sale only en route on the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad" and it was published in 1917. I find the whole thing very evocative.

A new trick of mine is to go looking on Google Earth for the places that cross my desk in vintage photos. It's a dangerous business as the potential for wasting entire afternoons on Google Earth has always been high but it's great fun when you finally find the same spot today and can switch to streetview to make comparisons.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Vintage Swimwear in Devon

These came from a photo album I bought some time ago. I didn't buy the album particularly for these but it was a nice bonus. This hunky-monkey was bounding around Devon in the early 1920s.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Blindstamped Binding

I have shamelessly stolen this picture from an ebay listing and I'm hoping the seller won't mind so long as you all go and click on the link. What a brilliant use of blindstamping in a commercial binding. This is Austen Layard's Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon (John Murray: London, 1853) and on the spine is an Assyrian Cherub, the originals of which you can see in the British Museum largely because of the expeditions like this one that were sponsored by them, the wings of the Cherub stretch gloriously onto both boards of the binding.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Henry Scott Tuke: Rare Books

Prices for Henry Scott Tuke's paintings have gone through the roof in the last decade or so with celebrity collector's such as Elton John adding a certain something to the mix. The two publications pictured above are both about Tuke and both are very desirable and scarce. Henry Scott Tuke: A Memoir (Martin Secker: London, 1933) by Maria Sainsbury, Tuke's sister was the first biographical work about the painter and remains an important source. It is also vanishingly scarce with, particularly in anything approaching good condition. The economics are simply that in 1933 there were far fewer people who wanted to read the life of Tuke than there are now, consequently the book wouldn't have been printed in large numbers at the time and there are now more people who want it than there are copies available. Hence, a copy in very good condition is likely to start at £250. The photos below are all from this book.

The other publication in the photo above is even rarer but has no pictures at all, in fact it is about 70 pages of close black type on A4 pages. In the mid-1960s an independent scholar named Brian Price tracked down as many of the people who had known Tuke and were still alive as he could find. He interviewed them on an old-fashioned reel-to-reel tape recorder and then transcribed the interviews and called the result Tuke Reminiscences. The epic nature of this quest is only underlined when you consider that in order to produce it in a comfortable form he then typed into the IBM mainframe computer that he used at his day job, using a word-processing program that he had to write himself expressly for the purpose. A single copy was printed and the pages then copied electrostatically and ring bound between blank white cards. The authors of Henry Scott Tuke: 1858-1929, Under Canvas, (Sarema Press, 1989) David Wainwright and Catherine Dinn credit this document as being one of their most important sources in compiling what has been recognised as Tuke's definitive biography. I can't find a copy of this for sale online and the last one I saw was some years ago. I have forgotten what it might have been priced at then, but it wasn't cheap.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Soul of Wood: Bruno Walpoth

Bruno Walpoth is an Italian sculptor whose wood carving has had me transfixed for months. These are just a few examples of his meditative human forms which, to my mind at least, have something of Renaissance and Medieval religious sculpture about them, not in the way that work would have looked when new but how it sometimes looks now with the paint gone and gesso and clawing chisel marks exposed. There is more of his work to be seen at his website and, in particular, the Hermaphrodite sculpture is worth looking at. In an article in Sculpture Review, Walpoth is quoted as saying that he wants the viewers of his sculpture to be convinced these objects have souls, something in which he completely succeeds as far as I'm concerned. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In Print

It's always nice to see oneself in print and I received yesterday my copy of Gay News from the Netherlands which contains an article I wrote on the Uranians and as a review of Michael Matthew Kaylor's Lad's Love published by the excellent Valancourt Books, four double page spreads rather handsomely illustrated I thought! I don't think anything I've written has ever been translated before either which is a rather nice feeling too.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Vintage Swimwear on a Pole

The vintage swimwear post a couple of days ago produced quite a flurry of interest in my email inbox which is lovely so I was delighted when my latest acquisition arrived today in the post. What a handsome chap! No piles jokes please...

Monday, January 23, 2012


Phew! That was close. Since Christmas Day I have been trying to keep up the discipline of one blog post a day and I seem to have got this one in with about half an hour to go. It's been a peculiar weekend. As well as publishing the last in the Raven series, with all the wrapping and packing and posting that follows on from that, I also visited the brilliant Pallant Gallery in Chichester. The main purpose of this was visit an exhibit of work that was finishing the same day and which included a great number of the Bloomsbury group painters. Strangely, there was one painting in particular which was almost a perfect fit for this blog: a Keith Vaughan painting of two nude male forms that was given to E. M. Forster by Christopher Isherwood - if it were a book it would be an amazing association copy. Anyway, as it turned out, that exhibition was unexpectedly outshone by the amazing and huge exhibition of work by Edward Burra currently also at the Pallant. Work that neither R nor I particularly expected to like we were completely taken aback by. The exhibition includes every aspect of his output from his Harlem and Paris street life scenes, through the surrealist, Lovecraft-inspired 1930s to his Sussex landscapes and theatre designs - a real surprise and I know that some of you are near enough to Chichester to visit - GO! All of this and then being incapacitated by an excruciating toothache for twenty-four hours has made this a most unusual weekend.

So, above and below, what do we have? I have been looking through a large Victorian collection of crests from letterheads. I blogged the monogram pages a little while ago. These though are just a small selection of the ones which took my eye among hundreds of heraldic devices these jumped out for being a little unusual. A game of croquet and a game of something like lawn tennis, the crest of a butcher perhaps? and then how could I resist a tiny crest with the Latin motto made famous by The Dead Poets' Society, Carpe Diem.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Vintage Swimwear just because...

We haven't had a good dose of vintage swimwear pictures on this blog for quite a while now, which is really because I haven't been buying them with quite the same regularity as previously. However, this is a small selection, a propos of nothing in particular, not from my own collection but culled from the Interweb, mainly from Ebay. Some are quite recent, some were originally cut from the low-hanging branches of the Internet tree a long time ago but have been sitting pretty on my hard drive for a while.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Raven 15: The Splendid Olympian

It has been six years since the first of Robert Scoble's Raven series about Frederick Rolfe Baron Corvo was published. That first Raven was a real-life detective story based in Venice, tracking down the identity of the mysterious 'Cockerton', a companion of Rolfe's in Venice. It is particularly satisfying then, that this last in the series returns to Venice and to The Venice Letters and unravels the life of another of the group of young men who floated around the eccentric Englishman at the turn of the last century.

I will paste the full blurb for this title at the bottom of this post but it is worth pausing just a moment to express just what an acheivement this represents by Robert Scoble. The last six years have been full of constant research: inimitable in tracking down every scrap of information, unswerving in follwing every lead to its final end, and unerring in pressing always for the fullest accuracy of fact and presentation. Scoble must have sent literally thousands of emails, and has had researchers working on his behalf all round the world in libraries and university collections.

In terms of adding to the canon of information about Rolfe's life and work, this body of work puts Scoble up there with some of the great Corvine scholars and at Callum James Books we are proud to have been able to support such a stellar effort.

Raven Fifteen: The Splendid Olympian

by Robert Scoble

In a letter from Venice to Charles Masson Fox, written in late 1909, Frederick Rolfe describes a casual conversation in the street with a seventeen-year-old youth on the staff of the Bucintoro Club. Rolfe has seen him working at the rowing club, but does not yet know his name, so refers to him in the letter as ‘the Corfiote Greek Jew.’ The young man pops up only a few more times in the correspondence, so previous scholars have taken no note of him. True to form, however, Rolfe has left us several clues which, when pieced together, identify his importunate young interlocutor as none other than Giorgio Cesana, who remains to this day Italy’s youngest-ever Olympic gold medallist.
Born into a Levantine Sephardi Jewish family which had emigrated from Corfu around the time the island had been transferred from Britain to Greece, the boy had grown up in Venice's Ghetto district and at the age of thirteen been chosen to cox the Bucintoro's crews at the Olympic Games. Winner of three gold medals, Giorgio soon found that his celebrity was destined to fade, and although the Bucintoro initially gave him a job in some menial capacity, history gradually lost sight of him.
In this final essay in the Raven Series, Robert Scoble brings Giorgio Cesana back from obscurity. He describes a young man with an exuberant and playful personality, whose antics as Rolfe's assistant gondolier endeared him to one of the most original writers to have graced the canals of Venice, and ensured him a tiny but immortal place in the literary history of that enchanting city.
Of a full edition of 70, the first 12 copies of The Splendid Olympian constitute the special state, case bound in dark blue 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 dark blue card covers with a paper label and acetate wrappers.

Latin! or Tobacco and Boys

The Edinburgh Fringe in 1980 saw the first performance of a play with the pithy and descriptive title of Latin! or Tobacco and Boys. It perhaps won't be a galloping surprise to anyone who doesn't already know that this romp through the sex-drenched  atmosphere of an English public school was penned by Mr Stephen Fry. It has been produced a few times since and the text appears in Fry's Paperweight. However, I was particularly taken by the poster for the original Edinburgh production which is reproduced in The Fry Chronicles and which has a caption explaining it was the "most stolen' poster of the Fringe that year. I would love to add one of those to my collection one day!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Jean Cocteau Drawings

On Valentine's Day in Paris the Pierre and Franca Belfond Collection of artwork by writers is being auctioned. As things to collect go, I think this is a minor piece of genius. Obviously, there are some writers for whom art is a second home and other for whom, their drawings offer only psychological or potentially literary insight. Jean Cocteau, obviously, is one of the former and the collection contains a number of works by him, including many which might seem atypical to those familiar with his published works: one album of drawings in particular is almost reminiscent of Ronald Searle's cartoons...

Above, is a self portrait, and below an example of what Cocteau drew best, attractive naked young men.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Baedeker Catalogue and Chile

Collecting Baedeker guides is an area which I thought had gone off the boil a little of late but if this new-ish catalogue by Shapero Rare Books is anything to go by then perhaps it's not so depressed as one might imagine at the top end of the market. Among the things we learn from this catalogue is that very early Baedeker Guides from the 1840s and early 50s had very attractive yellow boards. Also that there are a few guides for which a top London dealer can get away with asking upwards of 3,000 GBP. The catalogue is fascinating to me as someone who has always enjoyed the heft and heave of a good guide book whilst not knowing a great deal about them. It should be fascinating to anyone who likes to hunt down bargains in local bookstores as it's an excellent resource for learning which guides are scarce and valuable.

The most interesting guide book to cross my desk in recent months doesn't appear in the Shapero catalogue. Titled, Baedeker de Chile, and published in 1930 it was, in fact, nothing at all to do with the Baedeker publishing company but rather was published by the tourism ministry of Chile, perhaps under the misguided impression that Baedeker was a generic term for a guide book: something like the way Hoover or Biro were trademarks which became nouns. I sold it a little while ago now and it turned out to be worth at least as much as some of the volumes in the Shapero catalogue.

Thanks for Robert for the heads-up on the catalogue.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guy Laramee Book Sculpture

The art of book sculpting has become a little 'old' in the last couple of years, it was difficult to see how anyone was going to take it further than the somewhat 'crafty', if very skilled, cut-out silhouettes and quirky visual literary references... and then along came Guy Laramee. Astonishingly original and, for the first time in my experience of book sculpture, an artist has created something which is beautiful, something which goes a long way beyond simply clever. These are amazing pieces with real meditative power. Thanks to Mark for the heads-up.

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