Thursday, January 31, 2013

Free Book Delight

Book people have sometimes had a reputation for being, shall we say, a little pedantic, perhaps a little insular and maybe, dare I say, cranky? On the other hand, sometimes, book people do lovely things. This evening when I got in from a long day, there was a package on the mat and inside a book: this book above. A very bright, clean copy of Don Tarquinio by Frederick Rolfe in the Phoenix Library pocket-sized edition published by Methuen. Inside as well just an anonymous slip of paper from someone who had found this blog, seen the love here given to Rolfe and thought I might be able to find it a good home. "No reply wanted" was all the signature. How lovely is that?

Don Tarquinio is one of my favourite of Rolfe's books: funny, rumbustious, a tour de force of Rolfe's highest flights of Renaissance fancy. If you haven't read it and would like to then I'm offering (in the spirit it came to me), this copy free to the first email in my inbox requesting it. If you are in the UK I will pay the postage, if you are outside the UK I would just ask you to cover the postage cost.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Poetry Journal: Embryo

Just sharing a great cover on a poetry journal I found today. No date. No idea if it got past issued number one (which this is) the poetry inside is good but not from anyone I have ever heard of before. The cover must have been screen printed judging by the gorgeous feeling of raised ink.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gregorio Prieto

I imagine many other people have had this experience: you pick up a book or catalogue or even catch sight of a single image and find yourself immediately wondering if the artist may have been gay. It's like art gaydar. To my shame, I had never heard of Gregorio Prieto (1897-1992) until the other day when I picked up a very scruffy looking 1940s publication showing just a handful of his paintings and drawings. The drawings with their simple lines, reminiscent of Cocteau and their mythological and homoerotic flavour made me want to know more. Turning a few more pages and I discover he is the painter of a very famous portrait of Lorca. I'm sure there are people reading this amazed at my ignorance but more information hasn't been very forthcoming. The book I have tells me only the dry facts of a Spanish artist, who travelled extensively, particularly in Greece and Southern Europe, who studied in Paris where he "attracted the attention" of a group who frankly read like a Who's Who of Gay Paris in the 20s and 30s. Come the Civil War in Spain he found refuge in England and lived here for about a decade. He has a Wikipedia entry, but not a long one, and all in Spanish which I think suggests he was living with the gay poet Luis Cernuda, but this is based only on a slightly wonky Google translation. There are a good number of images of his work online but precious little detail about his life. So, this is not exactly a call for help but if anyone does know any more about his life, or where I can find a decent account of him, I'd love to hear about it. In the meantime, this is a selection of my favourite drawings from my book.

Another Zodiac

Every now and again one of these Zodiac Books comes my way and it usually then finds its way onto this blog because of the love I have for patterned paper around my books. And so, Zodiac Book No. 25, A Country Zodiac is now added to the collection.

Puffin Update

In a brief continuation of yesterday's post on my haul of early Puffins. I wonder if this is the book that Paul refered to in the comments. I have been adding a few more to the Flickr set this evening.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Puffin Story Books

Today I acquired this collection of nearly 150 early Puffin Story Books from the 40s and 50s. Puffin was the childrens' version of Penguin books and for years and years they published some amazing books for the discerning young reader. There was no patronising: the books were illustrated but only with the occasional black and white line drawings in the text and they had covers designed with the same attention to quality and visual interest as their grown up Penguin counterparts. I have begun a new Flickr set and intend eventually to archive all of the covers there as a reference as well as a visual treat. 

Even more Beautiful Marble Bodies

I don't often use the blog to sell things directly but since the lot of real photo sculpture postcards I put online recently created a little interest, I thought I would just add these two images as a postscript and say that the whole lot is currently for sale on Ebay.

Battersea Park Sculptures 1951

Did I mention that there might be a bit of an artfest this week on the blog? Well, I have been thinking a lot about the Battersea Decorative Arts fair, which is currently on and I had hoped to get to. Unfortunately, it doesn't look as if I will be able to go. So, time to whip out this 1951 brochure for a different kind of fair held in Battersea. As far as I can tell, an annual open-air sculpture exhibition was held in Battersea Park for a number of years at around this time. I wondered if it began as an event in conjunction with the Festival of Britain. It was clearly a big deal: the committee included Epstein, Hepworth and Charoux. Sculpture on the Internet is one of those odd things where any given piece might be represented in a hundred photographs or be completely invisible. Some of these pieces had other iterations in the same or different materials. My favourite, for example, the Pegasus statue, seems also to have been cast in bronze and there are a couple of images of it our there but none of this version in plaster.

Bourdelle, Death of the Last Centaur, Bronze, 1914

Ehrlich, Young Lovers, Bronze, 1950

Charoux, Evensong, Terracotta, 1944

Lambert, Pegaus and Bellerophon, Plaster, 1943

Minne, Relic Bearer, Bronze, 1929

Wheeler, Adam, Bronze

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Drawings of Ingres: Male Nudes

I think we might be having a bit of an art-heavy week on Front Free Endpaper: this is not an apology, just preparing the ground. This is not my normal taste. The 'old master' drawing style is one that often leaves me cold and, whilst I love the wonderful 19th Century Academic Nude blog, that's really for the things it showcases that don't fall under its announced title. So, I was surprised by how appealing these drawings were from a book on the draughtsmanship of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) and as I struggled to find them on the internet I thought they would be worth sharing. The study above of a young man, presumably on horseback with a lance (St George maybe), is my favourite: quite beautiful.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A 1940s Tea Shop

Way back in 2010 I bought a large lot of sketches, paintings and other artwork from auction, all by a woman called Barbara Long who, in the late 1930s and early 40s was an art student in Bromley in South London. So you will find earlier posts about her artwork on this blog. I have found no trace of an ongoing career in art, but what I bought seemed to be the remains of her art school days. I still have a small pile of pieces and among them are these six items: a pencil sketch and five lithographic reproductions of the same image in two different colour inks. This is clearly the outcome of an art student's first attempts at lithography but I thought they were remarkably successful, and what a striking image of a 1940s tea shop.

Alex Stoddard - Photographer

It's very easy to find snide or dismissive things to say about some of the biggest mass participation sites on the Internet. Say what you like about Tumblr, for example, for my money it still throws up people with a real skill for curating images but for original photography, Flickr is absolutely stuffed full of really talented people producing really high quality work. Among the latter is a 19 year old guy from Georgia, recently moved to Orange County California called Alex Stoddard. He doesn't update his Flickr with countless images every day and so each new image becomes a little bit of an event. He has gained himself a certain Internet celebrity over the last few years and it looks as though he is in the process of translating that right now into real world presence. His photographs are often self-portraits, often narrative heavy, often dark and psychologically loaded and quite often, just a little surreal: it's a heady and compelling mix. He has recently been featured in the Orange County Recorder and took the photo above especially for the article. The paper sent along a photographer to take behind-the-scenes shots of the process. The article tells us that his 30"x 30" prints are currently selling for $400 a piece and it strikes me they would be a great investment right now because I think this guy is about to become a big hit. You can read the article and see all the photographs on the OC Recorder's Website and his Flickr photostream is an absolute must.

The Importance of Being Oscar

I have this copy of The Sketch from 1895 because it contains one of my few original Baron Corvo discoveries, a photograph, detailed on this blog some four years ago. It is only tonight that I have noticed also within its pages, this 'review' of two of Oscar Wilde's plays. To my mind the reviewer so misunderstands the plays that the whole things becomes quite comical. However, there is also some real poignancy to this since just two days before this was published, the Marquis of Queensbury left his calling card for Wilde at his club and set in train the fateful series of events we all know so well.

The Importance of Being Oscar

It cannot be made a reproach against the English people (writes a correspondent) that they are unduly influenced by the Press. In theatrical matters especially they show a resolute determination to judge for themselves. Vainly, in various instances, have the critics endeavoured to silence, by their whispers, wild shouts of applause, or to scold the Public into going to see a play it does not fancy. But the Public is a very curious thing; it is sometimes perverse, and even obstinate, and it has evidently made up its mind to like the plays of Mr. Oscar Wilde.

The play at present being given at The Haymarket is a great success, notwithstanding the fact that its point and object have not been entirely understood: I mean the overthrowing of the contemporary fad about the disproportionate value of woman in modern life. "A man's life," says Lord Goring, in "An Ideal Husband", "is more important than a woman's; it has a wider scope, larger issues, higher ambitions. A woman's life revolves in curves of emotion: it is on the straight lines of intellect that a man's life progresses, . . . . If you can keep a man's love, and love him in return, you have done all that we ask of woman." Thus Mr. Wilde places the newest woman in a very charming atmosphere of softness, of gentleness, of forgiveness. And are these not her very raison d'etre? He has shown that, as a man can love, knowing every fault and folly of a woman - loving her, it may be, for these faults and follies the better - so might she also love without idealising him, without trying so vainly to deprive him of his natural sins. After the first shock of knowing her husband doomed to disgrace and exposure, we see Lady Chiltern by his side in sympathising fellowship, ready to mourn with his sorrow, but not to reproach him with his fault. "The Importance of Being Earnest," again, is deliciously, airily irresponsible: an extraordinary sustained effort of wit and humour. In brilliant dialogue Mr. Wilde is without rival; and how versatile an artist he is! Not only a poet, an essayist, a novelist, "an amateur of beautiful things and a dilettante of things delightful," but one of the most brilliant playwrights of modern times. Why carp at "improbability" in what is confessedly the merest delicate bubble of fancy? Why not acknowledge, honestly, a debt of gratitude to one who adds to unmistakably to the gaiety of the nation?

When called before the curtain, with almost uproarious applause, at the St James's on Thursday night, Mr. Wilde must assuredly have felt, with a subtle enjoyment, all the Importance of Being Oscar.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Another Odd Find

Another moment of bookshop browsing fate: The book from which the above comes was very unprepossessing from the outside with no jacket, in publisher's brown cloth and by the time I was opening it I hadn't even looked to see what it was. The handwriting of the inscription is so distinctive that I knew before turning to the title page who the "author" in question was (brownie points to those who are also having immediate flashes of recognition) so it was then no surprise to find I was holding the 1933 first edition of H. M. Stanley by A. J. A. Symons, the great star in the firmament of Baron Corvo studies for his groundbreaking The Quest For Corvo: clearly it was some Corvine vibration which drew my hand to the small volume in a provincial bookshop.

Handwriting was important to Symons and this is his usual hand but he was capable, when the mood took him, of amazing calligraphic flourishes in his inscriptions. He was also, by some accounts, a skilled forger, and whilst no one has suggested he created forgeries to deceive  he was known to demonstrate his ability to write in other peoples' hands and to sign the names of famous people as a little party piece.

Harry Potter Quandry

Contrary to popular belief, the first edition of most of the Harry Potter books will not provide you with a pension. This is a good thing because I don't know what I would have done today when this copy of the first edition of the Goblet of Fire fell into my hands. Normally, with all reverence for a series I have really loved, I would have let the thing slip from my fingers and move on. However, fate or perhaps a friendly Patronus nudged my arm and I opened this one. Inside, a golden envelope. It was like being Charlie Bucket, a small sliver of gold hope tucked between the cover and the endpaper.

As you can read for yourself, the envelope was a part of a promotion by Amazon for the early-orderers of the book and it may have contained a ticket to Los Angeles, or perhaps a consolation prize of a £100 Amazon gift voucher... and it hadn't been opened...

What to do? I surprised even myself with how long it took me to decide whether to open it or not. On the one side was the collector in me, the lover of the pristine, the original condition, the unopened... on the other side was the romantic fool: what if the prize had never been won, what if there was a £100 voucher inside? Would Amazon honour it out of simple affection for the story of a lost book in a secondhand bookshop waiting thirteen years to be opened? How was it possible that the original owner of this book had so little interest? How could they have born the weight of not knowing. I certainly couldn't. A trembling finger pushed under the edge of the envelope and opened it.

Nothing... of course I hadn't won... but for just five or so minutes before that was confirmed I was already, in my head, half way to Los Angeles...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Penguin Poets: Auden

D41 in the Penguin Poets series. I'm always delighted, of course, to find a new one for the Penguin Poets shelf but I'm becoming aware that they aren't the easiest thing in the world to collect. I have 28 different titles now and a few duplicates but there are numerous titles that I can see in the series list that I've never laid eyes on. Also, the timing of the really cool patterned papers seems quite narrow compared to the span of the publishing project as a whole. Anyway, that's the fun of it I suppose: and finding one like this can, and did, make me squeal like a girl.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Beautiful Marble (and other) Bodies

Images of statuary are perhaps some of the least rated by collectors of postcards. Obviously there will be exceptions to prove the rule but on the whole, at a postcard fair, you will usually find this kind of thing in the bargain boxes at the end of a dealer's table. Given a predilection for both beautiful marble bodies and vintage photography it might seem strange that I have never taken advantage of the low prices and formed a collection of my own. I am strong... well, I was until today when I came across a small group of real photo (on the whole) postcards of some very beautiful marble bodies for pennies in a local bookshop. From top to bottom they are:

1. Ganymede by Cellini from the Museo Nazionale in Florence
2. Ercole Fights the Centaur in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence
3. Neptune and Glaucus by Bernini from the collection of the Early of Yarborough
4. The Bronze Age by Rodin in the Carlsberg Glyptotek
5. Adoratio by Stephan Sinding in the Carlsberg Glyptotek
6. The Swimmer by John B√∂rjeson in the Carlsberg Glyptotek (this chap has appeared before on Front Free Endpaper)
7. Statue of the Emporer Augustus at the Musee Lapidaire
8. Triton by Rutelli in the Piazza del Duomo, Monreale, Sicily
9. Aiace at the Loggia dei Lanzi

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