Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ralph Chubb: The Book of Rapha

Ralph Chubb's books were things which combined word, image and physicality in an extraordinary way. He wrote that, in his search for the perfect book "I always visualized a method which would combine poetical idea, script and designs, in free and harmonious rhythm - all unified together - so as to be mutually dependent and significant." The degree to which he succeeded in this aim is open to debate, but certainly he did so to such an extent that there has never been a serious effort to reprint his works and one has to imagine that this is at least in part due to the difficulty of doing justice to them, the best of which are extraordinary concoctions of lithographed images and text as well as hand-colouring where the image and text really are co-dependent.

What this means though is that the texts he wrote have remained less known than they might have otherwise. So I thought it might be worthwhile reproducing here these pages from a strange 1980s magazine called Ganymede which was a peculiar admixture of writings on the occult and spirituality from a gay perspective. They have reprinted here "The Golden Book of Rapha" which, as I understand it, (because I don't have a collection of Ralph Chubb's books sitting behind me on the shelf), was published in Flames of Sunrise: a Book of the Man Child concerning the Redemption of Albion. The original book was published in 1954, lithographed by the author/artist in 25 copies with 6 painted in watercolour. It should be noted that this cheaply duplicated A5 magazine has used illustrations from Chubb's other books to illustrate this piece.

Tim d'Arch Smith suggests that it may be the Second World War had brought on a re-occurrence of the neurasthenia that afflicted Chubb because of his experiences of fighting in the first. Chubb appears at this point to be identifying with the angel Raph, or Raphael, or at least the prophet of said angel, the guardian angel of Albion. He is combining this with his visionary erotic fantasies and a dubious understanding of mainstream Christianity. There is a manic intensity to this writing in which ideas are pulled together in seemingly random and unsystematic ways and thrown into the text to almost overwhelm the reader. But it is often said, of course, that insanity and divine revelation are two side of the same phenomenon and Chubb's writing here certainly a testimony to that truth.

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