Thursday, September 18, 2014

Who is the Nobelist of them all?



Found - a press-cutting of a letter written to the British medical magazine Pulse (' at the heart of General Practice since 1960.') Not dated, but probably from the late 1970s. It concerns the controversy over the discovery of insulin and was in response to an article "Who is the Nobelist of them all?'. On the following evidence it is possible that Banting is the man…


Nobelist?

Sir,-  may I add this footnote to your absorbing  "Who is the Nobelist of them all?" (PULSE, October 29) : 

Banting and Best  discovered insulin in J.J. Macleod's laboratory when the professor was away on holiday in Scotland. On his return, Mcleod published a paper on the discovery of insulin mentioning that a Doctor Banting had lent a hand.

Banting  was furious and never spoke to Macleod again. When the Carolinian Institute offered the Nobel Prize to McLeod and Banting, he refused until the names of been reversed. He asked for Best to be included, and since the institution turned this down he gave him half his share of the prize money. – Yours, etc, Dr H. Pullar-Strecker, Isleworth.

There is a good article at Wikipedia on Insulin which backs all this up and adds that J.J. Macleod also split his share with another colleague James Collip.

Banting and Best 1924

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hector Whistler


Co-editors Anthony Dickins and Tambimuttu, who Geoffrey Grigson appropriately nicknamed ‘Tutti-Frutti’, made an unusual choice when they asked the thirty-four old Hector Whistler to illustrate the debut issue of Poetry early in 1939. Trained at the Slade and the Architectural Association schools, the multi-talented Whistler, who was related to American genius James McNeill Whistler and was cousin to both Rex and Laurence, was better known as a muralist, having, five years earlier, executed some rather unusual wall paintings at the council-owned Aero Café on the Marine Esplanade in Ramsgate.

Alas, the murals, which were supposed to be temporary anyway, were obliterated along with the whole Lido complex on Ramsgate’s waterfront, some time ago, and unlike the more celebrated Vorticist wall decorations by Wyndham Lewis in La Tour Eiffel restaurant, off the Tottenham Court Road, which also disappeared, there doesn’t seem to be any record of what they looked like. The curious art lover will just have to look up Whistler’s other decorations for books to imagine what holidaymakers and the residents of Thanet lost when the despoilers moved in. [RMH]


Monday, September 15, 2014

A Son of Belial (Balliol)


Found in one of our old catalogues this curious satirical work by Martin Geldart describing the hell of his undergraduate years at Balliol College, Oxford.

Martin Geldart (writing as 'Nitram Tradleg') A SON OF BELIAL. Autobiographical sketches by Nitram Tradleg.  (Trubner, London 1882). 8vo. pp viii, 250. Autobiographical 'sketches.' Geldart was at Balliol with Gerard Manley Hopkins who is mentioned several times in the text as 'Gerontius Manley.' A witty satire of Balliol life,  in which Geldart refers to Hopkins as my 'ritualistic friend.'** Hopkins wrote to his mother that Geldart was 'the ugliest man I have ever laid eyes on', although he had been a friend and even stayed with Geldart's family in one Oxford holiday. The phrase 'Sons of Belial' was apparently used by Newman to refer to the orgies that took place at his college on Trinity Monday. Rev. Edmund Martin Geldart, M.A., disappeared from the tidal boat from Newhaven to Dieppe in 1889, aged 41. Apart from this book he wrote several works relating to the language and literature of Modern Greece, on which he was an acknowledged authority.

It appears to have been a slightly used copy and sold (not rapidly) for £120 in 2002.

** "Gerontius Manley and I had many talks on religion. He was quite at one with me on the hollowness of Protestant orthodoxy, but he had a simple remedy-the authority of the Church. The right of private judgment must in the long run inevitably lead to Rationalism."

Sons of Belial is now the name of a 'progressive death metal' band from the UK, aiming their music at  fans of Tesseract, Monuments, Ion Dissonance, Animals As Leaders. Album cover below...



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Angus Wilson and Evelyn Waugh - the tweed connection


Found - this enigmatic pair of pictures in a 1980s Japanese book on English literature. The book was in a box of foreign language books from the estate  of the novelist Angus Wilson. The inscription in Japanese is probably to him from an academic that he had met on one of his lecture tours to Japan in the 1960s. He had befriended Yukio Mishima while there and the great samurai stayed with him at his Suffolk cottage on a trip to England.

The notable item in the photo is that Evelyn Waugh and Angus Wilson appear to be wearing the same brand of tweed...it is possible that at the time in Japan it was assumed that all English novelists wore nothing but tweed..The connection between the two men,however, is slightly  deeper. Waugh was a great admirer of Wilson, especially his novel The Old Men at the Zoo which he vigorously defended in a long letter from his country pile Combe Florey to The Spectator in 1961, after it was attacked by their critic John Mortimer. Which novelist wore the tweed first is (so far) unknown.

Hope Mirrlees 'Paris' 1919



Hope Mirrlees. Paris. (Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, Richmond 1919-1920)

The rediscovery of the Scottish writer Hope Mirrlees (1887 – 1978) may be principally due to the merits of her one masterpiece, the long poem Paris, which the Woolfs published in 1920. Only 175 copies of the 600 line poem were produced, which means that it now belongs with Pound’s early privately printed work as a true rara avis of modernism. In 2011 a dealer had a superb copy for $8,000 which has now sold. Predictably, critics today use the modish term 'psychogeographical' to describe the poem, which is a daring, impressionistic tour in French and English through the French capital and has been described as the 'missing link between French avant-garde poetry and The Waste Land.' The stylistic parallels are obvious, and the influences of Pound and other Imagists, are noticeable too:-

…Gambetta 
A red stud in the button-hole of his frock-coat
The obscene conjugal tutoiment
Mais, c’est logique
The Esprit de Francais is leaning over him
Whispering…

…Cloacae
Hot indiarubber
Poudre de riz
Algerian tobacco

Monsieur Jourdain in the blue and red of the Zouaves
Is premier danseur in the Ballet Turque
‘Ya bon
Mama mouchi…

And so on. Paris is undoubtedly a brilliant debut and deserved the care and attention that the Woolfs devoted to it. The paper for the covers, for instance, is the same paper used as endpapers on the first edition of Jacob’s Room. Virginia Woolf hand-set the proofs herself and hand-corrected the final copies. From her diaries it would seem that the novelist /publisher regarded her brilliant, multi-lingual, young protégé, whose family fortune derived from diesel and sugar, with a mixture of admiration and disdain. She was:

...a very self-conscious, willful, prickly and perverse young woman, rather conspicuously well-dressed and pretty, with a view of her own about books and style, an aristocratic and conservative tendency in opinion & a corresponding taste for the beautiful & elaborate in literature.


Oddly, Eliot himself has little or anything to say of Paris, at least in his published letters of the period, although he came to know Mirrlees well in later years and indeed wrote portions of The Four Quartets at her home at Shamley Green, Surrey.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Artists as foreign spies



It is a fact that many signposts were temporarily removed, especially in rural areas, during the Second World War, and that countrymen were advised to report sightings of suspicious foreign looking and foreign sounding individuals in their district. What is not generally known, I suspect, is that an artist plying his or her trade as a landscape painter could have come under the gaze of local busybodies, including members of the Home Guard, who may have reported them to the authorities.


This could explain why many of the watercolour sketches executed during the middle years of the War in various locations in the West Country - but mainly in Somerset- by the acclaimed etcher and watercolourist Nathaniel Sparks(1880 – 1956) bear the familiar stamp of the Censor on the reverse. The actual wording on one sketch is : ‘Passed for publication, 21 Jul 1943, No. 34…Press and Censorship Bureau ‘.At this time Sparks, a rather eccentric character with a peripatetic bent, was wandering around favourite locations centred on Wincanton, possibly at times sleeping rough or with gypsies, and invariably looking dishevelled and tramp-like. His appearance alone may have given rise to suspicion from locals, who could have surmised that his role as an artist was excellent cover for a foreign spy. Suspicion may have been further heightened when it was discovered that many of the sketches featured in the distance the Tower in Stourton Park, a famous local landmark.

A statement from Chaplin via Raymond Williams


Found in a copy of Preface to Film (Film Drama Limited, London  1954) this statement by Charlie (Charles) Chaplin. 
An interesting and rare book by two notable figures from the 1940s - Michael Orrom and Raymond Williams. The dust jacket art is by Michael Stringer, an illustrator mainly associated with natural history books. Williams was an important academic, novelist and member of the 'New Left' and Orrom , also a man of the left, became a documentary film maker. Chaplin's statement first appeared in the magazine The Adelphi in 1924, this is probably its first appearance in a book. Orrom and Williams' book advances new film theories: the blurb states: 'The main belief of the authors is that naturalism, as a dramatic method and technique in the film, is not finally satisfactory...' There is one change in Chaplin's statement from the 1924 version, possibly a misprint - 'terrifying' becomes 'terrific.'

I prefer my own taste as a truer expression of what the public wants of me than anything that I can fathom out of the things that I observe either in my own work or in that of others who are unmistakably successful. 

I have heard directors, scenario writers, and others who are directly concerned with the shape that the motion picture shall take, argue under the shadow of this great fear of the public. They begin with a good idea, then they lose courage and deceive themselves. The consciousness of what the public will want is for them so terrific [terrifying.]If they do something that is a little different because they have forgotten while filming the episode that there is such a thing as an audience, they are in doubt about it when they stop to consider. It is difficult to consider the public secondarily, but unless the person making the picture can achieve that state, there will be no originality in his work. [Charles Chaplin]

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tales from the Second Hand Book Trade 7


A few last stray tales of strange house calls, some straining belief…  A dealer is called to a house full of books in North London. When he arrived he realised there was a noisy afternoon party going on that had developed into an orgy and he swears he had to tread on the odd buttock as he made his way to the desirable book collection. The call had come through his ad in Time Out and he noted many of the participants were not young. Being a dealer he did not make an excuse and leave but made a good offer and returned to clear the books after the last reveller had left.

Legendary book scout Martin Stone swears he bought a great collection of modern firsts from an adult bookshop in Liverpool after the owner was shot dead one lunchtime by a crazed gunman. There were a dozen new copies of Clockwork Orange - first editions, fine in fine jackets - the trouble was that most were slightly flecked with the late owner's blood.

At another house the owner of the books, a Rachman type landlord, refused to part with some of the books after accepting the money in cash from a mild mannered book dealer. Half of the books had been loaded into to the waiting Volvo when he cried 'you've had enough.' During an argument he struck the dealer's brother, an unwise move as said brother had a fiery Irish temper. The altercation became heated, further violent blows were exchanged and the police were called by one of his tenants. None of his rather cowed tenants would witness against their landlord and they never got the other half of the books that they had paid for. One of the police remarked 'I thought bookselling was a quiet sort of job.'

Another dealer (actually the same chap who bought books during an orgy, and now a very upmarket antiquaire) found himself getting arrested during another house call. His patch was South London - which explains it. He was at the apartment of some fallen posh boys, like something out of the movie Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. He was up a ladder looking at some pretty decent leather bound sets (not just Scott, but Wilkie Collins, Hardy, Le Fanu, Austen etc.,) the last gasp of a country house library. Suddenly the police burst in and arrested the half dozen upper class layabouts and hauled them off with our friend - who was ordered to come down off the ladder and shut up. He protested vehemently about having nothing to do with it all. Later that day he was released with an apology, his father being some kind of Q.C. Apparently the lads had been importing hashish from Morocco. He never got the books.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Ghost Man - a blurb from the 1930s

Found in the massive and unending Donald Rudd collection of detective fiction -a Gerald Verner thriller The Ghost Man (Wright and Brown, London 1936) in its sensational jacket.
Gerald Verner was the pseudonym of John Robert Stuart Pringle. He had over 130 books published under four names during his lifetime and was hugely popular with his audience and a favourite of the Duke of Windsor, who was presented with an especially bound set of 15 of Verner's thrillers. He attempted to take over the mantle of the prolific (and wealthy) Edgar Wallace after his death in 1932. The jacket has elements of Wallace, even down to the style of the logo. The blurb on the inside flap reads:


Who was the man called Conner, bank robber and murderer, who was hanged at Wandsworth Prison? What connections did he have with the murderer of the Shabby Peddler in the garden of Janet Lacey's country cottage? Why did he search the place so thoroughly before he was killed? And what was the significance of the stanza from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam? Mr Gerald Verner's new mystery is  so full of excitement, his plots so ingenious, mysterious, and so subtly unfolded that it will be impossible
to put the book down until the last word has been read.

The book is not listed by Bleiler (Supernatural Fiction) or George Locke (Spectrum of Fantasy)which would indicate the ghost is rationally explained. It is, however, an Omar Khayyam item..

World War 2 free book campaign

Found - a stamp in the front of a book reading: 'Dear Friend, This book comes to you with every good wish from the people of Leicester. May it help you to spend happily some of your hours off duty. GOOD LUCK. From The City of Leicester.'

It was in a copy of Brahms and Simon's A Bullet in the Ballet (Joseph, London 1937.) This was probably part of  a campaign to give off-duty service men and women a free book to read in the latter days of World War 2 - and also to welcome them to towns near their bases. There is slight evidence from online research that this was a British Council initiative. Possibly it was aimed at American troops...

Two books appear in online libraries bearing  this stamp. The first is Lord Raglan's The Science of Peace (Methuen, London 1933) with a similarly stamp but from 'Tunton' (probably a misprint for Taunton). This was at  the Royal Anthropological Institute. The other was a 'Bacon-wrote-Shakespeare'  book that had made its way to the Kirov Order of Honour Universal Regional Scientific Library in Russia.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Blurb - the beginnings


The American humourist and illustrator Gelett Burgess is not much known in the UK. However, his very witty take on clichés and platitudes, Are You a Bromide ? (1907), deserves a place in the pantheon of classic US humour. Not only does it differentiate between Bromides and Sulphites—the former referring to someone set in their ways who uses trite sayings, while the latter are original thinkers with perceptive things to say, but it spawned the term ‘blurb’, which, of course, is still used today to describe a publisher’s puff for a new work.

The problem is that this word only appeared on the dust-jacket of Burgess’s book, which meant that—dust-jackets being discarded back then, as they still are, by all types of libraries, but not, thank goodness, by dealers—the term probably didn’t catch on as quickly as it should have done. And if it hadn’t been for scholars of book history, like dust-jacket supremo, Thomas Tanselle, the wrapper for Are You a Bromide might never have been brought into the light of day. Certainly, it was more innovative and amusing than most of this period. While the typical wrapper might   feature a slightly modified reproduction of the title page, with perhaps some modest art work, Burgess’s is more like an advertising poster for the book. Hence it demonstrates precisely what a ‘blurb‘ was by giving an example of it. Clever stuff! [R.R.]

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Radiesthesia-----the swing of the pendulum


Radiesthesia---or dowsing, as it is more familiarly known-- has become trendy again. With devotees such as The Duchess of York, Jerry Hall, Cherie Blair and ahem… Dr Radovan Karodicz, who could fail to be curious about this ancient art of self-exploration? Indeed, the well know poet, psychiatrist, alleged war criminal and Santa Claus lookalike, was actually making a living out of radiesthesia, among other 'alternative therapies' , when he was captured in 2008.

 This 1950 first edition of Elementary Radiesthesia, a 48 page pamphlet by devoted dowser, naval officer and veteran of two World Wars, F.A.Archdale, was discovered in a pile of similar oddities that once belonged to the fantasy and penny ballad collector Leslie Shepherd. Printed in Christchurch, Hants, it was published by the author from his home, just down the road in Bournemouth, and sold, according to the sticker inside its front cover, by The Psychic News Book Shop at  140 High Holborn.

The foreword was provided by another local Hampshire bigwig , this time from Barton-on-Sea, one C. L .Cooper-Hunt, M.A.,M.S.F., PsD.,MsD.,D.D., who called himself  ‘Radiesthetic Consultant and Late President of the Radionic Asssociation of Great Britain’. Just what the middle seven of these letters meant in 1950 is beyond me-- I suspect they are made up, like his Doctorate in Divinity. Cooper-Hunt was a very active lecturer in the Bournemouth area, where, in giving talks, he added Major to his name. One thing is certain --- he had been an Army Chaplain (third class) in the Great War.

All this puffery does not bode well for the promotion of radiesthesia, but Archdale comes across as a straightforward and accessible interpreter of the ‘science’. He begins by saying what radiesthesia is not. It is not, he contends, magic or illusion; it is not a parlour game; it cannot foretell winners of races or football matches, as it is concerned with the past and present, not the future. What is can do, he maintains, is discover, through the medium of a pendulum, hidden objects and concealed diseases. In fact he had been won over by the powers of the pendulum when he witnessed a practitioner locate an object he had hidden in his house. He himself later demonstrated, using radiesthesia, that a man he had never seen in his life before suffered from an injury to his lower leg.

You see, the success of radiesthesia as a tool, depends on the power of ‘micro waves’ or ‘ radiations’  present in outside sources that pass into the pendulum ‘ which by its movements, enables you to perceive and measure the external influences you are, quite unwittingly receiving.’

At this point I left Mr Archdale, but from the little I did read, I could see some similarities to the ‘science’ that Uri Geller offers as an explanation for his metal-bending feats. The controversial plant physiologist Dr Rupert Sheldrake has also written about similar forces. We are urged to have an open mind about such phenomena…but if only C.L.Cooper and Dr Karodicz hadn’t got in on the act. [RH]

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

John Osborne observed in 1959

Reading Which of Us Two? The Story of a Love Affair (Viking, London 1990).It is the record of a 'youthful, illicit and intense' relationship between John Tasker (1933 – 1988) the theatre director and Colin Spencer (born 1933) artist and writer. Spencer uses a  collection of letters the lovers wrote to each other (his were returned after John Tasker's death) and considers the relationship and why he 'murdered its future'. Spencer makes acute and amusing comments on literary figures including John Osborne (whose library we bought last year). This entry was starred by Osborne in his copy:

 17.iii. 59. Yesterday I began drawing the great Mr Osborne, tall, thin, spectral: in black skin-tight trousers that showed a cute bottom and a huge lunch. And camp, my dear – not 'arf.  And the musical, my dear, cor that's a queer dish too, everybody changes their sex halfway through and deliciously lovely Adrienne Corri grows hair on her chest. Most peculiar: he was moving about so much, it's only the second week of rehearsals...though I did some lightning things with a brush, it just won't do so I'm going back after Easter and try some more. He has a curiously camp voice and he appears to stare at one with his teeth...

Colin Spencer says of this letter:

The John Osborne musical was of course The World of Paul Slickey, soon to become the only commercial failure of his early years. [We]admired Look Back in Anger, our generation felt that Osborne encapsulated the rage

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Djuna Barnes 'The Ladies Almanack' (1928)

Found in one of our catalogues from 2002 a very limited and exquisite edition of Djuna Barnes's The Ladies Almanack. It was found by Martin Stone in Paris and was catalogued by him for us. It sold fairly easily to a high end London dealer for £5000.

Djuna Barnes 'The Ladies Almanack' (Privately published, Paris 1928)

Small 4to.  pp 80. Illustrated. Number 4 of  10 copies on Verge de Vidalon with illustrations hand coloured by Djuna Barnes. The  complete first edition  was 1050 copies  In full vellum wraps with highly attractive hand coloured cover. Signed on the limitation page in Djuna Barnes hand as 'A Lady of Fashion' and also on fep presented  to Lady Rothermere signed  'Djuna Barnes, Paris 1928.' Lady Rothermere was married to the press baron Viscount Rothermere (Lord Harmsworth) and was  the patron of various writers most notably T.S. Eliot who was able to give up his bank job due to her financial assistance. 'Ladies Almanack'  was printed by Darantiere in Dijon and has a curious publishing history - it was originally to be published by Edward Titus at the Black Manikin Press in Paris. However when Djuna Barnes found out how much Titus was charging her she decided to publish and distribute the book herself with financial help from Robert McAlmon. The name Edward Titus is blacked out on the title page in all copies. The ordinary edition was $10, the hand coloured one of 40  $25 and the ten hand coloured and signed copies were $50 a sizeable sum in 1928. The work, a celebration of female sexuality and a rebuke to heterosexual patriarchy, portrays in disguised form, many of the cultural and artistic elite of the Parisian avant garde of the time- epecially the Lesbian circle which was gathered around Natalie Clifford Barney - Janet Flanner, Romaine Brooks, Solita Solano, Dolly Wilde ('Doll Furious') Lady Una Troubridge ('Lady Tilly Tweed-in-Blood') and Radclyffe Hall. Janet Flanner called her 'the most important woman writer we had in Paris.' In fine  fresh condition - an exemplary copy of this beautiful expatriate book; in tirage de tete the black orchid of Lesbian literature.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Laurence Ambrose Waldron


Found in a collection of other examples, this is rather dull little bookplate, considering it came from the library of Laurence Ambrose Waldron (1858 – 1923), one of Ireland’s great and good in the first two decades of the twentieth century-- a patron of the Arts, a Nationalist politician, public benefactor, and ardent book collector with a library of several thousand volumes.

The conventional design of the bookplate is even more bewildering when we consider that Waldron was such an Arts and Crafts enthusiast, that in the early 1900s he built a mansion, which he christened ‘Marino’ in this style at Ballybrack, just outside Dublin. He later commissioned the Beardsley-influenced cult illustrator Harry Clarke to create nine exquisite stained glass illustration of Synge’s Queens (below) for his new library there. In 1998, after having not been seen since 1928, these were sold by Christies for over £300,000.

The only possible explanation seems to be that Waldron had the bookplate printed some time before his enthusiasm for Arts and Crafts and Clarke took off. As he succeeded his much more conservative father (also called Laurence) at the age of 17  in 1875, the design was probably made between this date and the building of ‘Marino’. [RH]