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 Children of the Flames: 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.

Rescued a Young Victorian Chap

 Well, the photograph itself is in fairly poor condition but I could hardly leave such a handsome chap in the shop to deteriorate further now, could I?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Rockwell Kent illustrates Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself"

Rockwell Kent (1882-1971), hardly needs an introduction from me, as Wikipedia has it he was an "American painter, printmaker, illustrator, writer, sailor and adventurer", which seems appropriate for someone whose best known work is he illustrations for Moby Dick. Perhaps it was some of those vast, placid, ocean skies and seascapes that informed the expansive use of white space and stillness in his illustration work. Heritage Press produced an edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass illustrated by Kent and he peppered a huge book with what must be well over a hundred crisp black and white illustrations. The ones I have scanned here all come from his decoration around the long poem "Song of Myself".

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mr Anon and Mr Anonymous

I am mildly annoyed with myself that this post is more anonymous than perhaps it needed to be. I just found these fabulous images from a early 20th Century photo album in my "to blog" folder and I know, from the file names, that they must have come from ebay. But I'm afraid, if there was any accompanying information from the listing, I am now unable to find it. Nonetheless, it's a great little album and, I hope, still worth sharing.

Bernard Bowerman illustrates Jane's Country Year

There is something almost as satisfying about a 'through the year' book as there is in an alphabet book, a sense of rounded completion about the whole. The internet tells me that Jane's Country Year was Malcolm Saville's favourite of his own books. You will not be surprised to hear it is about Jane, living a year, in the country! Each chapter is a month and each has a number of illustrations including a full-page work. It's the full page illustrations, one per month and in order from January to December, that I have scanned and posted here. I know little of Bernard Bowerman but I find there is something rather satisfying about the use of black and flat colours in these images. These were scanned from the 1946 first edition published by Newnes.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Geoffrey Whittam illustrates The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

It's always fun to see how different illustrators approach classic texts that have already been illustrated many times before. This edition of Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is illustrated by Geoffrey Whittam (b.1916 - d.c.1998). He was a professional illustrator and artist pretty much from the moment he got back from the Second World War. He was known for work on nautical subjects but also for a large number of 'pony books', children's books designed for girls which invariably included ponies and the adventures one could have on them. Partly overlapping with that he was also a major (and favourite) illustrator of Monica Edwards' books. This edition of Tom Sawyer was published in the Heirloom Library series, probably in the 1950s

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Gleeson White and Kains-Jackson at Auction

If you have a lot of money and collect obscure (and otherwise) turn of the last century literature, you should probably look away now: unless you are the lucky new owner of this little beauty. This was auctioned at Bonhams a few weeks ago, a commonplace book I suppose you might call it, put together by the inestimable Joseph Gleeson White, Gleeful to his friends, critic and first editor of The Studio. GW was a central figure in the arts and literature of his period, over the turn of the last century, and was extremely highly thought of by all his contemporaries. He was ceaselessly kind and supportive to young, new talent and despite his early death he had a much greater influence on the art and writing of the time than is generally acknowledged.

The book above contains poems, letters, cuttings, and so on sent to him by all manner of people. My interest is particularly piqued by the presence of poems and letters from Charles Kains-Jackson whose letters from Frederick Rolfe I edited and published a while ago. In the illustration you can see a number of items from Kains-Jackson signed P.C. which were his middle initials.

Have a read of the extensive description on the Bonhams site for the role call of names represented in the book but I suspect the most interesting part of the description for many readers of this blog will be mention of a letter from Kains-Jackson written at the time of the Cleveland Street Scandal where he remarks, "The Euston case has concentrated all the public attention on one of the raid[ed] houses and thus makes things easier for the rest" which is a fascinating insight not only into the knowledge of that little group but also because of the casual way in which he mentions, "the rest" which presumably are a host of male brothels now lost to history except in that casual reference.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ralph Chubb Ephemera

Had the opportunity to look at a collection of Ralph Chubb books the other day. Among all the amazing printing, calligraphy, mysticism and art work, what was it that made me stop and look? An order form!

There is still something so attractive about the more ephemeral things in life and this sheet, an order form for Chubb's The Sun Spirit was handwritten then duplicated by him and hand coloured too at the top there. You have to wonder how many of these there are left in the world. There may be more Ralph Chubb on the blog in the near future, keep your eyes peeled if you are a fan.

Short Lists

It has actually been a few weeks now since the release of my latest Short List. It seems amazing that it could be number 25! For those of you who don't know, these lists are irregular short catalogues of items for sale. They are designed with the interests of the people on my mailing list in mind, they might contain anywhere from 30-50 items and those items will all be new stock that I am not yet selling anywhere else. So, in other words, it's a chance to have first dibs at new and interesting things coming in to Callum James Books. The frequency varies. Occasionally, if busy, there might be one a month, more usually they are issued every other month or every third. If you want to receive these as they are issued, all you need to do is be on my mailing list and that simply means sending an email to the link at the top right of this page and saying 'please can I be on the mailing list' !! Simple! It helps if you also give me an idea of the kind of things you look for, this is not so that I can 'hard sell' directly at you... it simply means I know what to look out for when rummaging and keeps the short lists directed properly at the people who receive it.
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