Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (3)

Bear Hudson authors

Much could be written about “Elmer Elliot Saks”, better known as F Dubrez Fawcett or as the main “Griff” of many near-the-knuckle paperbacks. With short page counts and fast typing he could breeze through a book a fortnight and still take afternoons off.

The House of Fear by “Frank Richards” reminds us that Charles Hamilton had years of wartime struggles, scraping along in low-paying marginal markets before his post-war resurgence with Billy Bunter in books, theatre and TV.

(Image courtesy of Friardale)

(Image courtesy of Friardale)

Frank Griffin in Nos. 525 and 538 may have been the F. Griffin who wrote Bear Hudson’s factual No. 518, Women’s Legal Problems. However, he was more obviously the Frank Griffin who wrote pulp action paperbacks for Mellifont, Hamiltons and others.

Pure non-fiction contributors also intrigue. No. 515 The 20th Century Guide to London was by Vernon Sommerfield, a pre-WWII transport writer who had broadcast as early as 1925 on “The Human Side of Railways” from 2LO, the forerunner of the BBC; his son was the noted political activist/novelist John Sommerfield.

And who was W.T. Baker, author of the atypical polemic I Speak to the Workers, No. 503? A review of his book mentioned that “Under the pen-name of “Benchfitter” he has contributed frequently to house-organs published by the staffs of factories.” Clearly Mr Baker had spoken to the workers before. Did his proposed next book, ‘Two-tenths of a thou’ from Nazi domination, ever appear? Apparently not. Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (2)

Bear Hudson numbered booklets

The first Bear Hudson booklet was Be Clever with Leather, numbered 501. (No doubt the numbers 1 to 500 were left clear for Bernards.) The highest Bear Hudson number I know of was No. 555, How to Make Rugs, by F.J. Christopher. Some titles carried both the general number and a subset number within a “Model Engineering Series”.

Incidentally, the first few titles were published from 14 The Broadway, Hammersmith, W.6, before the firm settled down at Goldhawk Road, W.12. (A reprint of Be Clever with Leather had the old address on its front cover and the new address on its back, before a further reprint saw 63 Goldhawk Road reach the front cover at last.)

(web image)

(web image)

The Bear Hudson publishing story had several twists and turns. Omitting various oddities of 1946-48 for now, I would place the numbered booklets into three main phases:

1943-5             mostly craft/DIY subjects

1946                mainly pulp fiction

1947-50           returning to crafts

Booklet prices and formats

The prices ranged from 1/- to 2s.6d (5p to 12½p in modern money), with a very few at 6d or 3s.6d. This may have seemed expensive at the time for small stapled pamphlets, but in wartime the printers often controlled the scarce paper stocks and could negotiate a high cover price to increase their own profits. The flimsy pink interior paper just visible in the early printing of Be Clever with Leather above may have been an attempt to imitate home pattern paper, or may have been simply what was available; later impressions saw variations in paper, printers and even the number of staples. (Wartime shortages may explain why, for example, Bernards’ booklet No. 42 used eye-straining dark red paper, while No.51 was slightly more legible on blue.) Most Bear Hudson titles were printed on ordinary white paper. Continue reading

Bear Hudson publishing – The Bear Facts (1)

Sent in by  David Redd this original history of London publisher Bear, Hudson Limited. For which much thanks. Here is the opening part– the rest will follow over the next few weeks..

Introduction

This is the book which caught my eye:

The Terror of Timorkal by Festus Pragnell

(Image courtesy of Brian Ameringen and the SF Encyclopedia Gallery)

It was small, old (1946), oddly-shaped, and from a publisher new to me, Bear Hudson Limited of London. Over a few years I acquired this and other slightly strange little books from the same firm. Bear Hudson, I discovered, had a bafflingly varied mixture of titles and writers:

  • Dames Spell Trouble!
  • Say It with Violence!
  • Model Railway Construction!
  • Make Your Own Motors!
  • Women’s Legal Problems!
  • N Wesley Firth!
  • Eudora Welty!
  • Frank Richards without Billy Bunter!
  • Bob Hope!
  • The Curate Finds the Corpse!
  • The Case of the Indiana Torturer!
  • and a possible relationship with “Bernards’ Radio Manuals”.

Forgive my lack of title-differentiation and excess of exclamation marks. I have tried investigating to make sense of the wide variation in publications, but Bear Hudson seems to have been the original moving target.

I hope my limited findings may intrigue or amuse – and I hope that someone more knowledgeable may fill in at least a few of the many gaps.

–David Redd, 5th February, 2017.

Continue reading

Collecting Nudist Literature

Nudist magazine GermanFound in the December 1935 issue of The Collector’s Miscellany is this extract from Nudelife, a magazine devoted to Naturism.

To the astonishing number of hobbies, quaint, varied, cheap, expensive, voluminous or requiring very little space of time, already practised by countless numbers of all ranks, sexes, ages and colour throughout the whole world, may be added this new one—thanks to nudism—that of collecting nudist magazines, either for pride of possession, or scientific, art or educational adjuncts. The field is a new one, and provided a spice of novelty, not to say thrills or even risk, inasmuch very many foreign publications, particularly German, have been prohibited or suppressed. To collect these latter publications is no crime, but they must be kept private and for the purposes above mentioned to be absolutely on the safe side. The number of German magazines have been many and varied and of comparatively short duration except in the case of an outstanding two or three. They are marked chiefly for their frank portrayal of free-body culture between the sexes in the open fields or nudist camps, with a few indoor nude studies sandwiched in between, in the matter of half-tone illustrations, which are noted for their beauty of form, relation to natural surroundings, valued instruction in sex hygiene, the value of sunlight in health . The word obscene has crept in with regard to these magazines, which are displayed for sale or are sold for a purpose other than as necessary adjuncts to the culture of science, art or specific education. In this case it would be most advisable to earmark the collection under one or more of these headings and mark strictly private and personal. In our case they become included in our Nudelife dossier for the relativity of the movement. Some other nudist countries, or better still, some other countries having a nudist movement within its confines, have at one or two publications which will eventually be more accessible and obtainable perhaps than was the case of Germany, for collectors.

So here we have a justification, on the grounds of their educational or scientific value,  for collecting what, in a recent Jot, R. Edynbry argues are merely obscene “ art “ magazines, fit only for the stupid and ignorant. Despite the fact that the anonymous author of this piece emphasises the legality of collecting nudist magazines, the whole defence is set about with cautions and suggestions as to how such material might be kept away from the prying eyes of the censor. [R.M.Healey]   

Fake news—-1932 style

Buddha matches

Found in the Jan-Feb 1932 issue of Collector’s Miscellany is this report on a bizarre anti-religion campaign rumoured to have been created by the USSR.

‘It has been extremely difficult to secure definite information relating to the anti-religious match-box labels said to have been issued by the Soviet Government as part of their anti-God campaign. The one illustrated in this issue depicts the crucification of Christ and bears the words “Jesus Christ Safety Matches”. This label is understood to be one of a series, as there are said to be others depicting the Sacred Heart and various other religious subjects.

       These matches which have been the subject of much comment in the daily press, are said to have been hawked upon the streets of London by gutter merchants and that a member of Parliament raised the question in the House of Commons as to whether any action was being taken by the British Government.

         One thing is certain, and that is these labels are likely to be rare; I do not know of any collector in this country fortunate enough to secure a specimen. A London correspondent assured me that the matches were never sold in London but were produced by the Krishna Match Co. of India, who also issue of BUDDHA MATCH, and others featuring various Indian religions. Personally, I am inclined to favour this statement, as the box in question, said to have been bought in the New Cut, may easily have been bought from India by some seaman.                                                                                                        (JOSEPH PARKS ) Continue reading

Wilmarth Lewis—book collector extraordinaire

Strawberry Hill catalogue 1842Found in a copy of John O’London’s Weekly for 18th April 1952 is a review of Collector’s Progress by Wilmarth Lewis ( 1895 – 1979) in which the author reveals that the combination of wealth and a collector’s obsession brought about the greatest collection of manuscripts relating to Horace Walpole in the world.

In his book Lewis revealed that he had always been a born collector. At the age of five he collected house flies in a discarded cigar box. A year later he had turned to shells. Stamps, coins and butterflies followed. Eventually, he began to collect books, starting with standard works and moving on to first editions. On the way to Europe by ship to fight in the First World War he met John Masefield, who introduced him to the writings of Horace Walpole. As a result of this meeting he collected a complete set of Masefield first editions. In 1923, at the age of 28 he had $5,000 a year (a large sum in those days) to spend on books. He was an enthusiast for the eighteenth century, but had not yet decided which particular eighteenth century writer to collect. Eventually, in 1923,after buying in London a copy of Jesse’s George Selwyn and his Contemporaries annotated by the bluestocking Lady Louisa Stuart, he returned to Horace Walpole, vowing to assemble the finest collection of Walpoliana– mainly letters and Strawberry Hill books– in the world. In 1952 he described his Library thus: Continue reading

A new kind of bookshop in 1930s New York City

Drew elizabeth pic 001Discovered in a copy of The Publisher’s Weekly for March 22nd 1930 is this feature by John D. Stannard on a New York bookshop that aimed, with its decorations and objets d’art, to emulate the comfort and charm of a private library.

Elizabeth Drew, a graduate of Vassar College and her ‘ associate’ , the artist Jessie Leach Rector, opened their (unnamed) shop on 43 East 60th Street in September, 1929, just a few weeks before the Wall Street Crash. Designed to be an antidote to the ‘ graceless ‘stores that most booklovers had become used to, the couple had created a ‘ bookish background’ in which old furniture and rare objects of art competed with books for the attention of customers.

Everything in the shop was for sale, including the ‘ lamps, lampshades, old prints and watercolours, framed and unframed mirrors, screens and tables’ provided by Rector, who specialised in interior decoration, and the ‘primitive Indian pottery and Spanish colonial silver which Drew imported from Peru. Drew emphasised that although her store was sophisticated, had an exclusive list of patrons, and sold old and rare books, including modern first editions and fine bindings, her ideal customer was the ‘middle-class ‘type who travelled into town on the subway.

A key innovation devised by Drew was the monthly review of new books in the fields of fiction, biography, essays, Book-of-the Month, Literary Guild, Crime Club and best sellers, which was sent out to a hand picked 6,000 names, half of whom came from friends of the two booksellers, and which bore the testimonial ‘ Recommended by Elizabeth Drew’. In fact, the reviews came not only from Drew herself, but by these friends, who signed their work. Continue reading

One foot in the grave at 44 !

12796501More heart-warming advice from Real Life Problems and their Solution (1938) by the cheery R Edynbry.

‘I am just forty-four years and beginning to feel that real middle age is just around the corner. I don’t mix much with other men and never talk over my symptoms with anybody. But I often speculate as to what may be in store for me in the way of health and sickness. I should be glad if you would tell me some general symptoms of middle age so that should experience them in the coming years I should not be taken by surprise.’

Changes take place so slowly in middle age that it is often difficult to compare conditions from one year to another. The trend of physical life is now downwards, however, gradually, and whether it will be hurried or delayed depends upon the constitution and manner of living. As a rule it becomes more difficult now to plan and carry out personal schemes, the success of which depends upon quick movement and energy. The healthy flush of youth shown in the complexion, gives place to a certain pallor, except when blood pressure gives a florid appearance. Greyness and some degree of baldness begin to show. There may be a bagginess under the eyes and wrinkles at the outer corners. Hearing may not be so keen as formerly and glasses are generally necessarily for reading small print.

Perhaps the most noticeable feature of middle age is the layer of abdominal fat and the general sagging of the body. Unless increasing care is paid to the diet, dyspepsia may give trouble, and various forms of nervous irritability draw attention to the fact that something is wrong. Worry about the physical or economic situation often causes insomnia at this time. The sex life needs careful regulation and all emotional strain should be avoided as far as possible. The sensible man—who should be his own doctor to some extent in middle age—should know that one of the secrets of health and happiness at this period lies in the simplification of one’s needs and demands. Less food and plainer food; less worry because of fewer ambitions and desires; less responsibility because nothing is undertaken without reasonable hope of accomplishment. [RR]

 

George Sims and espionage

img_2750Found in a thriller by George Sims (1923 -1999) an interesting letter about the book. Sims was a successful and much admired dealer in rare books, something of a poet and a novelist with several of his books being about the book trade (bibliomysteries.) This book Who is Cato? (Macmillan, London 1981) actually has an art dealer, one William Marshall (rich but disillusioned), as its hero. He becomes involved in espionage through his connection to  ‘Intelligence’ in WW2 and finds himself working against the KGB many years later while on holiday in Majorca…

The letter from Sims to a woman friend, who ran a bookshop, is on headed notepaper from his cottage ‘Peacocks’ in Hurst, Berkshire. It reads:

Many thanks for your helpful cheering letter. I was glad to have it. Probably I’ve told you that when Cato was published we were in America and our daughter phoned to say that there had been a mysterious burglary at our cottage in which nothing was taken. When I came back I was puzzled as to how an entry was made into our cottage and my office; nothing was missing not even some £10 notes in the office drawer… exactly like the burglary which took place at William Marshall’s cottage near Hambleden!!

Obviously someone thought I knew more than I did. I was to blame as I had signed the official secrets document when I was at the SCU, and there was quite a deal of fact mixed with the fiction. Love George.

The S.CU. ‘Special Communications Units’ were outstations of S.I.S (‘Special Intelligence Services’) involved mostly with radio communications. They were disbanded in 1946. Sims, known to be irascible, appears quite philosophic about this incident. His books are collected, especially the bibliomysteries, also his excellent and still mouthwatering catalogues

500 Books with Interesting Inscriptions

img_2706Found – a 1982 book collector’s catalogue from George S Macmanus of Philadelphia 500 Books with Interesting Inscriptions. Mostly modern American and British literature, it has many direct signed presentation from the authors and  many association copies. There are the usual authors who are known to have signed a lot – Galsworthy, Masefield, John Drinkwater, Witter Bynner etc., but also uncommon signers like the great WW1 poet Isaac Rosenberg-  a copy of his play Moses signed shortly before his death, a modest condition copy at $2500. There are some inscriptions whose significance is hard to fathom- Norman Douglas’s In the Beginning inscribed by him to the effete (and highly collectable)  novelist Reginald Turner “To Reggie hoping he won’t follow Symira’s example in ‘every’ respect, from Norman Douglas.” Great condition $375. There are several Aldous Huxley 1920s novels inscribed to Anita Loos with minor condition problems in the $300 range and several Swinburne presentations at $1000 inscribed to the artist Burne-Jones. A decent buy at $1750  is George Orwells Eton leaving present. We have had dozens of these through over the years. Each boy was given a current smart cream-coloured edition of Poems by Thomas Gray. The presentation leaf reads: ‘Hunc Librum Erico A Blair’ and it is signed by the master ‘Cyrillus’ Alington. Potentially these ‘leaving present’ books exist for Cyril Connolly, Brian Howard, Aldous Huxley, Harold Acton, Henry Green and, possibly more valuable than even Orwell, Ian Fleming. Continue reading

Bishop Bury: a 14th century bibliomaniac

philobiblion-pic-001Bishop Bury of Durham spent so much money on books that he lived in dire poverty and debt and when he died all that could be found to cover his corpse was some underwear belonging to his servant.

The facts regarding his library are mind blowing. According to W.M. Dickie, who wrote a paper on Bury and his magnum opus , the Philobiblon, in The Book Handbook (1949), he had more books than any bishop in England. Five wagons carried them away, which suggests that the number of volumes was more than 1,500. This compares with the Sorbonne’s 1,722 in 1338, the 380 volumes at Peterhouse College, Cambridge, in 1418 and the 122 housed in the University Library there in 1424.

In his Philobiblon Bury writes of wishing to found a college in Oxford and to endow it with his library, but no college is named. Some historians have maintained that the library was bequeathed to Durham College, but there is no evidence that the college received any such endowment. The sad truth is that this wonderful library was probably broken up and sold off to pay Bury’s huge debts.

The Philobiblion is revealing as to how many of Bury’s books were acquired:

“We were reported to burn with such desire for books, especially for old ones, that it was more easy for any man to gain our favour by means of books than of money. Wherefore since support by the goodness of the aforesaid Prince (Edward III)…we were able to requite a man, well or ill, to benefit or injure mightily great as well as small, there flowed in instead of presents and guerdons, and instead of gifts and jewels, soiled tracts and battered codices, gladsome alike to our eye and heart…In good will we strove so to forward their affairs ( the affairs of donors of books) that gain accrued to them, while justice suffered no disparagement”

In this way Bury, when Keeper of the Privy Seal, was given four books, namely Terence, Vergil, Quintilian and Jerome against Rufinus by Richard de Wallingford, Abbot of St Albans, who also sold to Bury for fifty pounds of silver, thirty-two other books, of which he gave fifteen to the refectory and ten to the kitchen (presumably at Westminster Abbey), an act which was later condemned by Thomas Walsingham, former scriptorarius at the Abbey. The Abbot’s motivation in securing such an astonishing bargain for Bury was to promote the interests of his monastery at Court and indeed Bury helped him secure a royal charter giving the Abbot the exceptional right of imprisoning excommunicated persons. When Bury became Bishop of Durham in a fit of remorse he restored some of the books to St Albans. And following his death, Wallingford’s successor at the Abbey secured other volumes at a discounted price from Bury’s executors. One of these, John of Salisbury’s Policraticus—now in the British Museum—bears an inscription recording its sale to Bury and its repurchase in 1346 from his executors. Only two other manuscripts are known to have belonged to Bury. One is in the British Museum and the other is in the Bodleian. Both are from St Albans. Continue reading

World War 1 – the last hours

image1This short piece was sent in by by an anonymous jotwatcher, for which much thanks.  It shows a typed military communique about the end of hostilities in World War 1 that was kept by his  great, great grandfather and handed down through the family. It reads:

After telling the troops, my great great grandfather folded up this piece of paper and put it in his pocket nearly 100 years ago. It’s been handed down since. It marks the end of the First World War:

Translation:
1) Hostilities shall cease along the entire front at 1100 hrs on November 11th (French time)
2) Until further orders, troops shall not move forward of the line seized by this hour and date. Report exactly the position of the line. 
3) All communication with the enemy is forbidden until receipt of instructions by the army commander.

A real piece of history! Now raising a massive gin and tonic to those who gave their tomorrow for me to enjoy my today and I’m surrounded by people I love. Don’t forget to remember. 

Book prices in 1909 and 2016

It is interesting to see how the values of certain books have risenpeel-somaliland
—sometimes amazingly—or fallen— in real terms (taking inflation into account)over a long period. The following twelve titles, advertised for sale at a discount in a full page advert taken out by Edward Baker’s Great Bookshop in John Bright Street, Birmingham, in an issue of the Bookman for June 1909, represent a selection of some of those works that have risen most in value by today’s standards.
Because the bookseller of 1909 describes them as ‘ in new condition’, the retail values sampled from Abebooks today are for those books graded as being in very good or excellent condition. In all cases the 1909 discounted prices are recorded side-by-side with those taken from Abebooks.

Inigo Triggs, Art of Garden Design in Italy (1906)       21s.                                £480

Rev. J.M.Bacon, The Dominion of the Air (1902)        2s.                                    £92

Edward Clodd, Tom Tit Tot (1898)                               2s.                                     £87

Complete Works of Edward Fitzgerald                     £3 3s.                                 £100

Octave Uzanne, Fashions in Paris (1901)                   6s.6d.                             £180

R.N.Hall, Great Zimbabwe (1905)                             6s.6d.                               £150

Morrison’s Lonely Summer in Kashmir (1904)         4s 6d                               £167

A.E.Waite(ed), Hermetic and Alchemical Writings   21s.                                  £1,046

of Paracelsus the Great (1894)

C.V.A Peel, Somaliland (1900)                                   4s                                     £2,092

Pitt-Rivers, Antique Works of Art from Benin (1900) 5s.                                         £95

Sweet and Knox, On an Mexican Mustang through Texas (1905) 3s.                  £125

Schilling, In Wildest Africa (1907)                             12s.                                    £343

[R.M.Healey]

A note on Brunsdon Yapp

img_2508Found in The Biology of Space Travel (London, 1961)— a typed note on the biologist Brunsdon Yapp. It was dated 2005 and initially refers to Yapp’s bookplate. There is a short entry for him at Wikipedia but this fills out the existing info on this excellent human being.

Brunsdon Yapp’s father came from Hereford to Bristol for the sake of his family’s education, and his two daughters went to Bristol University. William Brunsdon Yapp went to Bristol Grammar School before going to Downing. Christened William and known at home as Billy, he preferred as an undergraduate to be called Brunsdon, inviting friends to call him Brunny. Brunsdon was his mother’s maiden name, but I think his choice was dictated more by a desire to be different than by any desire to give particular credit to his mother. He read Natural Sciences, taking biological options. He went on to teach at Haileybury and Manchester Grammar before being appointed secretary to Oxford Local Examination Boards. Then he became a lecturer, subsequently a senior lecturer at Birmingham University. Service on the National Parks Commission won him the OBE. He was a member of both the Athenaeum and the RAC, the London club that is, not just the roadside motoring organisation.

‘An Introduction of Animal Physiology’ was, I fancy, the book that won him his appointment at Birmingham, and he prepared a series of revisions of Borradaile’s Manual of Elementary Zoology, a more advanced work than its title suggests. Published after his retirement, his ‘Birds in Mediaeval Manuscripts’ was a significant contribution to antiquarian studies. In 1962 Yapp’s ‘Birds and Woodlands’ was published by Oxford University Press. He regarded it his most important scientific work. The frontispiece is C. E. Tunnicliffe’s picture of ‘Cock Pied Flycatchers in Sessile Oak’, which I understand was specially commissioned. It was also used, on a green background, on the dust jacket, and Yapp later adopted it as his bookplate. I have not seen it in publications about Tunnicliffe, though I have not looked very hard. Continue reading

The madness of collecting–Major Pat A’ Beckett

jesus-christ-matchbox-label-001Found in a copy of the October 1936 issue of The Collector’s
Miscellany
is this account of fanatical collector Major A Beckett, who many times risked his life for a matchbox label:

‘ He states that as a boy of 8 whilst riding in a tramcar he dropped his ticket. Bending down to search for it he found an unusual match-box. This interested him, and there and then he commenced to collect match-box labels, having now accumulated a collection of over 25,000 different varieties. He remarked that on several occasions he has been nearly run over whilst picking them up in the gutter. During the War, whilst in the Piccadilly Tube, he saw a matchbox label lying on the line. He jumped down to secure it but a policeman came and arrested him on a charge of attempted suicide. Whilst at the Police Station he was examined by a Doctor, and it was only when they rang up his Army Headquarters that he was able to establish his identity. Part of his collection was presented him by the late King of Siam, who more than once was run over while searching for labels. The Major recently made the acquaintance of Mr Burnell, the proprietor of a Weymouth hotel, who owns a collection of 27,000 different labels. Mr Burnell offers any figure for the rare Indian label of the Crucifixion. Only a few copies of this label, which we illustrate on this page, were ever printed, as the design was almost immediately suppressed’. ( p 66). Continue reading

The Mystery Man of Cowes

cowes-old-houses-1927_Found in that repository of odd facts, The Collector’s Miscellany, is the following short piece by reporter H. A. Owen in the issue for May 1935.

THE MYSTERY MAN OF COWES

In a certain narrow street of Cowes, Isle of Wight, lives Mr W. Cole, locally known as the Mystery Man on account of the many strange things he has in his house. He is a chemist and has been collecting all sorts of curios for over sixty years. The small room behind the shop contains hundreds of valuable curios and the other rooms are also crammed full with them. All the windows are closely shuttered and fastened and the atmosphere is stuffy, as they have not been opened for years. As a schoolboy he started collecting stamps, butterflies and birds’ eggs and now he has a valuable collection of stamps, hundreds of books and the largest collection of fossils in the Isle of Wight.

     One room upstairs contains a collection of Skeletons, including one of the Bronze Age. Among his stuffed monstrosities he has a two-headed calf, a calf with six legs, a one-eyed puppy and a three-eyed kitten! There is also a double-headed pig and a four-legged robin. The latter he found himself at Calbourn many years ago. He also has many valuable pictures and prints and a complete record of the island since 1290. Continue reading

Barry Ono—collector extraordinaire

barry-ono-pic-001Barry Ono (1876 – 1941 ) was both a comic ( in the Music Halls) and a collector of comics. This photo from the Collector’s Miscellany of August 1936 shows him lecturing at the ‘Barry Ono Penny Dreadful Exhibit ‘at Selfridge’s Hobbies Exhibition.

In a short article for the same magazine a trawl by Ono through the ‘ For Sale ‘ and ‘Exchange’ adverts in the Boy’s Standard of the 1880s recalls his own early triumphs as an avid collector of Penny Dreadfuls.

“There was a little shop in the Waterloo Road, London, that had stacks and stacks of the Chas. Fox publications when that firm passed out, 6d a vol. mint in wraps. “Spring Heeled Jack”, “Sweeny Todd” , “Turnpike Dick” and all the lot, plus quarterly divisions in wrappers of the Boy’s Standard, Boy’s Leisure, and Boy’s Champion at 3d each. At another second hand shop, also in the Waterloo Road, a shilling used to be my limit for such items as “The Boy Detective, or The Crimes of London”, “Gentleman Clifford”, etc, etc. Seems incredible now, and all a fantastic dream. Yes, my £20 would have gone quite a long way then, wouldn’t it? And many now completely unknown and unheard of rarities would have been saved. Well, since I acquired belated wisdom, many a tattered only derelict have I rescued from that oblivion it was hastening to, midst unfeeling and heedless vandals, carefully have I doctored it, gorgeous has been the half-calf overcoat in which I have had it arrayed, and now a more careful posterity I am thinking will least honour it on my demise as ‘Curiosa’. I am thinking I have been the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ of the ‘bloods’, rescuing not from the guillotine, but from the flames and the dust bin. Continue reading

The 1971 Bookbang—a damp squib?

The_Sacred_Mushroom_and_the_Cross_coverHalfway through its run Guardian journalist Alex Hamilton visited the much vaunted Book Bang (see earlier jot)  in Bedford Square and discovered many disappointed people . One of these ( presumably a writer ) had scrawled on a litter-bin: ‘ Publishers are rich, writers poor, people poorer’. A bookshop owner called Eddie Pond complained about paying good money to be bombarded with promotional shows. There was much else to complain about, according to Hamilton:

‘You can’t see work from the private presses, because their shows start elsewhere on Monday. You can’t be drawn by Felix Topolski for £3 because he has now gone back to his studio under the arches. You can’t see underground gigs because the Bedford Settled Estate would not permit a concrete base to be sunk in their turf…You can’t smoke in the tents. You can’t drink till six, because the square businessmen objected to the echoes of saturnalia they caught on the breeze…You can’t see many heads of the publishing industry, because they have bigger fish to fry, and didn’t all want the Bookbang in the first place…’

In fact, so lukewarm were the bigger publishers that two of them underwrote the Bookbang to a derisory extent—Penguin and Weidenfeld both donated a measly £250. Nor did the book industry help much with staffing. Those few staffers who did arrive were grossly overworked. A frustrated Bookbang supreme Martyn Goff was quite willing to admit to Hamilton that ‘of all the publishers who promised me help, only one turned up’. Continue reading

Maundy Gregory – a St John’s Wood Gatsby

IMG_1829Found in a 1955 Punch – a review by the novelist Anthony Powell of Honours for Sale. The Strange Story of Maundy Gregory. (Gerald Macmillan, London: Richards Press 1954). Maundy Gregory had in the 1920s what amounted to a licence to print money. He sold honours, a profession that made a comeback in the Blair years. For £10,000 (about $1 million now) he could get you an earldom; knighthoods were a bit cheaper. You could, in fact, sign a cheque to him in your expected new name–only cashable when you assumed the title. He liked rare books, especially the works of the fantastical Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo.) In some cases (according to AJA Symons in Quest for Corvo) he would pay his agents to track down supposedly unfindable books, money no object. He had a mansion in St John’s Wood which later became the world famous Beatle’s recording studio.

Powell calls him an ‘honours tout’, a ‘real life Gatsby’ and ‘a mad aspect of the 1920s incarnate’. He suggests that anyone  ‘who enjoys a good laugh’ should read the list of  guests at his Derby Eve Dinner at his own club ‘The Ambassador’s.’ Something of a ‘sausage fest’ (i.e. no women) but, as Powell says, Gregory certainly knew how to ‘bring them in.’  The author of the book, Gerald Macmillan, may  be exaggerating when he says it was the most distinguished gathering ever held…

List of guests at Ambassador Derby Eve Dinner, held on June 2, 1931.

Major-General J. E. B. Seely (in the Chair), Sir Austen Chamberlain, Mr. Winston Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, Mr. J. H. Thomas, the Duke of Sutherland, Viscount Craigavon, the Marquess of Reading, Major-General the Earl of Scarborough, Sir John Simon, Lord Southborough, Viscount Elibank, Mr. J. Maundy Gregory, Lord Jessel, Mr. Ralph E. Harwood, Earl Winterton, Lord Queenborough, Lord Bayford, Mr. W. Dudley Ward, Lord Plender, Marquis del Moral, Lieutenant-Commander Sir Warden Chilcott. Continue reading

Thomas Bewick tracks a package…

bew2Found -in a reprint copy of Bewick’s A History of British Birds (Newcastle, 1809) a  handwritten note pasted at the front endpapers from George Gulliver (anatomist 1804- 1882) stating that the book contains ‘.. 9 proofs of wood cuts of birds, an illustrated receipt, and an autograph letter of Thomas Bewick, dated April 14, 1823 (Newcastle) to Mr L .Edmonston: all inserted at the end of this volume.’ He continues- ‘They were given to me by Mrs Edmonston. Her husband, Dr Laurence Edmondston, has now (1862) been a medical practitioner upwards of 40 years at Bolton Sound, Shetland, which place he is a native. He knew and corresponded with Bewick about birds and the cuts were sent at different times by Bewick to Dr Evanston with the writing on them. George Gulliver. Bewick’s letter is present and reads:

‘Newcastle 14 April 1823.  Dear Sir, I received your kind letter of the 10th and have ever since been in anxious expectation of receiving the Ivory Gull, as it’s not yet come to hand. I fear the box may have been detained or else forwarded to Newcastle under Line by mistake as Wednesday is the date which you have limited me for its return. I thought it necessary to apprize you of its non arrival, that an enquiry if necessary might be set on foot without further delay– I have only to thank you for your very great kindness and attention endeavouring to procure from me so many specimens of rare birds which will always be most acceptable to me.I am dear sir your obliged and obedient Thomas Bewick.’  Continue reading