I thought I would record this dogged description of a ‘dog’ (booksellers slang for an unsaleable book.) I have forgotten what the title was but as I recall it was not at all valuable even in decent condition, and certainly not rare. The best that could be said of it is that it was a ‘working copy.’ Why the seller persisted with his or her description is a mystery. At least they did not end the description ‘else fine.’ Most sellers would put it in the recycling bin, surely no charity or thrift shop would accept it:
A few library marks…First 2 leaves barely attached. Front inner hinge tender. Green cloth fraying at tips, scuffed. Scattered, light pencil marks mostly to margins. Light spotting to endpapers. Ex-Library. Rebound in modern, library-style binding. Serious tears to 3 of the 4 folding maps, 1 repaired with tape, 1 with careful stitching. Short tear to 4th map. Water stain to lower portion of text block. Foxing throughout. Twenty-Fifth Thousand. Brown cloth, lightly faded on spine, embossed decoration and gilt in center of front boards. Both volumes have amateur repair to frayed tips and spine ends, spines glued to text blocks, moderate foxing and soil to leaves. Last signature in vol 1 tender. Owners’ names on front endpapers: 16 plates, some starting to detach. 25 short tears to margin of text, some repaired with tape or showing residue from tape. Inner spine tender. Former owner has covered the cloth and front paste-downs with a clear, adhesive backed plastic cover. Green cloth is a bit grubby, spine lettering rubbed. Folding map has 1 short tear to margin. Scattered foxing. Binding tender. Lower half of backstrip missing. Full spine and board corners reinforced by clear tape. Boards soiled, title page more so. Lacking half-title and frontis. …Volume 2 has a serious chip to top of spine…
Photo below is of some distressed books glimpsed at Warwick Castle.
A few brief notes on tipping. Tipping is a controversial business – in some cultures it is deemed insulting, in others almost obligatory. Are wealthy people expected to give larger tips? I spoke to a taxi driver who drove Ringo to Liverpool from London in the 1970s and the great drummer gave him a £100 tip, the best he had ever had. There is the story of the rich man who was so impressed by the service of a waiter that he bought the restaurant and gave it as a tip – in some versions of this tale the waiter is said to be the hotelier Cesar Ritz. In one of John Le Carré’s novels a character suggests that people (like him) who over-tip are held in contempt by waiters etc., The idea is that the over-tipper is a sad, inadequate person trying to be liked, or at very least, showing off his wealth..
Francis King wrote of his time escorting extremely wealthy fellow author Somerset Maugham around Japan is the early 1960s – “..in a restaurant he gave a vast tip to two charming and attentive waitresses. Seeing that I was astonished he told me: ‘Never believe the idiots who tell you that people despise those who overtip. That’s a fiction put about by the miserly. On the contrary, people are always delighted if you give them more than they expect.’
One wonders whether Henry James was an over-tipper. His advice was: ‘Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.’
Found – an unpublished typed letter from the Imagist poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) to a Mr Russell, almost certainly the poet Peter Russell who was also something of a champion of Ezra Pound. She gives her address as Hotel de la Paix, Lausanne, Switzerland where she is known to have resided from 1946 to 1952. It is a good letter full of commentary on the modernists and with much on Ezra Pound – his style and manner, his appearance and his hair.
She starts by writing about the literary magazine The Egoist, which started in 1914.
‘Yes, I should say it was Ezra who pushed the Portrait (Joyce) in or into The Egoist. I arrived on the scene about 1911; I think during War 1, I was supposed to hold down the Egoist job for Richard Aldington. I met him before The Egoist, it all came together in 1912, along with Ezra first condescending (and very kindly) to present a few of my poems, as for Poetry Chicago. I believe something of the same thing happened to T.S. Eliot, at one time. I think Eliot noted it somewhere. Ezra just took his pencil and crossed off lines and line-ends and the whole emerged like a stalactite, very beautiful after he chizzled (sic) it. I think it was Hermes of the Ways and it appeared in the first imagist anthology… I should say unofficially E. has everything to do with the more dynamic content of The Egoist as with Poetry Chicago, at that time. [At this point she says she could write an article about this but needs no money as she has an allowance and her health is good after an illness. She goes on to reminisce about Pound in early life] …it was a Halloween dance, if I remember, that day after Ezra’s birthday. Or it might have been Twelfth Night; I remember our discussing it as Ezra gave our hostess a copy of the same Temple edition which we were all collecting. Ezra wore a green brocade coat. It was, I believe brought back from a trip he had taken with his parents and an aunt to Tangiers… anyway, he had a photograph with the group, Ezra with a fez over his exact Gozzoli curls. It sounds odd, but Ezra once said to me at that time, that for one friend he made himself, he made 10 for his hair. It was quite exact, curls like the Hermes of Praxitiles. Continue reading
Few American publishers can boast that they have printed 300 hundred million books. Emanuel Haldeman-Julius (1889 – 1951), however, was one who could. An atheist and socialist who believed that the average American had a right to own a library of enlightening, useful and entertaining texts for a few cents a volume, Haldeman-Julius established the Little Blue Book series in the 1920s. Pocket-sized and ranging in subject matter from ancient culture and classic literature to self-help books and handbooks on making your own candy, the Little Blue Books sold in their millions each year, figured in the early education of such American writers as Saul Bellow and Studs Terkel, and anticipated in some respects the very popular ‘Dummies’ of today, though they were very much cheaper.
Rejecting the idea that a sensational cover would sell a book, Haldeman-Julius believed that it was the book’s title that did the trick. One journalist writing in John O’London’s Weekly dated December 8th 1928 described the publisher’s practice of re-branding books thus:
‘He…has found that those ‘pull ‘ best which suggest either sex, self-improvement, or attacks on respectability and religion….Whenever one of his reprints fails to sell 10,000 copies in a year he sends it to his ‘hospital’ , where it is someone’s job to discover the reason why . The text is analysed. If it is found wanting in sex, self-improvement or attacks etc., it is dropped. If the title is deficient in pep it is scrapped and another put in its place. Continue reading
What do you think of pen friendship? My daughter has been introduced, through a club, to a pen friend in France, and so far the letters received from the French girl are quite nice in every way. But I have been studying them recently, and, here and there, have noticed remarks which might conceivably indicate that the writer is a woman and not a girl. There is nothing undesirable whatever in these letters, but I have heard so much of the clever and cunning ways certain types of foreigner have of insinuating themselves in the minds of girls, that I am somewhat in doubt as to whether this correspondence should be allowed to go on. Perhaps you will kindly give me your views on this matter.
There are several reputable agencies in this country for putting correspondents in touch with foreigners. One of their expressed aims is to promote international goodwill. Often an interchange of visits results from the pen friendships thus formed., In so far as this correspondence furthers the exchange of views of general interest –for example, young people tell of their families, schools, occupations and excursions—they serve an excellent purpose and can be very educative. The idea is to link up correspondents of about the same age and standard of living.
If your daughter was introduced by a reliable source you have little to fear. It is usual for correspondents to exchange photographs at an early stage; if this has not yet been done, you might request this favour. Then, unless her correspondent is intending to deceive, you will be able to form a pretty good estimate of her age. In any case, you will do well to supervise the letters both ways. In the event of your daughter wishing to accept an invitation to visit France, you should first take up references —through the club or privately—which would leave no doubt as to the absolute trustworthiness of her prospective hosts.
( an extract from Real Life Problems and their Solutions (1938) by R. Edynbry
Found – a rare Malayan police manual Notes on secret societies (Caxton Press, Kuala Lumpur 1953) by one C. T. Dobree. It is more of an anthropological study than a detective’s manual with much emphasisis on the initiation ceremonies of each society; there are also notes on secret methods of communication known only to society members. This what he writes on the Wah-Kee (aka ‘Chow Fah Chee Tow’ or ‘Sze Kor Long.’) The way of refusing a cigarette is interesting – ‘push back the cigarette with hand-palm facing inwards.’
Jargons and signs.
After initiations the new members to the brotherhood are taught the secret jargons and signs by which strangers to one another may identify themselves as being of the one brotherhood.
These are some of the jargons and signs in common use: –
a) Where do you come from? – from Singapore. (This is because the Malayan Wah Kee started in Singapore).
b) What is your surname? – Either Sui (Water) or Loke (land), or Peng (Peace) or Onn (Tranquility). Continue reading
From the L.R. Reeve* collection of short sketches of people that he had met - this affectionate piece about teacher Florence Hancock. There is a more famous Florence Hancock who was a union leader and, confusingly, our Florence was also involved in union politics (National Union of Teachers)…/p>
Perhaps I ought to remind readers of my main purpose throughout these pages. It is to stress the fact that wherever you live for a few years you meet very intelligent people, many of whom seem to be unaware of their distinctive qualities, who would, if they felt a compulsive urge, be leaders of any locality in which they happened to be placed. This fact has long been noted by observant members of the human community for hundreds of years, but in any century too little comment has been made of such people who are worthy to be inscribed on the pages of history, and sometimes the final mention of these 'Village Hampdens', even in a local paper, is also the first public acknowledgement of their existence. The Second World War gave us innumerable surprises in this phenomenon.
Few, if any, devotees of the legendary TV show and films are likely to grant the American novelist, poet and playwright Alfred Levinson even honorary status, despite the fact that, as a friend of Michael Palin, he seems to have been a semi-permanent fixture at various Python events, notably a recording of The Life of Brian, where he played the Voice of God and was jokily appointed ‘religious advisor’ to the film.
Levinson was a huge Python fan when, in February 1975, he first met Palin at a dinner given by Michael Henshaw, the ‘cool accountant’ to Palin and also such literary stars as William Burroughs, David Hare, Alan Sillitoe, Fay Weldon and Simon Gray. They hit it off immediately—the creative writing tutor and the wannabe novelist—and almost immediately begun a long-distance correspondence, with Levinson alternating between his home in Sag Harbor and addresses in London. Palin saw him as ‘a sort of Earth Father figure in his fifties, solid, smiling, sensible, dependable’, and in his diary looked back at the correspondence with great pleasure:
Today, the actress and poet Adah Isaacs
Menken (1835 – 1868) has been largely forgotten and when her name crops up at
all it is usually in association with Algernon Swinburne, with whom she reportedly
had an affair. But in the mid nineteenth century, both in her native USA and in
Britain, she was the Lady Gaga of her day—a sensational performer in various
erotic guises and at one time the highest paid actress in the world.
Like Lady Gaga, she entered show business early and with
some éclat. She also seems to have been obsessed with dressing up in outrageous
costumes that reflected her need to regularly re-invent herself. Like Gaga too,
she changed her name. She had begun life as plain Ada McCord, a child with
Creole blood, but later, each of her three marriages gave her a chance to add
exotic elements to her name. By her death she had adopted both the name and the
faith of her Jewish husband. Today, in some quarters of the States, her Creole
ancestry has made her a black icon of female liberation.
Menken had always expressed an interest in writing poetry and
by her early thirties she had amassed enough material for a book. Tragically, in
1868 at the age of just 33, she died suddenly of peritonitis complicated by TB
and a few days later, Infelicia was
published privately—presumably through the auspices of her husband. Though
heavily influenced by the invocatory style of Walt Whitman, Infelicia, reflects a good deal of her genuine literary talent, and it is easy to
appreciate the effect it must have had on a generation of female freethinkers
from the 1870s onwards.
A bookmark of the much loved Pan Bookshop in Fulham, London. In late 1997 its landlord accepted a high offer from a grocer and the bookshop 'went dark' (or is it that only for restaurants?) after 32 years trading. The shop's blog is still up and has many commiserations in the comments field - 'best bookshop in London,' 'irreplaceable' and a fulsome piece from Vogue food writer Arabella Boxer (cook books were one of its specialities.) One customer writes: " I will refuse to step foot in whatever shop might replace it - heavens forbid another Carluccio or Starbucks or bar serving caperinias - I would launch a hunger strike if I thought it would do any good."
It seems that by the mid 1990s the area (now known as 'The Beach') was moving away from book culture to cafes, food and delis. The book mark is probably from the 1970s as the 01 number was current then. The Pan Books pink symbol is interesting and one imagines at some point it was full of Pan paperbacks (now quite collectable) although latterly it was owned by Macmillan. Macmillan blamed "tough market conditions, a decline in the overall trading of independent bookshops combined with an expensive high street location in Chelsea" for the closure.
A chilling piece of ephemera from the Cold War era - a graphic 6 page folding pamphlet published in the UK by the Central Office of Information. Unsure of the date. Assume early 1960s. It advises "...stay in refuge until told what to do next" - but who exactly will be issuing orders at this point?
Another Jot from the loyal RH, scholar, idler, gent and swordsman. The book mentioned is a signed book of mathematics (sort of) from 1775 and not in the British Library but obtainable online as we speak, signed by the author, for a paltry $50.
A Scottish Seal of Approval
Remember those Edwardian newspaper ads for Dr Collis Browne’s ‘Chlorodyne’—a patent medicine that purported to clear up cholera and diarrhoea, but which would certainly not cure the former, as it contained mainly laudanum and tincture of cannabis, both of which, incidentally, would be banned today. Every bottle had Browne’s printed signature on it. Going a little further back, each label for Warren’s patent boot blacking bore the printed signature of its manufacturer, a fact to which the teenage Charles Dickens, whose job in 1824 involved sticking these labels onto the pots, could attest .
I cannot recall any grocery or pharmaceutical product that bore the manufacturer’s signature before the days of Warren, but I might be wrong. Robert Warren was a marketing pioneer (as John Strachan’s excellent study, Advertising and Satirical Culture in the Romantic Period, discusses at some length). But look in vain in Strachan for books of the Romantic period that bore the author’s printed signature. As for a handwritten signature, I’ve come across none whatsoever. You have to go back to the Age of Johnson to find just one example. The second edition of Tables of Interest at 4, 4 1/2 and 5 per cent, which Cadell and Murray bought out in 1775 warns the buyer on page two not to accept any book bearing Mr Thomson’s name on the title page that does not also feature his actual signature. So there it is, written in ink, at the bottom of page two. Amazing !
The reason for all this wariness must have something to do with the frequent acts of book piracy that prevailed before the Copyright Act was passed in 1842. It would seem that the first edition of Mr Thomson’s book had been a victim of piracy soon after it had appeared in Edinburgh in 1768.Book piracy in the 1760s seems to have been particularly prevalent. My own edition of Pope’s Works, which came out a year earlier, was a pirated edition by A. Donaldson, a notorious offender from Scotland, who may have been the culprit in the case of Thomson’s Tables.
Confident that art and brains
end with them (and Maynard Keynes)
the school of Bloomsbury lies here,
greeting the unseen with a sneer.
From Lampoons by Humbert Wolfe (Benn 1925) a collection of humorous epitaphs of (mostly) living writers.
Of Galsworthy he writes:
Ash to ash, to earth the earthy,
was not spoken by John Galsworthy.
Like his books the soul of John
goes marching on, and on, and on.
It is interesting to note that as early as 1925 Bloomsbury was recognised as a 'school' and its members a rather contemptuous, haughty crowd...Humbert Wolfe is somewhat forgotten and almost uncollected, except his Circular Saws-- wanted only in its dust jacket, designed by Evelyn Waugh.
Found in a thriller from the Donald Rudd collection of detective fiction, this preface to The Poison and the Root (Jarrolds, UK 1950) by Richard Savage. It is a sort of apologia or plea for the criminal by one G. Ruscovitch, 'professional forger'. I had thought this person was fictitious or possibly a character in the book (which is not about forgery) but in fact there was a forger of this name. He is mentioned by Havelock Ellis in The Criminal (1890) and appears to have flourished in the mid 19th Century. He may also have been a murderer but Ellis describes him thus:
'...a prince among forgers, the accomplished student of science, the perfect master of half-a-dozen languages..' He then quotes the same piece as Savage. Possibly this was spoken from the dock in mitigation:
Too often it is forgotten that criminals are members of society. These bodies, sometimes abandoned by all except the satellites charged to guard them, are not all opaque; some of them are diaphanous and transparent. The vulgar sand that you tread underfoot becomes crystal when it has passed through the furnace. The dregs may become useful if you know how to employ them; to tread them underfoot with indifference and without thought is to undermine the foundations of society and fill it with volcanoes. The man who has not visited the caverns, can he know the mountains well? The lower strata, for being situated deeper and farther from the light, are less important than the external crust? There are deformities and diseases among us to make one shudder; but since when has horror forbidden study, and the disease driven away the physician?
From R. Houwink's The Odd Book of Data (Elsevier, Amsterdam 1965) obtained from the amazing library of Jeremy Beadle MBE (1948 -2008) British entertainer, television star, hoaxer, quizmaster, book collector and philanthropist (with his blind stamp reading 'Property of Beadlebum OK?')
It's a curious ur geek book full of data such as 'the light now reaching the star Pollux tells us about Hitler's rise to power, whilst a star in the Andromeda Nebula brings us, as it were, a visual greeting from the period when Homo Sapiens made his engravings in caves (15000BC)...' Here is a piece about the number of molecules in a drop of whisky:
Peter looked askance at John who was just polishing off his umpteenth glass of whisky.
'Steady on, old man… leave a drop for the stragglers!'
'Shteady on?' echoed John, ' Why , theresh heapsh of the shtuff…hic. Tell you what, shport, I'll dish out a thousand molecules per second to every living soul for the next 30 odd years…hic'.
John upturned his glass and shook a single drop on to Peter's palm. 'Take care of dishtribution old shport!'
Sent in by the constant jotter R M Healey, this piece about a major/minor writer still admired in France. His main work was translated as Mémories d'Un Bébé Public and another work Steiner's Tour was first issued by Olympia Press in Paris (1960.) The dust wrapper was designed by Ronald Searle.
Philip O’Connor was a faded starlet of thirties Surrealism when I wrote to him sixteen years ago. Mine was not a fan letter, though I liked his Memoirs of a Public Baby (1958) and his surreal contributions to New Verse in the ‘thirties. I wanted to know a few details concerning his association with New Verse editor Geoffrey Grigson, but I got a lot more than I bargained for.
I obtained his address in the south of France via a female contact, who had visited him recently. She reported back that he was ‘not at all well ‘.He was, in fact, dying slowly of cancer. So I wrote to him and received a three page letter ( 21 Oct 1997)that crackled and fizzed with philosophical speculations mixed with invective, mainly aimed at middle class English sensibilities, the first page of which I offer here.
The other two pages are in a similar vein. It was all great stuff and good reading for a student of Grigson, or indeed thirties literature in general. Enclosed with the letter were several unpublished pages of his ongoing Journal which, as he observed himself, could be read alongside the letter as reflecting his current literary and philosophical preoccupations. At one point he invited me to visit him in his ‘tiny’ house in Fontareches.
From Tony Jasper's Today's Sound (Galliard, Great Yarmouth, England 1970) a Christian teaching book. The teacher is encouraged to use rock songs and their lyrics to discuss contemporary morals, behaviour and ways of being. Thus we get some of the lyrics of Martha and the Vandella's Dancing in the Street, transcribed thus, and followed with topics for discussion:
Cryin out in the world,
Are you ready for a brand new beat?
Summer's here and the time is right
For dancin' in the street.
They'e dancin' in Chicago, down in New Orleans
In New York City
All we need is music, sweet music,
There'll be music everywhere
There'll be swinging and swaying and records playing
Dancing in the street
Oh -- it doesn't matter what you wear,
Just as long as you are there.
So come on every guy, grab a girl,
Everywhere, around the world
Dancing in the street….
Describe the aspects of the present youth culture bought out in this song. Live out the song through movement, reduce the world, sing to it, love it, touch it, it's yours.
Take out a tape recorder, a camera, film camera and capture life as it's happening now. Think of ways and communicating the spirit of this song, your experiencings to the Other generation.
For Eleanor Rigby the class is encouraged to draw pictures of Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie and ask if our society is hard on those who never marry - "Do you find labels such as 'Old Maid' offensive?"
With Simon and Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence he suggests reading Waiting for Godot and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner for a greater depth of understanding . The Doors Light my Fire prompts a discussion of today's clothes 'do we wear them just for colour or so-called fashion or do we feel different in certain types of gear and find our personalities revealed through them? Are young people less inhibited than those of yesterday regarding sex?'
The Delaney and Bonnie Song (We've Got to) Get Ourselves Together leads to a discussion of the Christian religion. 'Has the Christian religion with its Universalist gospel a big part to play in a growing awareness by all people of their part in one big family called mankind? How can we ourselves take positive steps to enable all people to get together?' With The Beatles You've Got to Hide Your Love Away he suggests 'through mime and sketch act out situations which to the group seem likely to lead to misunderstanding and isolation...'
An interesting and slightly rare book - well meaning and very open to new ideas. 44 years ago - a vanished world.
This is from Folklore Legends and Superstitious Customs in Connection with Andover and Neighbourhood by M Gillett (Andover 1917.) A shortish book with were wolves, ghosts, shadows of the firstborn and the Glastonbury holy thorn. This dramatic tale shows how legends are made...
The following legend I admit is rather hard to believe, but I have heard it from two quite different sources, and I relate it as follows:
When the Danes ravaged Wessex, they marched up to Romsey Abbey, pillaging as they went. The nuns, terrified at the barbarous and heathen hordes, fled, and supposing Winchester to have shared the same fate, journeyed on to Wherwell Abbey - now Wherwell Priory. But before they arrived at the nunnery they got lost in the woods, which still remain, and many of them perished from exposure and starvation. Tradition says that the nuns sat down in despair, and in their hopelessness began to abuse the Almighty and angered Him to such an extent that when they died their souls became wild cats.
But these are the true facts:-
1. The Danes did ravage Romsey.
2. The nuns did flee to Wherwell Priory.
3. A great number did perish in the woods.
4. Some of the oldest inhabitants of Wherwell Priory remember when wild cats did live in the woods.
This legend is as it was told to me, but I cannot be over-certain as to the foundations for it, except the preceding notes.
Florence White ( 1863 - 1940), recently lauded by TV chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and trendy cultural historian Alexandra Harris, author of Romantic Moderns, founded the English Folk Cookery Association in 1928 in order to promote regional cookery in the UK. In the book that emerged from her extensive research, Good Things in England (1932), a brilliant anthology of recipes from 1399 to 1932, White unashamedly name checks many of her friends, colleagues, and suppliers in the proud tradition of Dr Kitchiner, whose early nineteenth century Cooks’ Oracle did something similar, though on a much smaller scale.
|Michael Cardew - Ramekin|
For instance I don’t think Kitchiner would ever have said 'These mutton chops taste twice as good on one of Mr Wedgwood’s beautifully decorated Queensware plates ', which is essentially what Smith is doing when in her own recipe for Savoury Baked Eggs she writes approvingly of what we would now call ramekins that were produced by pioneer studio potter Michael Cardew. 'For these use the delightful little slip-ware pipkins made by Michael Cardew at Winchcombe, Gloucestershire…'
In this early stage of his career, Cardew (1901 – 83), then a little known disciple of Bernard Leach, must have been delighted with this free publicity from such a trusted source, especially as White’s book quickly became a best-seller. Good Things in England is now regarded as a key document in the renaissance of regional British cookery that was to have its zenith in the work of Jane Grigson and others. As for Cardew, now acknowledged as only second to Leach himself in originality, his pots can sell for four-figure sums, and recently his enormous influence has been the focus of a full-length biography , The Last Sane Man in England, which discusses, among many other things, his 'obsession' with food. [RR]