The Golden Urn

IMG_0991Found — all 3 issues of The Golden Urn the rare magazine produced at Fiesole by Bernard Berenson, Logan Pearsall Smith and his sister Mary Pearsall Smith (later Mary Berenson.) Of some value – we have catalogued it thus:

8vo. pp 151. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 complete – all published (1897-1898). Rebound in one volume. Number 1 contains ‘Orlando’ a ‘Self-appreciation’ by the then young Bertrand Russell ( a vaguely philosophical cri de coeur unattributed in the text). Rebound with original illustrated front wrappers, each with an urn design, bound in. Red buckram binning lettered gilt at the spine. Genuinely rare and seldom appearing in commerce. The introduction sets the mood–“The Golden Urn is published by certain people of leisure and curiosity, who thought it worth while to print for their own entertainment some impressions of art and life, some experiments in letters. Appreciation, untrammelled thought, scholarship, its editors will welcome… questions of aesthetics will be discussed… it will appear on unfixed dates and entirely at the pleasure of its editors; it is privately printed and will not be for sale. copies however will be sent – not without a feeling or, at least, an affectation of diffidence – to a few fastidious people.” The elegant fantasy piece in the third issue ‘Altamura’ was a collaboration between Pearsall Smith and Berenson and burlesques the life and ideals of an artists retreat not unlike their own circle at Fiesole. The last piece in the magazine is an amazing extensive list by Mary and Bernard Berenson of the greatest Italian Renaissance pictures in the world (Sacred Pictures) with their locations in every country, some in private hands in America and England – “..the study of them are regarded as acts of piety, and very helpful, though not exactly necessary, to Salvation.”

Berenson, of course, went on to become the 20th century’s most important art critic and art expert, Pearsall Smith’s became an important and admired anthologist whose Trivia books are still read and sought after.Each issue has his (and possibly the Berenson’s) favourite passages from Shakespeare and the Romantics. Berenson’s list of Italian paintings is referred to online as ‘famous’ — it is certainly a labour of love and the fruit of deep research  and would have been very hard work in a pre-technology era.



‘There will be no beautiful women on Mars’–and that’s official


Speculation on whether there is life on Mars and what form it might take has been going on since the planet began to be seriously studied. Writers of fiction have let their imaginations run riot, with ludicrous results, but even scientists have been guilty of groundless speculation. Two items from the Peter Haining archive —an incomplete clipping dated 1924 from the Daily Express and a chapter from The Universe in Space and Time of 1935 throw interesting light on the subject.

Back in 1924 the Daily Express published a report by a certain Monsieur Camille Flammarion, ‘the famous French astronomer’, that ‘ the people of the earth will be both shocked and disillusioned if ever they become acquainted with the Martians’. “First of all”, he states, “there will be no beautiful women there. They may be beautiful according to Martian standards, but to us they will probably look frightfully hideous.” It’s all to with the ‘rarer’ atmosphere of the planet, apparently.

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