Shelf Fulfillment

The Antiquarian Booksellers Association…

Month: June, 2012

The ‘Z’ Factor : New College Library’s rediscovered Special Collections

by bibliodeviant

newcollegelibrarian

What are Special Collections? At New College Library we have Special Collections of books, archives  and manuscripts and a small collection of portraits and objects. Much of the book collections have been housed in Special Collections for decades, but we also have a growing collection of ‘new’ Special Collections.

This is the Z Collection, which is formed out of recent donations and out of New College Library books formerly in the General sequence  which were identified as Special Collections during a stock management exercise. We follow the critieria used by the Centre for Research Collections here at the University of Edinburgh, in particular that all books published before 1850 should be classed as Special Collections. The Z Collection, which numbers over 3,500 items, is currently being catalogued online as part of the Funk Cataloguing Projects.

One example from the Z Collection is the Biographia scotica, a biographical dictionary compiled by John Stark of Edinburgh.  It contains…

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Treasures of New College Library : The Dumfries Presbytery Library

by bibliodeviant

newcollegelibrarian

The Dumfries Presbytery Library isa collection of sixteenth and seventeenth century books that was first documented in 1710, with the acceptance of a substantial donation of books from Dr John Hutton. It was used as a lending library, for the ministers of Dumfries, for which records survive in a ledger in Dumfries’s Ewart Library. Titles are marked : “Ex libris bibliothecae presbyterii Dumfriesiensis”

In 1884, the decision was made to transfer the collection to the General Assembly Library in Edinburgh, following a gale that damaged the roof of the presbytery house letting in rain that soaked the books. With this transfer, at least some of the books were marked by the ownership stamp of the Library of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland : the symbol of the burning bush surrounded by the words “Bibliotheca Ecclesiae Scoticanae”.

In 1958 the General Assembly Library was transferred to New College Library, and the books of the…

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59. Brilliant, Ruby, Sapphire: The Cabinet of Gems, by Samuel Batchelor

by bibliodeviant

100 Objects

This week, meet one of my favourite items in Special Collections: The Cabinet of Gems, by Samuel Batchelor.

Gemstones, from The Cabinet of Gems by Samuel Batchelor (1840)

Its magnificent subtitle is: Vocabulary of Precious Stones, arranged according to their comparative value : together with a description of the largest known diamonds and coloured gems in the world; the commercial history of rough diamonds; an account of the pearl fishery and the regalias of England, Scotland &c.  Ours is the revised edition, printed in 1840 by W. Langdale of Knaresborough.

Diamonds, from The Cabinet of Gems by Samuel Batchelor (1840)

The Cabinet is an interesting book packed with quirky information, as the subtitle suggests.  I particularly like the fact it is printed in Yorkshire.  What I really love about this little volume though are the plates, especially the colourful illustration of gemstones, above.  I’ve re-used this many times (here and here, for example), to illustrate the point that Special Collections are themselves gems or treasures. …

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The ‘Z’ Factor : New College Library’s rediscovered Special Collections

by bibliodeviant

newcollegelibrarian

What are Special Collections? At New College Library we have Special Collections of books, archives  and manuscripts and a small collection of portraits and objects. Much of the book collections have been housed in Special Collections for decades, but we also have a growing collection of ‘new’ Special Collections.

This is the Z Collection, which is formed out of recent donations and out of New College Library books formerly in the General sequence  which were identified as Special Collections during a stock management exercise. We follow the critieria used by the Centre for Research Collections here at the University of Edinburgh, in particular that all books published before 1850 should be classed as Special Collections. The Z Collection, which numbers over 3,500 items, is currently being catalogued online as part of the Funk Cataloguing Projects.

One example from the Z Collection is the Biographia scotica, a biographical dictionary compiled by John Stark of Edinburgh.  It contains…

View original post 81 more words

F!ART. The ‘70s ‘cheesecake’ photography of Russ Karel (thoughts on a recently arrived collection at Maggs Counterculture).

by maggscounterculture

Russ Karel’s 71 beautiful, large, photographs of naked and semi-naked young women in domestic interiors are some of the oddest and finest photographs from the period. ‘Odd’ because Karel took a popular soft porn genre and made it over into Pop Art. ‘Fine’, because he used a large format camera and antiquarian and very expensive darkroom techniques such as cyanotype, gum-bichromate, platinum and Kalitype often with pigments thrown in. They were also printed on fine rag or laid paper. They are luxury Pop ‘objects’ for the new domestic interiors of the ‘60s and ‘70s decorated with moulded plastics, glass and shiny mylar and furnished with Allen Jones erotic art furniture or Joe Colombo ‘living systems’.

 

Karel was a thorn in the side of British television, a fantasist who also made great documentary films that revealed the forgotten, glossed over and marginalised early histories of Yiddish and ‘Negro’ cinema. Jeremy Isaacs 1995 Guardian obituary for him described Karel as a protean figure, “Demon driven”, hounded by the FBI, entranced by the music of Mingus and who was at “..his worst most of the time”.

It would be easy to dismiss these nude, erotic photographs of young women of European and African-Caribbean origin as just ‘mucky’ photos by one of the ubiquitous amateur photographers who once haunted the nether-regions of our crumbling post-war European cities. They were fully paid up members of the ‘dirty Mac brigade’ who placed squalid little handwritten cards in the newsagent window “Models required. Good rates”. Or, a longhair’s version of this sexploitation derived from the sixties, a version of “Fucking for Freedom” or in this case nude modelling for freedom in the cause of ‘sexual liberation’.

There is of course a large element of truth in this accusation of sexploitation, the models are posed predictably, some with an unwilling ‘Rictus Sardonicus’ like grin, semi-clothed in the costumage of the early seventies ‘wank mag’, or just nude. Their gazes are fixed on the cameraman (“That’s it, babe. Make love to the camera” said David Hemmings’ character in ‘Blow-Up’), eyes stiffly beckon the male gaze in turn, and unnatural ‘natural’ poses ‘invite’.

The camera gazes back at them, fixing their identities into one moment of awkward posturing for the pleasure of male eyes. Even ‘worse’, they are tinted and printed in the most ‘vulgar’ of colours. Yet, in our age of instant and extreme sexual imagery at the end of a Google image search they compare well as the most innocent and mainstream of pornography.  Photos are re-branded here in secondhandland as vintage, ‘retro’, erotica, one rule of the Establishment is that rude things are not offensive if they end in an ‘a’ or have a French name. As such, Karel made ‘tarte de fromage’ rather than ‘cheesecake’.

Who are the women in the photographs? The sessions were probably in Milan and or London, cities full of young, nubile baby boomers. Were they hard-up women making the rent? Maybe they were stray ‘flower children’ hitching across Europe (‘Ass, Gas or Grass. Nobody rides for free’ said a tee-shirt slogan of the time). Were some drawn into Karel’s orbit to pose ‘pro-bono’ for ‘art’s sake’; with promises that it would lead to greater things?

Some are posed on what look like ‘casting couches’, others sat the wrong way round on ratty looking dowel backed chairs or lounged with legs apart or made shapes in front of long mirrors. Or, they lay on stairs and floors signalling a kind of geographic or domestic sexual availability. Some kneel like sexual supplicants awaiting benediction, confirmation or communion. They wore what has now become the dress code for smut in the seventies; a vaguely hip smattering of over sized ‘fencenet’ stockings, shiny or peroxide wigs, beads and belts, silvery panties, feather boas, mini-skirts and long leather boots. Of course, this was long before the ‘vajazzled’ era we now live in and so the women largely have hair in their pubic regions and their breasts loll naturally and stomach lines are sensuous and traditionally feminine.

Karel worked with Andy Warhol and was a member of the glamorous world of film and television. He was on the same spectrum as Hemmings’ ‘mod’ photographer in Antonioni’s ‘Blow-Up’, a character based on David Bailey. Perhaps then, in the wake of ‘Couch’ and ‘Chelsea Girls’ it felt perfectly reasonable to take your clothes off for an ‘avant-garde’ photo-session. Or rather, quite simply, the women were professional sex workers, the so-called ‘Lucciole’ or fireflies of Milan’s ancient sexual services industry. Maybe, they were recruited from the ranks of ‘Go-Go’ dancers working in that grey area between selling sex and entertaining men.

The use of pigments makes them look painterly and this is reminiscent of Degas’s pastel depictions of women bathing. Degas also did monotypes and pastels of prostitutes in brothels wearing stockings, wigs and jewellery. The designer Carlo Mollino’s Polaroids of Turin prostitutes from the same period are also very similar. Yet, in Karel’s use of ‘obsolete’ and quite expensive, darkroom techniques such as salt, platinum, Kalitype and gum-bichromate he went beyond ‘copying’ the masters, mere amateurism or soft porn, or even Mollino’s secret art. He arguably created a new genre, a sort of antiquarian-Pop. Indeed, some photos, either by art or accident, look like blue skinned aliens or drag queen refugees from Warhol’s Factory.

Karel gave each of them at least one rubberstamp ‘F!ART’ as if he was torn between smut and erotica, high art and low art, erotica and porn, vulgarity and good taste. This is an area of artistic practise that is highly contested and that was explored with great rigour later in the 70s by Cosey Fanni Tutti/COUM Transmissions and others. These photos are a remarkable set of very experimental images.

Book of The Week: We Carry A Heaven In Ourselves…

by bibliodeviant

Francis Barrett, occult balloon nutter:

Bibliodeviancy

Haven’t done one of these for a while, I’m sure that people have forgotten I actually spend my day surrounded by books rather than lurking in a screen filled cave attempting to absorb the contents of the internet. I’ve got a ton of stuff to write about at the moment (I’m not promising any of it will be any good, but hey, if you want good go here, and here), we’ve had an influx of very cool books, I have another catalogue to write  and we’re gearing up for the imminent publication of Jon Gilbert’s epic Ian Fleming Bibliography.

So for starters, something barking mad:

BARRETT, Francis. The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer; Being a Complete System of Occult Philosophy.

London: Printed for Lackington, Allen and Co.,  1801.  [38020 ]

FIRST EDITION. Quarto (270 x 210mm) Three books in two parts pp. xv, 175,198. Bound with the half-title…

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Top 10 Most Read Books

by bibliodeviant

Staggering numbers. Also the majority are very recent titles.

Keiser Writes - Getting the Words Write

Designer and illustrator Jared Fanning recently created a graphic to showcase the top 10 most read books in the world. Curious to learn which books are the most popular? Check out the top 10 here.

Do any of the books on this list surprise you? Have you read any of them? What books would YOU most recommend reading?

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Getty Art Database

by bibliodeviant

So many books, nowhere near enough money…

by bibliodeviant

Someone enjoyed Olympia this year…

Cosway Bindings

by bibliodeviant

Educational look at Cosway bindings.