Sunday, 24 June 2012

Not for sale promotional books for Hotels No.1:

Icons at the Pump Room

I have two books that I intend to sell which can be described as 'not for sale promotional books produced for hotels', so hey presto, my first series of linked posts! Try not to get too excited.

I've actually got various books which were created as promotional items, and never intended for sale. They don't have prices on the back, or ISBNs, and some of them are printed to a very high standard: one title I have, an illustrated history of a tea company which was originally given away to shareholders, has a quarter cloth binding, and even a full cloth slipcase.

This week's book is not quite as posh as that; it's a paperback, but printed on nice thick matte paper, and it's full of nothing but black and white photos of, yes, Icons.

For decades, the Pump Room at the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago was the restaurant/bar where all the celebrities would go when they were in town. This collection of press and publicity photos of the great and the good, all pictured in the Pump Room or elesewhere in the hotel, was printed last year, and sent to the press to mark the reopening of the fabled venue at what is now The Public Hotel (which looks rather lovely, but rather expensive). 

I've no idea how many copies were printed, but I'd be surprised if it was more than a few hundred. Only a handful have made their way into the secondary market in the US (where the asking price is $30-$45), and currently none (other than this one) are on sale in the UK. I found this copy in a second hand book shop in Brixton. Perhaps it was sent to a journalist at a UK-based travel magazine or supplement. Who knows, but like the vast majority of such promotional efforts, it was evidently discarded pretty quickly by its recipient, who probably gets piles of PR tat every week.

This book ain't tat though; it's great. It's about 150 pages of full bleed photos, all of them unfamiliar, and some of them absolute corkers. How about this one of a very young and utterly luminous Sigourney Weaver...

Then there's a spread featuring two of the cooler human beings ever to have walked the Earth:

This is a good one of some of the Brat Pack in their pomp:

Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis back when they were King and Queen of Hollywood:

... and Dustin Hoffman, mucking about in a hotel porter's hat:

In fact, thanks to this this site, here are thumbnails of a bunch of the photos in the book. How many Icons can you identify?

Stay tuned for the second and last entry in this captivating 'not for sale promotional books produced for hotels' series, a title which manages to shed light on both Russell Crowe's daily habits and Boba Fett's family...

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Some Enid Blyton Firsts

I was never a Famous Five fan, they passed me by. I don't recall ever even seeing the TV version of the books which was on ITV when I was a kid (in which Gary Russell, these days better known as an eminence grise in the world of Doctor Who, gave us his Dick, as it were).

I did read and enjoy the Secret Seven books, but the best of all was the Adventure series, in which Philip, Jack, Dinah, Lucy-Ann and Jack's pet parrot Kiki got caught up in, well, Adventures. I remember nothing of the plots now, other than they were a bit more outré and far-flung than the Seven, and were terribly exciting, in a way which no doubt would hold zero interest to today's youth, staring into their i-boxes and x-phones all day.

So when I got the chance to acquire a bunch of first edition, first printings of 5 of the 8 ...of Adventure books, I did so with alacrity. But now's the time to pass them on, so up on eBay they go as a job lot, at a starting price which I certainly hope will find some takers...

They're without dustjackets of course (that starting price would have a couple of zeroes on it if they had 'em), but I notice a fellow eBayer has a nice line in facsimile Blyton djs for the budget conscious collector.

The artist, of the dustjackets, boards, and the rather atmospheric interior illustrations (which lasted through many, many reprints of the books), was Stuart Tresilian. According to this informative post at the always interesting Bear Alley, he was evidently a prolific illustrator in the 30s, 40s and 50s, though I'm also fascinated by the fact that the Imperial War Museum apparently holds drawings he made while he was a POW of the Germans in the Great War. Alas, though they come up when you search for his name on their website, there are no visuals.

As for Enid Blyton, the revisionist picture of her these days is not too flattering. How about this for a quote, from her own daughter, Imogen:

"The truth is Enid Blyton was arrogant, insecure, pretentious, very skilled at putting difficult or unpleasant things out of her mind, and without a trace of maternal instinct. As a child, I viewed her as a rather strict authority. As an adult I pitied her."

Still, anybody who wrote a book called Well, Really, Mr. Twiddle! can't be all bad...

Thursday, 7 June 2012

A Jubilee week special...

From Wikipedia's entry for L'Opera of the Palace of Versailles:

The Opéra Royal since 1950

1952-1957 witnessed major restoration of the Opéra – generally considered one of the finest restoration projects undertaken at Versailles – when it was restored under the direction of André Japy to its 1770 state (Verlet, p. 384). The Opéra officially reopened on 9 April 1957 in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, with a presentation of Act II of Rameau’s Les Indes Galantes.

... and on offer is a copy of the programme from that performance:

'Divertissement offert à l'Opéra de Louis XV par Monsieur le Président de la République en l'honneur de Sa Majesté la Reine Elisabeth II et de Son Altesse Royale le Prince Philip, duc d'Edimbourg : 9 avril 1957'

Many of the 'official programmes' for major royal events are printed in their thousands to be sold up and down the land, and are therefore not hard to get hold of, even 60 years later. Just take a look at the number of copies of the official 1953 Coronation programme up for sale on eBay this week... This however is evidently a rather rare item, as I'm pretty certain it's the programme handed to the opera-goers at the event, and as such would have had a much lower print run.

This could appeal to a number of separate groups of enthusiasts: collectors of British Royal ephemera looking for something out of the ordinary in this Jubilee week, opera buffs, Palace of Versailles fans, or even collectors of work by Albert Decaris, as the cover of the programme is a striking original intaglio engraving by that acclaimed artist (who was a favourite of Charles de Gaulle). Here's a detail:

Other than a listing for a copy in the Bibliothèque interuniversitaire Sainte-Geneviève the only other reference I can find to this programme is on this thread (in French).
I can't find another copy for sale anywhere online.

The programme is 32 x 24cm, 8pp, plus covers. This copy is complete with the three-colour cord around the spine, and is printed on heavy paper with the Decaris etching on the front cover, and three tipped in illustrations, one in colour. It has a little bit of foxing throughout, but is in good condition for an item over 50 years old. 

I'm fascinated to see if this has any takers, and if it does, which group of fans the buyer comes from.

Her Maj obviously had a busy few days in France back in 1957, as this Pathé news reel reveals. There was even a Seine pageant!

For completeness' sake, as it's only an 8 page programme, here's the interiors:

Saturday, 2 June 2012

One Down...

That copy of To the Devil – A Daughter (to give it its correct title, though note that the Hammer film is To the Devil... A Daughter; the dots make it more suspenseful I suppose) has become the Accidental Bookshop's first sale. A bargain at 99p, but then Dennis Wheatley is not the household name, popular bestseller he once was, and those serious collectors of his work that remain presumably only want books in tippedy-top condition — and this copy, to be fair, was not. 

It's possible however that the buyer was one of what I can only imagine is an even smaller group: collectors of the artist responsible for the cover (a design described, correctly, by one dealer on ABE as 'frothing insane').

The artist was Frank C. Papé, who also designed Wheatley's personal bookplate (as seen in my previous post). According to this biography he was born in 1878, which would put him in his mid-seventies when he painted this cover, which is pretty good going. He lived to the grand old age of 92 mind! His Wikipedia entry didn't mention the To the Devil cover art, so I've added that in. Glad to be of service, Frank.