Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Where the Surreal and the Modern March Hand in Hand: Russian Children’s Books

Where the Surreal and the Modern March Hand in Hand in a World of Tractors and Typewriters: Russian Children’s Books by Marijana Dworski.

Early 20th Century Russian graphic design is an underappreciated and little known genre in this country, but is now gaining recognition. In the wake of a number of exhibitions on the Russian avant-garde and programmes on Russian art, it is certainly worth pursuing for pleasure and even for profit.

Daunting the Cyrillic script may be, but the rich and colourful tradition originating in the Russian popular woodcut prints (Lubok) of the 17th and 18th centuries gives these books an immediate charm and appeal. A deep empathy with nature and folklore, combined with strong colours and bold designs, set Russian book illustration apart from western European trends of the time. Book art after the 1917 Revolution certainly differed radically in style from what came before, but colour and a magical realism remain dominant features.

Certainly, conventional children’s books, like the tales of Moka and Mishunk (an elephant and a bear) existed, but the artist that many consider the greatest and most ‘Russian’ of book illustrators was Ivan Bilibin. A member of the influential Mir Iskusstvo (World of Art) movement, Bilibin was profoundly influenced by Japanese woodcuts as well as Russian vernacular wooden architecture and the folklore of the ancient Slavs. Having studied under Ilya Repin, he developed a distinctive style which became immediately popular. The ‘Skazki’ (fairy tales) and editions of Pushkin illustrated by Bilibin have become enormously collectable and, although he was so prolific, are now hard to find. In the 1970s, however, Progress Publishers of Moscow reprinted many of these books and, although not the ‘real thing’, they are undoubtedly worth tracking down.

One colossal figure in the history of twentieth century Russian graphic design is Dmitri Moor.
(Dmitry Stakhievich Orlov), known almost exclusively for his iconic propaganda posters inciting Revolution and Death to Imperialism. But, like all artists, he tried his hand at other forms of graphic design. A little known children’s book, illustrated by him and published in 1913, has come to light: the story of Chiki Chiki the Magpie. Again, strong colours dominate. The stark black and white of the magpie against the deep maroon background foreshadows the technique of his emotive political posters.

The 1917 Revolution caused huge upheaval, but despite a broken infrastructure and recurrent paper shortages, the nineteen twenties became the Golden Age of the publishing. The experiments of the Russian Futurists, and later, the Constructivists with type, design and the printed word served not only to spread the ideology of the Revolution but book illustration and design became a refuge to those who dared not dissent too explicitly. The post-revolutionary explosion in publishing catapulted the production of children’s books to new heights and, as ever, children’s books, like art, were not created merely to entertain. New Soviet publishing houses dedicated to producing books for children (DETGIZ, Molodaia Gvardiia, Detskaiia Literatura) churned out copies in their hundreds of thousands. As with most contemporary Russian publishing, low quality and acidic paper was used, ensuring an early demise. Few examples survive.

Propaganda was a major motivating factor throughout the Soviet period but the creation and design of children’s books was used both by the innovators and the disaffected. The surreal and the modern marched hand in hand in a world of tractors and typewriters. Vladimir Lebdev, one of the greatest graphic artists of the time, used a bold and assertive form of caricature employing a technique resembling cut paper images. Important for his poster design, he will also always be remembered for his collaboration with Samuil Marshak, children’s author and poet. Together these two extraordinarily talented individuals produced numerous children’s books many of which were published at the Raduga publishing house. ‘Tsirk’ or Circus is one of the most famous of these children’s books and was reprinted in the 1970s.

Later, post-war Soviet children’s publications draw on the diverse heritage of the enormous Soviet Empire, encompassing well over 100 peoples in fifteen republics. From the westernmost Baltic States through the Russian Steppes to Siberia and far Kamchatka, folklore, proverbs, customs and traditions are all incorporated in the captivating, illustrated children’s literature of the 1970s and 80s. Colour and form in Russian art still echo those days that shook the world, the heyday of the Russian Avant-Garde.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Book of the Week

Historic carriage drawings, volume one (1): LNER and constituents by Nick Campling

Published: Easingwold, Pendragon Partnership, 1997
Edition: First Edition Thus
Binding: Hardcover

Very clean larger format hardback in glossy pictorial boards, as new, no inscriptions or signs of use. 128 pages, illustrations throughout, sources, bibliography, Fine
Stock number: 26635. ISBN: 1899816046

From the stock of Aucott & Thomas.

You can view more books on railways here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

More on the Lost Man Booker

I recently edited my last post on the Lost Man Booker to add some links to reviews of two of the books. Some more information on another two titles.

Firstly, a bit more detail on Len Deighton's Bomber by Mike Sims of A Book for all Reasons :

Len Deighton the thriller writer and military historian, has written an epic fictional account of an RAF bombing raid on Germany in June, 1943, from the initial preparations in England, the briefing, take-off and the raid itself, and simultaneously the preparations and defences at the German target, the actions of the civilians, radar tracking personnel and the night fighter crews. The book was later dramatised by the BBC in several episodes broadcast in real time, as the action of the novel developed, over one day.

The first edition of Len Deighton's 'Bomber' looks like this:

Secondly, I have been attempting to read Down All the Days by Christy Brown. I have never read anything by Brown before, though I have of course seen My Left Foot staring Daniel Day-Lewis. I was looking forward to readin this as a result but frankly I found it unreadable. It has dated badly and I say this as someone whose reading is presominently in the past. Brown's style is poetic, if I am being polite, overly wordy if I am not; and the adolescent fantasies were so boring I just couldn't continue with the book. The portrayal of working class life in ireland is interesting but has I think been done so much better by so many other writers. In both subject matter and style then, I really don't think it has stood the test of time.

The first edition of Christy Brown's Down All the Days looks like this:

If you have links to books from the longlist that you ahve reviewed then please let me know and I'll add them.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cambridge Centre for Children's Literature

The University of Cambridge is opening a new Centre for Children's Literature. There are already other centres in the UK focusing on children's literature, but this one aims to study what children pick up from all forms of the written word, whether it be a book, a blog or a computer game.

illustration from The Vege-men's Revenge, Stella & Rose's Books

The Centre, headed by Professor Maria Nicolajeva, will be unique both because of the breadth of what it will study, and its desire to bridge the current divide between those who study texts from a literary point of view, and those who seem treat them more as a study in social science.

illustration from Rosine, Peakirk Books

Professor Nicolajeva said: "Everybody can remember a book or film from their childhood that played a role in shaping the way they understand the world around them. For children, these are often secret and sacred places that they can go to and we need to study them if we want to improve their education and development."

The Centre's current programme of teaching and research ranges from old favourites like Robert Louis Stephenson's Treasure Island to current authors such as J K Rowling and Philip Pullman.

Ibooknet has several children's literature specialists: Stella & Rose, Peakirk Books and March House Books all have wide general stocks. Charlotte Robinson at the Amwell Book Company stocks children's illustrated books, and Jane Badger pony books. Vanessa Robertson's Fidra Books publishes classic children's literature, and she also owns the Children's Bookshop in Edinburgh.

High Heels for Jennifer, from Jane Badger Books

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Jottings of a "Blow-in" Bookseller

Jottings of a "Blow-in" Bookseller in Ireland by Karen Millward

In days gone by the seaweed was cut at low tide with curved scythes. The people collected it and tied long strands into heaps and left it for the tide and wind to blow up the beach. This was a Blow-In- seaweed harvested and blown up on to the beaches of Ireland.

Why do people become "Blow-Ins", deciding to move from their native country? There are many reasons why non-Irish people live here in Ireland. A new life in a new country offers great attractions.

Naturally, Ireland is a beautiful country, where people are open and friendly and very welcoming to visitors. There are many famous and rich people who have made their homes here, they are never hassled by fans demanding their attention. West Cork is the home of many actors, entrepreneurs, musicians, film directors, who came here to enjoy the anonymity and tranquillity amongst people who had never even heard of them.

After much thought we decided to up sticks and move to live in Ireland. This done the panic began to set in, was this the right thing to be doing especially at our time of life. Once decided, house sold, books packed we were on the move and beginning to realise what an adventure we had embarked upon.

In September 2001 we sailed for our new life in Eire, we had owned a holiday home here since 1989 but this was the big move. For eight months we lived in our holiday cottage, very small and compact to say the least. Books were stored at our new home which was partially built with one room suitable for storage.

Computer was set up in a bedroom and every time I sold a book we had to get in the car and drive to new house only to find the book we needed was in a banana box at the bottom of a pile of six boxes.

We survived and in May 2002 we moved into our new spacious five bed roomed house, one room shelved out and books installed, the landing also shelved but the rest of the books stored in box’s. Our house is down an ‘Old Bog Road’ with mountains and a bog behind, it is in a peaceful and beautiful location.

At the top of the road you look across to the Sugar Loaf Mountain on the Beara Peninsular and the sea opens up on the lovely Bantry and Glengarriff Bay.

Sugar Loaf Mountain.

This is a very popular tourist area and next year it is hoped that it will become busier when the Cork-Swansea Ferry begins to run again.

Bantry is a bustling market town right on the edge of the harbour, every Friday there is a market in the town square with stall holders selling everything from fruit and vegetables to chickens and puppies, the first Friday of every month is usually the biggest market with more livestock and a vast variety of antiques and collectables, furniture, clothes, tools and even the fortune tellers are out in their caravans.

Glengarriff is a beautiful little village with the wonderful tropical Garnish Island just a short boat trip across the water, in the Summer it is packed out but around the end of September it becomes just a quiet little place once again.

A Peaceful Spot Glengarriff.

Selling books here is not so different as when I traded in the UK we were very lucky to begin with because our local village post office was just half a mile down our road but as with a lot of local village shops and post offices it closed down and so now we have to travel about six miles to post our parcels.

Speaking of post offices we have a very laid back postman named Pat and we get our post delivered to us wherever we happen to meet him be it at the local garage or at a road junction and some days even in the mail box, post reaches us with even the vaguest name and address on the envelope.

Life in Ireland did hold a few culture shocks but one just gets on from day to day and gradually settles into the everyday life of the local community. My biggest difficulty to begin with was the pace of life and the laid back attitude to things. On a Sunday night dancing commences at 10pm, this amazed me because most of the people have to work on Mondays. Most of the shops in town do not open until 10am and long lunches are frequent. Because we had been coming here for almost twenty years we did know many of the locals and so this made things much easier.

What we did find was that it was essential to get out into the community and as everyone knows the Irish love their music and dance and so we frequented the local hotel on Sunday evenings where they have live music and dance every week. As a keen dancer I soon was taught how to dance the Polka Set, Siege of Ennis, Two Step, Stack of Barley,Two Hand Reel, Irish Waltz and Quickstep (more skippy than the traditional).


The Irish love their music and dance, one famous local celebrity was Captain Francis O’Neill he was born near Bantry, West Cork in the Townland of Tralibane, in 1848 he was the youngest of seven children and is known to be the man who saved Irish music. It is said that he saved 3500 Irish songs for posterity. Every year at his home place in West Cork a festival is held to commemorate his birth. Captain O’ Neill later became the Chief of Police in Chicago. But it was the songs that he picked up from his parents and visiting musicians at the family home in West Cork that was to form the basis of one of the most remarkable collections of Irish music, published in the early years of the last century.


Another famous son of West Cork was Michael Collins (1890-1922), he was born at Woodfield, Clonakilty, Co. Cork 16th October 1890. He was an Irish Patriot and Revolutionary. When he signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921, he remarked to Lord Birkenhead, ‘I may have signed my actual death warrant.‘ And on an August day in 1922 in the tiny hamlet of Béal na Bláth, that prophecy came true- Collins was shot and killed by a fellow Irishman in an ambush. So ended the life of the greatest of all Irish nationalists, but his vision and legacy lived on.

Myths and Legends

Many Myths and Legends abound in Ireland and the area where I live is no exception.
About a mile away is Priest’s Leap and anyone visiting Coomhola will be almost certain to hear of this site high up on the northern side of Cnoc Buí. The area is know as Cum na Leime " the mountain valley of the jump", or Léim a’tSagairt " the priest’s leap. Nowadays an iron cross marks the spot on the top of the mountain. During Penal Times, priests were perpetually hounded by English soldiers, as Roman Catholicism was outlawed, and on one occasion a miraculous jump was made by a priest in order to evade capture , there are many different versions of this legend. At Newtown on the outskirts of Bantry Town, a distance of nine miles away a stone plaque with the following inscription was erected.

Léim a’tSagairt Erected to perpetuate the memory of The Priest’s Leap
Tradition has it that a priest escaped his soldier pursuers by leaping on horseback across the Bay.

The marks on the adjacent rock indicate where horse and rider landed safely.

Erected June 1972.

This part of Ireland is steeped in history and everyday one learns more of local customs and events that have helped shape it. We consider ourselves most fortunate to have found this tranquil spot and appreciate each day spent here.

Karen Millward specialises in Irish books covering everything Irish and more. Also carried is a large general stock of quality books.

Or view Karen's books through the Ibooknet site here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tweeting booksellers

I have been on twitter for a while as Juxtabook but last week I started a twitter account for ibooknet too. A number of ibooknet booksellers already had twitter acounts but as a result of our chats about twitter several more sellers have started tweeting.

Don't let the media hype about twitter put you off, if you haven't tried it, it is a useful place for picking up information. It is not compulsory to follow celebrities! One of our members, new to twitter this week, has written a post on his own blog about the usefullness of twitter. You can read Philip Lund's thoughts here.

So who might you follow if you were interested in books?

The British Library
Olympia Book Fair
Seven Stories
(children's book illustration museum)

WW1 Poetry Archive

Booksellers inlcluding:

Blair Bookshop
Tall Stories
Farm Lane Books
Book Shop Sara

Authors including:

Michael Rosen
Paul Magrs
Aliya Whiteley
Marcus Sedgwick
Evie Wyld

Publishing folk including:

Eoin Purcell
Gallic Books
To Hell With Emma
Virago Books
Aliya Whiteley
Victorian Secrets
Oleanderman (Guardian of Whipplesnaith's Night Climbers of Cambridge)

And of course Ibooknet sellers:

March House Books
Books & Bygones
Stephen Foster
A Book for All Reasons
C L Hawley (aka Juxtabook)
Jane Badger Books aka Books, Mud and Compost
Lund Theological Books
Peakirk Books



Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Architectural History of Wordsworth's Grasmere homes

By Ellie Hunt and Adam Menuge

Saturday 6 March 2010, 3pm. The Jerwood Centre, with a tour of Dove Cottage.

This event will look at the architectural history of two of William Wordsworth's three Grasmere homes. Bristol University archaeology student Ellie Hunt will talk about the 'lost wing' of Allan Bank, of which she is also a former resident. There will also be a chance to see a short documentary film about her excavations, which have been carried out with National Trust support.

Dr Adam Menuge, Senior Investigator at English Heritage, will share the results of his recent architectural investigation into Dove Cottage in a talk and a tour of the building.

Many of the Wordsworth Trust's Winter Events are free but do require booking as places are limited.

To reserve a place please telephone: 015394 35544.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Book of the Week

Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

Published: London, Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1912
Binding: Hardback

12mo - over 6¾" - 7¾" tall. xi., 229 pp. Bound in a recent half deep red morocco with a gilt patterned paper to the boards. All edges gilt.. Book Condition: Fine. Binding: Half Morocco
Stock number: 8006.
£ 125.00 ( approx. $US 204.58 )

From the stock of Stephen Foster.

You can view more Lewis Carroll books here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cambridge Book Fair

The PBFA'S 36th annual fair , East Anglia’s largest such event, takes place at:

The Guildhall
Market Square,

Friday February 19,
noon - 6.00pm

Saturday February 20,
10.00 am - 5.00pm

Admission £1

Ibooknet members Peakirk Books and Simon French Books will be exhibiting. Peakirk Books specialise in children and illustrated books and Simon French Books specialise in Modern First Edition books, including many fine and signed titles.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Book of the Week

Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali

Published: "London: Doubleday, 2006
Edition: First Edition
Binding: hardcover, with Dustjacket

1st edition. Blue cloth boards stamped in gilt on the spine. Fine in Fine dustwrapper.
Stock number: 12169. ISBN: 0 385 60486 6
£ 11.00 ( approx. $US 18.00 )

From the stock of The Glass Key.

You can view more modern first editions here and more books by Monica Ali here .

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Lost Man Booker Prize - Longlist

The Lost Man Booker Prize - A One-off prize to honour books published in 1970

Have you read any of the long list? Any predictions for the shortlist?

In 1971, just two years after it began, the Booker Prize ceased to be awarded retrospectively and became, as it is today, a prize for the best novel in the year of publication. At the same time, the date on which the award was given moved from April to November. As a result of these changes, there was whole year's gap when many books, published in 1970, were simply never considered for the prize.

Now a panel of three judges has been appointed to select a shortlist of six novels from those books. They are journalist and critic, Rachel Cooke, ITN newsreader, Katie Derham and poet and novelist, Tobias Hill.

Their shortlist will be chosen from a longlist of 22 books which would have been eligible and are still in print and generally available today. They are:

o Brian Aldiss, The Hand Reared Boy
o H.E.Bates, A Little Of What You Fancy?
o Nina Bawden, The Birds On The Trees
o Melvyn Bragg, A Place In England
o Christy Brown, Down All The Days
o Len Deighton, Bomber
o J.G.Farrell, Troubles
o Elaine Feinstein, The Circle
o Shirley Hazzard, The Bay Of Noon
o Reginald Hill, A Clubbable Woman
o Susan Hill, I'm The King Of The Castle
o Francis King, A Domestic Animal
o Margaret Laurence, The Fire Dwellers
o David Lodge, Out Of The Shelter
o Iris Murdoch, A Fairly Honourable Defeat
o Shiva Naipaul, Fireflies
o Patrick O'Brian, Master and Commander
o Joe Orton, Head To Toe
o Mary Renault, Fire From Heaven
o Ruth Rendell, A Guilty Thing Surprised
o Muriel Spark, The Driver's Seat
o Patrick White, The Vivisector

The list includes many distinguished writers whose books have stood the test of time including J.G. Farrell, whose The Siege of Krishnapur won the prize in 1973; Iris Murdoch, whose The Sea, The Sea won in 1978 and whose novels were shortlisted in four other years; David Lodge, who was shortlisted in 1984 and 1988 and chaired the prize in 1989; Muriel Spark, who was shortlisted in 1969 for her novel The Public Image and in 1981 for Loitering with Intent; Nina Bawden whose Circles of Deceit was shortlisted in 1987 and Susan Hill, whose The Bird of Night was shortlisted in 1972 and who judged the 1975 prize.

The Lost Man Booker Prize is the brainchild of Peter Straus, honorary archivist to the Booker Prize Foundation. He comments, "I noticed that when Robertson Davies's Fifth Business was first published it carried encomiums from Saul Bellow and John Fowles both of whom judged the 1971 Booker Prize. However judges for 1971 said it had not been considered or submitted. This led to an investigation which concluded that a year had been excluded. I am delighted that, even in a Darwinian way, this year, with so many extraordinary novels, can now be covered by the Man Booker Prize."

Ion Trewin, literary director of the Man Booker Prizes comments, ‘Our longlist demonstrates that 1970 was a remarkable year for fiction written in English. Recognition for these novels and the eventual winner is long overdue.'

The shortlist will be announced in March but, as with the Best of the Booker in 2008, the international reading public will decide the winner by voting via the Man Booker Prize website. The overall winner will be announced in May.

This is the third time that a celebratory award has been created for the prize. The first was the Booker of Bookers in 1993 - the 25th anniversary, and then in 2008 with the Best of the Booker to mark the 40th anniversary. Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children won both awards.

Have you read any of them? Any predictions for the shortlist? I have to confess to not having read a single one. A prize like this is a good catalyst to make me explore new titles. What do you think?

The Copy of Master and Commander illustrating this post is from the stock of
A Book for all Reasons. Stock number: 38949. ISBN: 9780007787524 £ 5.00 ( approx. $US 8.18) as is the copy of Head to Toe by Joe Orton Stock number: 36551. ISBN: 0749390298
£ 2.50 ( approx. $US 4.09 ). The copy of Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault is from the stock of The Glass Key 1st edition. Stock number: 82346. ISBN: 0 582 10134 4
£ 10.00 ( approx. $US 16.37 ).

Edited to add recent reviews of the Lost Man Booker titles (if you review any and want us to add an link please leave a message in the comments):

The Birds on the Trees by Nina Bawden reviewed by kimbofo on Reading Matters

'The Vivisector' by Patrick White reviewed by kimbofo on Reading Matters
Related Posts with Thumbnails