"The vicissitudes of old books furnish a romantic chapter in the history of literature. About the end of the eighteenth century, the library of an old Lincolnshire house was overhauled by someone who weeded out a lot of what he no doubt considered rubbish. These were destroyed, except for a few which were begged by the gardener, who probably wanted them to use as stands for plant-pots, or to give a false air of literary distinction to his cottage."
--- J. Arthur Hill, 'Old Books and their Printers', The Imprint, 17 June 1913, p 407.

This periodical celebrated the beauty of good craft for its own sake as well as for the benefit of the businesses of its readers, but it seems the appreciation of good printing could not be expected from all. (in this case 'The Book of St Albans', which came into the possession of Thomas Grenville a few steps after the gardener, and is now in the British Library.)
sir_guinglain: (PitWheelWoodhorn)
( Aug. 9th, 2016 04:30 pm)
"Mind Dickie teks things varry literal. He's watchin' Ted Heath mekkin a speech at the Convarsative Conference when it was on the telly. "We must, we must" sez Ted "Wage war against poverty". So Dick gans strite oot and shoots a tramp."
---Dick Irwin and Scott Dobson, Geordie Laffs (Newcastle: Frank Graham, 1970) p. 9
I visited the Cartoon Museum in London today with [livejournal.com profile] gervase_fen to see the Target Doctor Who covers exhibition, which [livejournal.com profile] gervase_fen has written up here. I have little to add other than say that Chris Achilleos's new cover for Vengeance on Varos works better with a noose around Colin Baker's neck as originally intended, and that among the details cropped out of Roy Knipe's artwork is a well-turned button on the fourth Doctor's cuff for Doctor Who and the Invisible Enemy. So much detail on the work is lost during reproduction, and was further eroded by cheap reprint methods as the books migrated methods and printers during the 1980s. The ebb and flow of the ink on what appears as a solid purple border on Achilleos's Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars is visible, as is the technique of his inking of the cosmic objects on his first three covers, ...and the Daleks, ...and the Zarbi and ...and the Crusaders. More impenetrable are the smooth washes of his early multi-coloured Daleks (very much based on the work of the last of the TV 21 Dalek artists, Ron Turner) and the methods by which he painted the incredibly smooth features of Tom Baker on ...and the Genesis of the Daleks and ...and the Ark in Space.

The exhibition draws attention to the lost art of the book cover, but could have made more of the links between the book covers and comic strip art. Chris Achilleos's covers were initially intended as patterned after the style of Frank Bellamy, too expensive a comics artist for budget-conscious Universal-Tandem to avoid, and he drew not only on Turner but on Marvel's Jack Kirby. A notable absence from the exhibition was Peter Brookes, who drew four mould-breaking but mould-defining covers in 1975. At a time when the BBC Books reprint programme is associating the Target series exclusively with Chris Achilleos, it's a reminder that there were many other artists with the 'family friendly' image BBC Books have cited as their reason for using the Achilleos covers. I think a case exists for a Peter Brookes set of reprints, a Jeff Cummins set and a Roy Knipe set.
The public face: going into Blackwells, photographing the new reissues of some old Target Doctor Who books, and Tweeting it with the handles of BBC Books and Blackwells noted.

BBC Books notice this and retweet.

I then send BBC Books a private message correcting the indicia on six of the titles, which have listed the wrong original publisher. They have at least not unfollowed me yet.
"As the antients had their Capitoline and their Olympian Jupiter, so we had our virgin of Winchester and our virgin of Walsingham: and as there were temples to the Capitoline Jupiter in other places, as well as on the Capitoline hill, and one at Athens in particular; so we had places dedicated to the virgin of Winchester, in other places as well as Winchester; and one at Oxford in particular. The society at Oxford (to which I am obliged more than I could easily express, for passing the best part of my life, in a most agreeable manner) was established before the light of the Reformation had begun to dawn on England; by one of the noblest patrons of learning, that ever was. As he was, in those times, bishop of Winchester, he founded a seminary there; and a college to be supplied with students from it, at Oxford. This college, at Oxford, was dedicated Sanctae Mariae Wintoniensi; and both of them are called, the two St. Mary-Winton colleges, on some occasions, to this day."

---Joseph Spence Polymetis (1747), p 48 note 7
I've started to make an inroad on a small backlog of promised book reviews, mainly for the Doctor Who News Page. Here, therefore, is my look at You and Who Else, the latest charity anthology of fan writing edited by J.R. Southall.
As alluded to earlier... Richard Marson's biography of Verity Lambert, first producer of Doctor Who and guiding force behind much, much else, reviewed by me at The St James's Evening Post.
sir_guinglain: (Default)
( Apr. 12th, 2015 09:16 pm)
So much for evading a social life on the grounds that I had a conference paper to write. The conference paper is not yet begun; a day off tomorrow, I think, to begin it. Instead, some recycling has been done and I've almost finished Richard Marson's biography of Verity Lambert; a short review might appear here or elsewhere at some point.
The userpic associated with this post is from a Doctor Who comic strip drawn by Gerry Haylock for TV Action, and Countdown to TV Action by Steve Holland tells the story of this comic and its first incarnation Countdown. Unexpected characters in its tale are Rupert Murdoch (whose role in the decline and demise of TV21 I had not known) and John Selwyn Gummer; the enterprise seemed based on poor market research, nostalgia for happy working conditions at former employers (especially the pre-Murdoch TV [Century] 21) and a publisher which was focused on editorial, advertising and circulation being dealt with by its parent who commandeered pages as required. Good to see a picture of Polly Perkins House, the office of Polystyle Publications for most of the 1970s, too - I'd wondered where it was for years, and had been misled by its 'Paddington Green' address, because strictly speaking it isn't there. Holland specialises in the indexing of British comics and there are full content listings and many, many reproductions of art, though apart from the cover it's in black and white. Nevertheless it's a valuable addition to Paul Scoones's The Comic Strip Companion, the first volume of which looks at Doctor Who in the pages of TV Comic, Countdown and TV Action, a must for historians of the creations of Gerry Anderson (whose characters and series were the original lead features of Countdown) a strong source of information about the careers of several British comic professionals and the comics industry in the early 1970s, though being me I have to note that the common ownership of Polystyle and TV Publications (from whom Polystyle 'bought' TV Comic, Playland and Pippin in 1968) isn't picked up, nor the nature of Independent Television Publications (a subsidiary of the ITV companies acting together under the ITA's supervision) and its acquisition of TV Times from TV Publications in 1968 quite understood. The shake-up of the youth market from ITP's Look-In is a constant presence and one Polystyle never quite dealt with - Look-In relied on more than constant promotion on ITV to help it, but its rivals could never get past that fact, it seems.
True Fire by Gary Meehan. Teenage pregnancy in rural fantasy setting turns rapidly into a kind of Meg Rossoff's How I Live Now with crossbows and swords and a political-religious movement which makes Boko Haram, ISIS, the Lord's Resistance Army and their likes seem positively cuddly. With an eye to film adaptations, there's a strong supporting role for a fortysomething woman good at archery and being drunk.

The Sea-Stone Sword by Joel Cornah. I've not really started this one yet, but every time I open it I see a fannish reference to some other text. From a smaller publisher and definitely aimed at transmedia-literate genre fans, but with its own narrative concerns too.

Doctor Who Magazine 475; not a book but more words than many of them; the first part of a more-detailed-than-usual interview with Terrance Dicks and the second part of Andrew Cartmel's interviews with the writers he worked with as script editor in the McCoy period add more insight to two already well-explored periods of Doctor Who history. New to me were the suggestion that the insistence in the early 1970s on a 'family' television label and the research to show that most of Doctor Who's audiemce were adult was in part a rebuff to takeover attempts on Doctor Who by the renascent BBC Television children's department (imagine Jon Pertwee arriving at Television Centre to find that his producer is not Barry Letts but [yes, I know she didn't do drama really] Biddy Baxter...), Ben Aaronovitch's belief that in practical terms writing for Doctor Who set his career back twenty years, and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy emerging as a way for Andrew Cartmel to kill an idea John Nathan-Turner had commissioned from Stephen Wyatt while Cartmel was on holiday, for a three-part story to be made entirely in the Doctor Who Exhibition at Longleat House. Oh, and much Vastra, Jenny and Strax, too, with an interview with their real-life alter-egos and a comic strip starring them, with no sign of the Doctor.

Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman. Jefferson is one of those annoying historical figures who can seem so modern and contemporary and yet their careers, their personalities, privileges and weaknesses show that they are their own. Kalman's illustrated children's book on Abraham Lincoln was fascinating and this imagines a Jefferson who said kind words to his (enslaved black) cooks and seemed to live more hours than exist in the day while enjoying both a full political life as well as pursuing his cultural interests, as well as amorous ones: Sally Hemings appears and the opportunity is taken to explain what "pass for white" meant and why it was important in a "PREJUDICED LAND" (Kalman's capitals). My teeth are set on edge by the mention of "the tyrannical rule of an English king" (far too hard on conscientious George III) Above all, Kalman's pictures and text restore a humanity which this observer finds America can strip from its icons: Jefferson and Lafayette are painted plucking figs from the trees at Monticello, and in noting that Jefferson's self-penned epitaph on his gravestone does not mention that he was President of the United States, she asks (of her young readers) "I wonder why", before on the next spread urging her readers to follow "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything", though Jefferson himself might have mused whether such a quest was reasonable or possible for everyone without the benefit of a tobacco plantation.
Too often I post about the merely routine, and this post is much the same; but it is a great thing that one can read scans of rare historical source texts on one's phone. I'm not sure if it is great in the sense of really very useful, or great as a gimmick, or great as a symbol of the sharing of old knowledge on a table constructed with the new; or just great in the grand/cool sense; but it's great nonetheless.
I was sent a review copy of this in pdf form some time ago, and feel conscious that I have not given it its due now that the book has been on sale for nearly two months. In its seventh volume, the first to deal with the twenty-first century revival of Doctor Who, About Time still fails to deliver on its mission statement. It's too badly referenced, uneven in approach and simply inaccurate to be "the most comprehensive, wide-ranging and at times almost unnervingly detailed handbook to Doctor Who that you might ever conceivably need". It's still phenomenally entertaining as an entry to the plains of culture over which Tat Wood has grazed and which shape his profoundly personal and imaginative understanding of Doctor Who's impact on British culture. For every dubious statement about bendibusses on London bus routes, Queen Victoria's speech patterns, misspellings of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet or the workings of S4C, there are truths about the way satellite television conquered the council estates before marching on the middle classes (a reality which has been missed by some prominent mainstream social commentators) and the emergence of high-profile media figures as Doctor Who fans and how it rankled with those of us who felt we had openly kept the flame burning during the wilderness years. The similarities between the scheduling environment into which Doctor Who was launched in 1963 and that of 2005 are explored in such a way to give those who insist the 2005 series can't be considered the same programme pause for thought.

In the decade and more in which About Time has been unfolding, the expectations of the Doctor Who factual book audience have changed, and About Time 7 suffers as a result from the absence of footnoted or endnoted references. Expansion of the About Time books into the apparatus-laden, thoroughly factchecked works they could be would be a challenging task and produce much heavier tomes, and more of them. However, About Time 7 remains an intelligent read, a conversation with people able to pull in all manner of references to different areas of human activity in an attempt to show how they are reflected in the fictions of the Doctor's world and the facts of production behind them. It's by no means a last word, despite its assertions, but should be proud instead that it is an engagement with its readers - daring them, perhaps, to recognise the in-jokes at the expense of strands of fannish commentary which litter the text like icebergs which refuse to melt - and implicitly a work in progress.
It's sat on top of my filing cabinet for four years, approximately, but I've at last finished the (borrowed; beware those who expect me to return things quickly) The Dark Volume by G.W. (Gordon to those who read the US edition) Dahlquist. The book has something of the air of a story designed to relocate characters with an eye to the next novel in the sequence, rather than being a narrative in its own right, but the worldbuilding develops as Dahlquist continues to pick and choose from European geography and the history of politics and technology. There is much musing on memory, but more as pointers to character development than its fulfilment. Like the Contessa di Lacquer-Sforza, however, one would happily spend more time with Dahlquist's protagonist, Celeste Temple, as she learns to know herself and her decrepid society; she and her allies Chang and Svenson make the decisions in extremis the reader would like to make.
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I really wish I'd had some way of recording this event. Messrs Gaiman and Pullman ranged over subjects from their attire at their last conversation (where Neil was dressed as Badger from The Wind in the Willows, Philip as Long John Silver from Treasure Island, as part of a yet-to-be-released publicity drive for the Oxford Story Museum; Pullman said Gaiman looked more like a badger pretending to be Neil Gaiman than vice versa); religion (the difficulties of keeping kosher at a Church of England school, in Gaiman's case; he discovered that an unpleasant chicken soup was actually rabbit stew when his spoon pulled out a rabbit's paw); the role of A.A. Milne in reinventing Kenneth Grahame's reputation around The Wind in the Willows and his restructuring of that story around Toad so Toad of Toad Hall could have a plot); comics, from "woodland creatures having adventures with jam" through the discovery of American comics (both Gaiman and Pullman had epiphanies at comparable ages though in different decades and with different ranges of titles) and Gaiman's addiction to the Odhams Power Comics range (Pow, Wham, Fantastic, Terrific and others) which reprinted Marvel and DC material in the UK in the late 1960s. Gaiman also read from his latest two books and Pullman read a section too in the context of some critical writing by C.S. Lewis, the precise content of which I've forgotten but which occasioned Pullman to make his traditional "a better critic than a novelist" statement, to a flutter of gasps (some self-mocking) in the audience.

There was of course much more, the first question from the audience eliciting an unsurprising endorsement of Peter Capaldi's casting as the twelfth Doctor from Gaiman, and a wish that Steven Moffat could get the BBC contracts department to pay him in weeks so he can find time to write for the next series.
This morning's post brought Andy Davidson's Jaunt: An Unofficial Guide to The Tomorrow People, newly-published by Miwk. In it he recounts the resistance Roger Price and Ruth Boswell faced over the casting of Afro-Caribbean actor Stephen Salmon as Kenny in series one, and then of Elizabeth Adare as Elizabeth in series two. He also quotes an interview Elizabeth Adare gave to Look-In in 1977 (and respect to Look-In, the 'Junior TV Times' for using it):

being black can make getting work quite difficult. The trouble is casting directors will turn you down for a part because putting a black person in a certain role automatically makes the viewers look for special meanings that possibly detract from the plot. (Davidson, Jaunt, p. 56)

Worth thinking about when considering last weekend's panel at Nine Worlds as well as the relevant book, Doctor Who and Race, which I'll be reviewing for the next issue of The Terrible Zodin.

Jaunt is available direct from Miwk Publishing.
[twitter.com profile] 0tralala linked to the Hansard report of this speech in the House of Lords by Lord Lucas (Ralph Palmer, twelfth Baron Lucas, a hereditary peer, accountant and publisher of The Good Schools Guide) concerning Amazon's business model and its effect on publishing. An informative read. The rest of the debate - including contributions from Lord (Michael [House of Cards]) Dobbs and Baroness (Ruth) Rendell of Babergh - I've only skimmed, but there's more of interest, including concerns about open access publishing and the application of a model designed for STEM academic publishing on the humanities.
A public service announcement for followers of Doctor Who non-fiction and broadcasting history: the much-anticipated biography JN-T: The Life and Scandalous Times of John Nathan-Turner by Richard Marson has changed publishers. It will no longer be published by Fantom, but by Miwk. Fantom are in the process of refunding all pre-orders made through them, and pre-ordering is underway from Miwk; the book will be published in May this year, rather than April. Miwk have also set up a Facebook page for the book.
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