literature micromuseum trees

micromuseum 12

In 1967 Penguin books brought out a series of poetry anthologies aimed at a teenage audience. They were called Voices 1, Voices 2 and Voices 3. My mother spotted them I think and got me the series for which I’m thankful. This was about 1969 when I was fourteen or fifteen. These books were a great way to learn to appreciate poetry and also the way the artwork was interspersed with the words it was a great way to learn about art too because without experience these things can seem to be a bit daunting. Second hand copies of the books are easily available at very reasonable prices. If you’re interested I would suggest that your search string contains the name Geoffrey Summerfield who was the bloke who put together the series.

Here are three scans, one from each book

The first book

The image is Early Morning a drawing by Samuel Palmer.

The second book

The image is Navvies in Reading an anonymous photo from about 1895.

The third book

The image is Ruined Street in Ypres an anonymous photograph
micromuseum politics stamps

Inflation Stamps

I’m reading a biography of Kurt Weill by Ronald Taylor and when I reached the subject of hyper-inflation of the German currency during the early 1920s it gave me the idea to resurrect my stamps series. Desiring to keep it simple I won’t go into the possiblities of how the severe reparations of the Treaty of Versailles led to the rise of Nazism and any parallels between then and the world today. Here’s an excerpt from the book –

The urban middle classes, traditional exemplars of thrift and custodians of family welfare, who regarded themselves as the most loyal and stable elements in society, had their savings wiped out. They were powerless victims of forces over which they had no control, and they knew it. Mark values were becoming increasingly meaningless, and only goods, property or foreign currency provided a basis for setting real prices and values. With inflation at its height, a day’s work would earn a factory worker a pound of margarine, six weeks’ wages would buy him a pair of boots, and twenty weeks’ wages, a suit.

Let’s start with the simple 15 pfennig stamp. A reasonable amount to pay for a letter or postcard one would imagine back in 1920. There were 100 pfennigs in a mark.

Now a series which depicts the early days of inflation.

Obviously it got to a stage when as soon as a stamp was printed it was redundant. So new amounts were printed on top of the out-dated ones.

And finally we work up to the half a billion stamp that is the latest one I have.

jazz news rock n roll years vinyl

When I Was 4

Here’s the next year of the Rock And Roll Years series. I better confess now that I don’t have all of these. In fact I’m missing some of the ones that I would most like to have in particular those that cover the period when British bands first made their extraordinary impact. In addition some of the episodes I have aren’t complete. This one pretty much is except I’m missing the closing credits. I’m sure you can live without those. In fact you can probably live without the final act. I would hope so anyway.

For 1957 I went through some of the films released that year. This time I’m going to cover some of the albums released in the year in question. I’m taking my information from the 1958 albums category page in wikipedia. Not a definitive list no doubt but an interesting and thorough enough work in progress. My aim is to concentrate on those albums which I have in vinyl. I’m sure I could dig through my collection and find albums missing from the list in my collection, but I must say I would be happy to get hold of any of the albums that are covered in the list, pretty expensive items some of them must be.

Firstly there are 2 great Miles Davis albums, Milestones and Porgy and Bess. I’m discounting 1958 Miles because that shouldn’t be on the page as it wasn’t released in 1958.

Then Miles crops up again on the brilliant Cannonball Adderley album Somethin’ Else.

None of those 3 do I have on original releases from the 50s, but the next 2 I do.

Art Blakey‘s Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk. The title sort of says it all. The other musicians playing on the session are Bill Hardman on trumpet, Johnny Griffin on tenor saxophone and Jimmy “Spanky” DeBrest on double bass.

Finally there is The Modern Jazz Quartet at Music Inn Volume 2 which has Sonny Rollins as guest artist. My copy of this is not pristine, there’s a chunk of the front cover missing. Anyway this one shouldn’t really be there because although recorded in 1958 it wasn’t released until 1959. Well I suppose the whole premise is rather arbitrary. Really does it matter?

Just enjoy the programme.

micromuseum vinyl

micromuseum 11

Further to my last post it’s time for another vinyl chapter to the micromuseum saga. And this time I’ve chosen 10″ items. I’m about to produce/manufacture/conjure up my first vinyl product which is taking me a little bit of time because I’m quite hesitant being careful to get it right if possible. This is going to be a 7″ item but if all goes well and I want to repeat the experience I’m certainly tempted to go for a 10″.

For example what could be better than Isn’t It Romantic from Ray Martin and his concert orchestra. Probably a few things but even so have a heart.


The next is a record I bought just for the cover. Not that I don’t like Borodin or Mussorgsky, in particular the former, but I just feel that straight away I am that Tatar giant on the steppes, all I need is one of those funny chin beards and thin droopy moustache, a cool hat and a big black smear over my nose and middle cheeks.


In my last micromuseum post which I’m afraid I can’t be bothered to track back to as I assume you’re all responsible indivduals who can use a search box, I covered to a certain extent Picasso’s vieux guitariste aveugle. Please compare the cover of Tal Farlow‘s Columbia disc.


And then there’s Paris in the springtime. A French singer but not a record for a French market. There’s a story in there somewhere – perhaps you can piece it together from Genevieve’s obituary.


Finally simply the world’s greatest rumbas. All on one 10″ record. And it’s a very nice shade of blue.


fire literature may micromuseum quotations sea

Micromuseum 10

Another book addition to the micromuseum catalogue. This one dates from 1977 and is a beguiling publication. I had this book lying around (on top of a fender twin reverb to be precise) because I was going to do this post about it and a friend was round and she kept being drawn to it. It’s a poem illustrated with artwork. The poem is quite long and is by Wallace Stevens. Its inspiration was Picasso‘s painting vieux guitariste aveugle. Stevens’ poem is called The Man With The Blue Guitar and Hockney’s etchings are entitled The Blue Guitar. The project was devised by Hockney in the summer of 1976 while he was on holiday on Fire Island, New York.

To give some sort of notion of the book I have selected a few random clips of verse and scanned 3 of the illustrations. The concept of a great poem illustrated by great art is a strong one. There are probably some other books like that around, I will investigate, but if there are I can’t imagine that any could be better than this. I’ll let you know.

Things as they are have been destroyed
Have I? Am I a man that is dead

At a table at which the food is cold?
Is my thought a memory, not alive?


Slowly the ivy on the stones
Becomes the stones. Women become

The cities, children become the fields
And men in waves become the sea.


Dew-dapper clapper-traps, blazing
From crusty stacks above machines.

Ecce, Oxidia is the seed
Dropped out of this amber-ember pod,

Oxidia is the soot of fire,
Oxidia is Olympia.


Finally, these are the last words of the book.

Type set in 11pt. Electra Linotype
Printed in England on Abbey Mills laid paper by the Scolar Press
Published by Petersburg Press, London and New York

anthropomorphism birds insects micromuseum spider stamps

insect stamps

It’s been a while since I’ve turned my attention to stamps. I’d just like to point out that I wouldn’t describe myself as a stamp-enthusiast. I collected stamps between the age of about 8 to 12, the stamps I collected I still possess and now I find them a fascinating remnant of past times – geography and history resonates through my lifetime and before my lifetime.

Ok now I’ve got that off my chest I’d like to introduce the new addition to the stamp category which is insect stamps. One of the things that stamps represent is an advertisement for the country they come from. Insects are one of those things that most countries don’t want to confess to. I’d love to have a stamp which had a common British house-fly on it but honestly I don’t think such things exist, certainly not in my collection anyway. Countries generally don’t want to admit to infestations of fleas, cockroaches, locusts etc and so insects haven’t been featured as much as they should be in the world of postage.

So sadly the category is a bit hard to populate. There’s only one insect that’s easy to find on stamps and that’s the butterfly. The inference is that you’ve got to be aesthetically pleasing to end up on a stamp – no probosces or weird hairy abdomens thank you. Here’s a butterfly stamp to show you what I mean. Most stamps from Bulgaria use a Cyrillic script and I have no idea why this one doesn’t.


The next one’s an insect that Chile was happy to celebrate back in 1944. Known either as Darwin’s beetle, Grant’s stag beetle or the Chilean stag beetle this is a male. The female is much less elaborate, which is sexual dimorphism as I’m sure you all know. The large horns and forelegs are purely for the purposes of combat between rival males. 1944 was a hundred years after the publication of Claude Gay‘s book, Historia fisica y politica de Chile and that resulted in a large number of stamps. I’ve got a lot of them but this is the only one which depicts an insect.


And while on the subject of beetles I would like to say that my opinion of the species is indebted to Primo Levi in his book Other People’s Trades drawing my attention to the comment of biologist Jack Haldane‘s when asked what his concept of God was – “He is inordinately fond of beetles”. Somehow I find this comforting. So here is an African beetle which is basically a flat-faced longhorns type of affair. Apparently an infestation of these little blighters can have a devastating effect on cashew. So thanks to Portuguese Guinea for breaking the mould and putting a pest on a stamp. Actually Portuguese Guinea doesn’t exist any more it’s Guinea-Bissau now.


Well I’m scraping the barrel here a bit now with insect stamps. To be perfectly honest there don’t seem to be too many about. So here’s another butterfly. limenitis populi or the Poplar Admiral is a widespread Eurasian insect. One of the interesting facts that can be gleaned from Wikipedia is that

Limenitis populi has never seen coupling naturally in captivity. The manual coupling is described by Marion Weidemann, this is the Austin Platt’s method which consists to partially suffocate the male (anaesthetize in a cyanide bottle) before hand pairing (Dr. A. Platt specialized on North American Limenitis species).

From my early years I’ve always had a sort of desire to be an entomologist but having read that I’m glad it never happened. William Blake famously once had a conversation with the soul of a flea. If ever I have a similar conversation it will be with the soul of a person who is involved in insect-cyborg research.


Finally I’ve completely run out of insects, but I’m sure that there must be some hidden in this stamp somewhere as apparently rhinoceroses and let’s face it most animals even some humans are riddled with insect-type parasites of some sort. This is a white rhinoceros though it doesn’t look all that white and sadly it no longer occurs in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. A couple of egrets contemplate this large muscular mammal and of course the 2 species have a symbiotic relationship related to the ticks that infest the rhinoceros. Actually ticks are more spiders than insects, but I would have included spiders in this category if I could have found some spider stamps. Another of the birds that might feed upon a large mammal in this way is the oxpecker. Apparently the oxpecker has got so much of a taste for the blood of the carrying mammal which is in effect the main flavour of eating a full-bellied tick that they will work at wounds and feed directly on the larger creature’s blood. The rhinoceros seems to accept the birds as a necessary evil.


crab micromuseum

Pinces d’or

Last year when I created a category which is called crab I pretty much knew right away what the 2nd post in the category would be. And here it is. Another book and another excuse for some more Tintin scans. The Crab With The Golden Claws was the first Adventures of Tintin book to be translated into English and published in the UK. (There I’ve said it.) That was in 1958 and indeed the copy I have has that first publication date though I think probably it was bought in 1960. By 1958 there were 19 possible books to choose from so it makes you wonder why Methuen chose to start with this one. Probably because it was the book that introduced Captain Haddock and they could see that this introduction took the series onto another level.

Here’s the contents of the pockets of a merchant seaman Herbert Dawes by name who was found drowned. There aren’t many deaths in the books and if it happens it’s usually off-scene as in this case. By the way the half crowns are all duds. On the back of the torn label from the tin of crabmeat Dawes has written the name of the boat he works on – Karaboudjan.


On the left is Lieutenant Delcourt who is in charge of the outpost of Afghar, an excellent commander even though a heavy drinker. To his right stands Ahmed stalwart of the camel patrol corps.


Because of various reasons related to the fact that the book was written during the middle of World War II the story is shorter than other previous ones. This resulted in the creation of some extra frames including 4 unusual full page frames. One of these is below. It illustrates Omar Ben Salaad returning home guided by a servant who from time to time calls out “Make way for the mighty Omar Ben Salaad”. A rich, rich man who owns a magnificent palace, great estates in the south (Spanish Sahara we’re talking about) and even a flying machine. He also wears a couple of golden crab’s claws round his neck. But he is in the sight of indomitable agents of law and justice. We don’t learn of his ultimate fate but I would have thought that great wealth may in the long term have managed to get the better of law and justice in Spanish Sahara in the 1940s. This is going beyond the remit of children’s literature.



micromuseum 9

The micromuseum contains many good things. Riches and small mundane objects such as a couple of black and white prints that I instance in this post.

This is an ancestry category sub-section of the ever-increasing slowly circumferencing micromuseum.

The first is centred around a waterfall. A waterfall in Chile. I can’t say for certain but I’d wager my paltry fortune on it as that’s where my grandparents used to live. I can’t identify anyone on this photograph although I may have met some of them. Not many but maybe one or two.

It speaks of the wonder of the photograph. The realisation of what the ultimate image might look like. The nonchalant wave of the arm which was unthinkable in an earlier age of stationary posing.

Might be rather a dull afternoon. But some of our happiest times are dull aren’t they? Dull in the sense of boring that is. I’m not talking about the weather.


In this 2nd photograph I know that it is my grandmother sitting in the centre. The couple (presumably) who accompany her I do not know but maybe I could find out. Perhaps it’s best not to know. It might lead to trouble. In the long run. I’ve been for a long run and I know the consequences.

I assume my grandfather is a hidden presence in the scene as the taker of the picture. I wonder what he was thinking about.


anthropomorphism crab micromuseum

micromuseum 8

The present instance of the micromuseum is a book published in 1961 by Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd. The publishers at this point had offices in Edinburgh, London, Melbourne, Johannesburg, Toronto, New York and there was also the Société Française D’Éditions Nelson in Paris.

During the middle years of the 20th century they published many children’s books in various series such as the Good Luck Series. For example, The Disobedient Cuckoo Clock

cuckoo clock book

or, also from 1951, in the Children’s Own Series, The Road That Lost Its Way

lost highway

Actually that one looks so great I’m determined to track down a copy and have one of my own, but only if it’s got a decent quality dust jacket.

I only have one Good Luck Series book and that is called Angus The Tartan Partan. It was written by a lady called Janet Caird and she used to be a near neighbour of my family’s when I was very small and lived in Dollar, Clackmannanshire. This is a first edition and signed by the author. Someone in Australia has a copy I would have to pay over £80 for. Presumably not signed by the author. No items in the micromuseum are for sale, but I probably do have my price for them, but bear in mind that they are all to a greater or lesser degree inflated by nostalgic value.

I asked my mother if she had any memories of Janet Caird. Her first thought was that she could still remember a joke she had told her.

A Scotsman is in a cafe and the waitress asks him what he wants for his dessert.

-Do you want an eclair or a meringue?

-Aye ah’ll have an eclair ye’re nae wrang.

It’s a linguistic, punny sort of joke, ideal for an author. Janet went on to write a series of crime thrillers.

Like the other books figured above this book is an epic of anthropomorphism. Partan is a Scottish word for a crab. The whole idea for the book revolves around a rhyming wordplay.

I won’t give the story away, but here are a few images from the book, firstly the frontispiece.

An image of Angus’s early happy captivity.

Crabs can make smashing pets.

literature micromuseum sea

micromuseum 7

The story of John Lane and his starting of a publishing dynasty, which is in my opinion one of the great monuments of the last 100 years in the history of the country which has the difficulty of being prone to doubt about what it should be called by natives such as I and is the one I pertain to, is an interesting one. The creation of Bodley Head publishing company by someone who came from a Devon farming family and had been a low-paid railway clerk before he penetrated the world of books is enough in itself but the fact that his sister’s son, Allen, took over from his uncle and then went on to found Penguin deepens the significance.

I look forward to a future history which will discern that rulers and governments hardly matter at all. They try to take control of a system which is like a racing steed, bucking furiously in a constant attempt to throw them out of the saddle. Instead it is men like John and Allen Lane whose lives and cultural achievements are far more important in the development of human life/society.

The images from this book, Stars and Primroses constitute this micromuseum instance. Published by Bodley Head in 1945, my edition is from the 1947 reprint. The first reprint and possibly the only one. It was made and printed in Holland by L Van Leer & Co. By this time John Lane was long dead and Allen had left to start Penguin in 1935. But this is still a classic of children’s poetry anthology compilations.

It’s by M C Green who chose the poems (presumably) and certainly lettered and illuminated them. My parents’ first child, my brother, was born in 1948 so they probably didn’t buy this book until at least that year, quite possibly later. The book today would be classified in an over 8 age group category at least, but back then there weren’t the equivalent of baby books we have today, which are designed to handle violent laying of hands on and to provide simple concepts. These were books designed for the tastes of the parent rather than the child. For the child sometimes the tacky is as formative as the sublime.

This book is a little battered and the covers have been attached by sellotape which has now stiffened and dried out, in fact I’ve removed it and have a front cover, a rear one, and the stitched together 62-odd pages as 3 separate items. I am reluctant to apply new sellotape. Maybe a solution will arise some day. Luckily the other M C Green volume I have which is called Magic Lanterns is in better nick. It is dated 1949. I make no assumptions based on these facts. I am one of those people who have never mistreated books, though in my late teens I went through a period of writing things in the margin of books, usually ones that I was studying at school and had to write essays on. But always in pencil, thankfully. Generally I think that people who underline passages in library books are 1 step away from doing away with small animals for kicks and then the next thing you know they’re serial killers.