Saturday, May 31, 2014

Paul Nash bookplate for art collector Samuel Courtauld

Found - a loose bookplate by Paul Nash  for the industrialist and art collector Samuel Courtauld. Produced around 1930, it measures a sizeable 13 by 9.5 cms, probably intended mainly for art books and livres d'artistes. The writer and broadcaster Lance Sieveking writes in his autobiography The Eye of the Beholder (Hulton Press, London, 1957) -'Sam Courtauld and Paul met at a dinner party I gave at Number 15 The Street, and Courtauld persuaded Paul to design a book plate for him. The result was one of the most charming he ever made.' The engraving is said to be the only one initialled by Paul Nash on the block. The bookplate is quite scarce as, presumably, it is mostly found in books held at the Courtauld Institute; few have entered the used book trade.

The woodcut is British Surrealist in style with an echo of Cubism and Vorticism - both movements had earlier attracted Nash. Samuel Courtauld's family fortune came from the textile industry (rayon), hence the bobbin and threads. The French flag refers to the origins of the name Courtauld, a French Huguenot family whose early descendant was the celebrated goldsmith Augustine Courtauld. The Courtauld textile industry was based in Braintree and Halstead in Essex. The view through the frame shows what appears to be a Martello Tower - these are closely associated with the  East Anglian Coast.

Monday, May 26, 2014

English Books in Paris

Found in a mid 1930s American detective thriller, tipped in at the front (for exchange purposes) this flier for  the Gibert Joseph (or Joseph Gibert) bookshop at 26 Boulevard St. Michel in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. It is still there at the same address with many books in languages other than French. The English language section is adequate but there are few rarities as there were in the past.

The curious thing in this ephemera is the notice 'Free Entrance' -- I can think of only one bookshop in the world that charges entry ($5) and that is run by a much arrested, deranged and violent bookseller in New Hampshire U.S.A. Possibly this is a mistranslation. The phone number has been changed by hand which might enable someone in the know to date it quite accurately. It looks like the 1950s. Until the advent of Shakespeare and Co.,  Gibert was the main source of used English books in Paris. Interestingly it also caters for the four other most wanted languages there, mostly because these are the nearest countries, although there has long been a large Russian community in Paris.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Remedie against Ache of the Herte

Found - this small keepsake card with deckled edges published by Mowbray's (bookshop chain and publisher.) It was written by Margaret Smith-Masters, a poet, novelist and translator (from French) who seems to have flourished in the early part of the 20th century. COPAC record a dozen works by her between 1907 and 1936, including one on boy scouts and one published by Burns & Oates, which might indicate she was Roman Catholic. This piece in fake 'Olde Englishe' is reminiscent of the more famous Patience Strong or Wilhelmina Stitch...

against Ache of the Herte

A lyttel Silence
And of Charitie much quantitie
And of Courtesie a good lie store:
Add thereto some portion of the lowly
    herbe Humilitie;
Of balme of Kindnesse be prodigale;
Season these with spice of Wisdome
And temper with dewes of Mercie;
Of oile of Gladnesse droppe full measure,
And blende alle with sweet Patience.
Be spende-thrifte of this salve for comfort
   of thy fellows
As through the world thou wendest;
Soe shall Ease of Herte be ever thine.

Margaret Smith- Masters

The day that May Kovar’s luck ran out

One of the most poignant inscriptions in the celebrity album kept by Swindon landlady Barbara Slocombe is the 'Good Luck to You' which was left by May and Harry Kovar in November 1937. The couple were acclaimed wild animal trainers who specialised in lions and tigers, Harry being acknowledged as one of the greatest big cat trainers in the world. At the time both worked for Chapman’s Circus, but by 1941 they had moved to a more lucrative career in the States.

On 6 July 1944, the Kovars were the act that immediately preceded the discovery of a fire that quickly engulfed the huge tent of Ringling’s Circus in Hartford, Connecticut, where more than 7,000 spectators were watching the show. In the carnage that followed  around 169 were killed and over 700 were injured, many being  badly burned by the paraffin wax that had been used to waterproof the tent canvas. In 1950 a 21 year old former employee of the circus named Robert Segee confessed to what has been called the worst act of arson in American history, but he was never tried.

While the fire blazed the brave May desperately tried to force her animals back into their cages. She survived, but in 1949 her luck finally ran out. In California, during a training session, she was coaxing a recalcitrant lion, Sultan, from his cage, when the animal suddenly attacked her. Watched by her three horrified children, she was badly mauled and her head ended up in the lion’s mouth. She died instantly when her spine was snapped.

May was just 48 at the time. Her daughter (also called May) forged her own successful career with big cats for a number of years, before retiring to raise children. Today, one of those children is writing a book about her grandmother’s exploits. I wonder if those happier days at Mrs Slocombe’s will get a mention.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

It is rocket science…

An apposite Jot in view of the recent death of Wurzel soundalike, Professor Colin Pillinger, the space scientist behind the Beagle 2 Mars landing vehicle.  The British Interplanetary Society was actually founded as long ago as 1934, when H. G. Wells was still alive, and is still going strong. I don’t know if Pillinger was a member, but in 1954 Arthur C. Clarke was on the publications committee and Patrick Moore was sitting on the Council. It is notable that although most of Moore’s fellow Council members had a degree, not one of them achieved anything like as much as this college dropout did in the field of astronomy.

The lead article in this January 1954 issue of the Society’s Journal  is a passionate plea by Dr A. V. Cleaver, head of the rocket division at Rolls Royce, for funds to be taken out of Europe’s various military budgets and put into a space programme which would ultimately see a man on the moon, flights to Mars and Venus, and ultimately the establishment of bases on these and other planets. Like many scientists before and since, Cleaver argues that the space race must be seen, not as a huge waste of resources, but as a logical extension of Man’s ceaseless striving to explore, and also a potential opportunity to develop various technological projects.

The writer betrays a political naiveté shared by many scientific visionaries, but his technical knowledge can hardly be faulted. The article ends with some fascinating appendices outlining time scales and costs. Interestingly, although he speculates  vaguely on significant progress occurring in  'generations' ,  he does make some bold predictions. For instance, by 1975 a 'relatively small piloted Earth –satellite- vehicle might take up its orbit'. And perhaps during the 1980s and 90s 'a few expeditions by small ships, carrying human crews of only one or two, might be organised.'

If anything, these predictions were a little conservative. Within just fifteen years of the article appearing, Man had landed on the Moon— in another issue of the Journal, the more cautious Clarke had predicted that this would happen by 1975. [RH]

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hughie Green and his Gang

‘And I mean that most sincerely, folks’. This was one of Hughie Green’s catchphrases. Another was ‘Vote, vote, vote, ‘cos your votes count’. As the host of quiz show Double Your Money and Opportunity Knocks, a forerunner of Britain’s Got Talent, he had one of the most recognisable faces (and voices) on TV in the sixties and early seventies. Then, abortive lawsuits, womanising and alcohol all took their toll and he died largely forgotten in 1997 aged 77. But what many below the age of eighty might not know is that Green was once a child star who, with his very own 'Gang' of fellow child performers, toured the halls from the mid thirties. One of his star turns was a distinctly manic solo dance routine.

So what we have here is evidence that young Green and his Gang performed at The Empire, Swindon in February 1937. Evidently, Mrs Barbara Slocombe, his landlady at 5, Farnsley Street, was a bit of a celeb spotter and kept an album in which she got her showbiz guests to sign, perhaps with a message, a calling card, and often with a signed photograph, or even a drawing. Several of Green’s gang obliged, but there is no record of the boy wonder himself leaving a signature. What we do have, however, is a postcard from Penge featuring a photograph of Green which was sent by one of the gang, Willie Mars, asking if Mrs Slocombe would kindly send on the sports jacket that he had left behind in her guest house.

I wonder what happened to Willie Mars.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Pan Bookshop, Fulham

A bookmark of the much loved Pan Bookshop in Fulham, London. In late 1997 its landlord accepted a high offer from a grocer and the bookshop 'went dark' (or is it that only for restaurants?) after 32 years trading. The shop's blog is still up and has many commiserations in the comments field - 'best bookshop in London,' 'irreplaceable' and a fulsome piece from Vogue food writer Arabella Boxer (cook books were one of its specialities.) One customer writes: " I will refuse to step foot in whatever shop might replace it - heavens forbid another Carluccio or Starbucks or bar serving caperinias - I would launch a hunger strike if I thought it would do any good."

It seems that by the mid 1990s the area (now known as 'The Beach') was moving away from book culture to cafes, food and delis. The book mark is probably from the 1970s as the 01 number was current then. The Pan Books pink symbol is interesting and one imagines at some point it was full of Pan paperbacks (now quite collectable) although latterly it was owned by Macmillan. Macmillan blamed "tough market conditions, a decline in the overall trading of independent bookshops combined with an expensive high street location in Chelsea" for the closure.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A flier for The War of the Worlds (1897/1898)

"...across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us."

Found - a review slip or pre-publication publicity (a flier) in a first edition of H.G. Wells The War of the Worlds (Heinemann, London 1898) one of the greatest Science Fiction novels of all time.  The novel had previously appeared in serialized form in 1897, published simultaneously in Pearson's Magazine in the UK and Cosmopolitan magazine in the US. The reviews are from magazines and newspapers of the time including one from a French paper Mercure de France which says that Wells surpasses Jules Verne.

The scheme of the story is tremendous – no less than attack made upon our world by the dwellers on Mars grown desperate by the contemplation of the fate in store for them when the cooling of their own planet is complete.

The immediate pressure of necessity, says Mr Wells, has brightened the intellects of the dwellers on Mars, in large their powers, and hard and their hearts. "And looking across space, with instruments and intelligences such as we can only dream of vaguely, they see it at its nearest distance, only 35,000,000 miles sunward of them, a morning star of hope, our own warmer planet, green vegetation and grey with water, with the cloudy atmosphere elegant of fertility, with glimpses through its drifting cloud wisps of broad stretches of populous country and narrow navy-crowded seas."

The story must be read by everyone who esteems thrills. His calm, merciless method – too often a manifestation of the scientific mind – his convincing trick of verisimilitude, his dispassionate accumulation of terrifying evidence – these gifts, allied to a very remarkable imagination, make any work of Mr Wells notable and worthy of attention.(The Academy.)

Astonishing power of illusion. – Daily Chronicle

Mr H.G. Wells, the novelist has made such notable use of the scientific imagination as applied to fiction, is at the present moment enchanting the readers of Pearson's Magazine with an account of an invasion of the Earth by the inhabitants of Mars. – Spectator.

 'Curieux…et original: supérieur aux fantasies de Jules Verne: aver les qualités brilliants et les préoccupations sérieuses de R.L. Stevenson, avec dans le bizarre et terrible quelquefois des aspects d'Edgar Poe." (Mercure de France.)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Jacynth Parsons, W.B. Yeats and 'The Songs of Innocence'

WB Yeats' preface to an illustrated edition of William Blake's Songs of Innocence (Medici Society 1927.) The illustrator was a young English girl called Jacynth Parsons*. It is an interesting piece about the illustrator but also about the Ireland of the time. The joke of doing the thing you are refusing to do (i.e. write a preface) is reminiscent of another Irish writer -George Bernard Shaw. GBS would reply to requests for his signature with notes such as 'Sir, I never give autographs! George Bernard Shaw.' There is very little about Jacynth Parsons online and no Wikipedia page.

Prefatory Letter
To the Medici Society.

Dear Sirs,
A Dublin maker of beautiful stained glass brought to my house last night a 16 year old English girl with a face of still intensity, her black plaited hair falling between her shoulders. He laid a large portfolio on a table in the middle of the room, as I had already refused to write the preface for her drawings I carried the portfolio to a table in a distant corner. Those present were a Free State officer, a distinguished dramatist, a country gentleman with imperfect sight who has the history of modern Italy read to him for five hours a day because he thinks it is like that of modern Ireland.We arranged our talk unconsciously that it might contain incidents to amuse a young girl fresh from Grimm's goblins and Treasure Island. Somebody told stories of our civil war, I pointed to the bullet hole in the study door and hinted at all the Free State officer could tell if he were not silent and gloomy. Presently he said Republicans were bound to win the general election in September, and all kinds of horrible things, and in a minute we had exchange civil war for politics.  But I am old and impatient and have listened to one theme or the other most Monday evenings these five years.

So I brought the portfolio back into the middle of the room and for the rest of the evening we talked of nothing but these pictures   It is natural that she should picture pretty children playing among the squirrels, but not that she should draw hands and feet like that; make hair coil in those great heavy folds where there is so much nature and so much pattern; discover the poignant emotion of those two figures half lost in the dark wood;

The Devil's Hoof- Marks

Another chapter from this fascinating forgotten work Oddities: A Book of Unexplained Facts (Allan, London 1928) by R.T. Gould. The illustration is from an Edwardian novel (possibly Quiller Couch or Baring Gould.) Info on the polymath Rupert Thomas Gould (1890 – 1948) can be found at the foot of this post..


  A Scottish minister once preached a sermon upon the text "The voice of the turtle is heard in our land".* He was literally-minded, and unaware of the fact that the "turtle" referred to is the turtle-dove, and not that member of the Chelonia which inhabits the ocean and furnishes the raw material of such "tortoise-shell" articles as are not made of celluloid. In consequence, the deductions which he drew from his text were long remembered by such of his hearers as were better-informed.

* Canticles ii. 12. 

  "We have here", he is reported to have said–"we have here, my brethren, two very remarkable signs and portents distinctly vouchsafed to us. The first shall be, that a creature which (like Leviathan himself) was created to dwell and abide in the sea shall make its way to the land, and be seen in the markets and dwelling-places of men; and the second shall be, that a creature hitherto denied the gift of speech shall lift up its voice in the praise of its Maker."

  A visitation of a somewhat similar and hardly less startling kind occurred in Devonshire on February 8, 1855. The following account of it was published in The Times of February 16th.

  "Considerable sensation has been evoked in the towns of Topsham, Lympstone, Exmouth, Teignmouth, and Dawlish, in the south of Devon, in consequence of the discovery of a vast number of foot-tracks of a most strange and mysterious description. The superstitious go so far as to believe that they are the marks of Satan himself; and that great excitement has been produced among all classes may be judged from the fact that the subject has been descanted on from the pulpit.

 See Fig. 1.

  "It appears that on Thursday night last there was a very heavy fall of snow in the neighbourhood of Exeter and the south of Devon. On the following morning, the inhabitants of the above towns were surprised

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Needwood Forest - The axeman cometh…

Cottage in Needwood Forest (Joseph Wright)

Found a few years ago in a job lot is this manuscript copy of a poem which ranks among the most famous ‘local’ poems in the English language. Needwood Forest was published privately in Lichfield in 1776 by one Francis Noel Mundy, a Derbyshire squire alarmed by plans to cut down and enclose much of the large Staffordshire forest he had known since his childhood.

To head a campaign against these plans he composed a long poem in couplets, influenced by Milton and Spenser,  that celebrated its delights. Anxious to enlist the support of the great and good, Mundy allowed the manuscript to be circulated among a local coterie, some of whom made copies. Anna Seward, the ‘ Swan of Lichfield’ and Dr Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles, and also of Lichfield, a celebrated physician, inventor, and author of another long scientific poem, The Botanic Garden,  were among those who saw the poem in manuscript and contributed lines to it.

The main problem with my manuscript copy is that whoever created it could not be described as literary in any meaningful way. If we compare it to the published text

Friday, May 9, 2014

Making up is hard to do

A rare pamphlet (there is only one for sale on Abebooks), The Secrets of Making-Up, co-edited  by two old stagers, J. Ainsley Brough and George M Slater, is 70 pages of very useful advice on how to transform yourself into anything from a man of ninety to an octoroon. It seems to date from around 1922, but for some reason a typeface is adopted that was current c 1903. There are some wonderful photos of actors from the Music Hall and Revue, all demonstrating the transformative powers of grease paint and powder.

Although politically very much of its time (the N word is one of a number of dubious references), essentially this is a practical and modern guide. The humour—especially in a lively article on Revue and Vaudeville by Slater ( 1870 – 1949), a theatre manager and prolific writer of pantomimes, whose archive is now at the V & A—is genuinely funny, even slightly ribald. The ads at the back also contribute much to modern theatrical history.

Some tips:
1) An actor should ideally shave off his moustache, not cover it with 'goldbeater’s skin' , whatever that is,  if portraying a clean shaven person.
2) Stage Character make-up is useless for film work, and when wigs are used they must on no account have a ‘scalp join’ . No explanation is offered.
3) When portraying a Chinese or Japanese person, 'do not line under the eyes, as Chinese and Japanese have small eyes’. [RR]

Mersenne's Numbers (R.T. Gould / Fermat)

Found - a fascinating forgotten work Oddities: A Book of Unexplained Facts (Allan, London 1928) by R.T. Gould. Rupert Thomas Gould (1890 – 1948), was a lieutenant Commander in the British Royal Navy noted for his contributions to horology. While in the navy in WW1 he suffered a nervous breakdown. During long recuperation, he was stationed at the Hydrographer's Department at the Admiralty, where he became an expert on various aspects of naval history, cartography, and expeditions of the polar regions. He gained permission in 1920 to restore the marine chronometers of John Harrison, and this work was completed in 1933. Jeremy Irons played him in Longitude, a dramatisation of Dava Sobel's book about John Harrison Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, which recounted in part Gould's work in restoring the chronometers.

Something of a polymath, he wrote an eclectic series of books on topics ranging from horology to the Loch Ness Monster. He was a member of the Sette of Odd Volumes (Brother Hydrographer) and the book Oddities is dedicated to the club. He was a science educator, giving a series of talks for the BBC's Children's Hour starting in January 1934 under the name "The Stargazer", and these collected talks were later published. He was a member of the BBC radio panel Brains Trust. He umpired tennis matches on the Centre Court at Wimbledon on many occasions during the 1930s. This is his chapter on Marin Mersenne (and of course Fermat). The reference to Mr R.E. Powers 'an American computer' dates the book, back then it meant 'one who computes..'
r on


  Many, I have no doubt, have heard of the enthusiastic Don who once proposed a toast to "Pure Scholarship", coupling with it the pious aspiration, "And may it never be of any damned use to anybody". Like most other exemplary and edifying fables, it has been fathered upon many people and located in many places.

  There is one department of human knowledge concerning which we may safely assume that this aspiration will always be fulfilled. The utility of the various branches of mathematics is, generally speaking, in inverse ratio to their purity; and even though the abstruse results of non-Euclidean geometry and similar studies are now finding comparatively practical applications in the Theory of Relativity and quantum mechanics, most of us are willing to take such matters on trust, confident that, even if there is an omitted symbol or other loose screw in the reasoning, no shipwreck, structural collapse, or other practical inconvenience can possibly result.

  And of no branch of mathematics is this more true than of the Theory of Numbers.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bookplate of Chesterton of Kensington

Found in a copy of Bella Duffy's Madame de Stael (Eminent Women Series, W.H. Allen, London 1887) a bookplate of one E. Chesterton of Kensington. This is almost certainly a close relation of G. K. Chesterton, the writer, novelist and creator of the immortal Father Brown. He was from Kensington and a member of the family who owned the Kensington estate agent Chesterton's - which still flourishes in London's white hot property market of 2014.

The illustration seems to be by E. Chesterton (a man) and is reminiscent of the style of Lucien Pissarro. The quotation is from one John Wilson, whom Holbrook Jackson, in his Anatomy of Bibliomania, notes was a London bookseller. Modernised, it reads thus:

“Oh for a book and a shady nook,
Either indoors or out,
with the green leaves whispering overhead,
or the street cries all about.
Where I may read at all my ease
both of the new and old,
For a jolly good book whereon to look
is better to me than gold” 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Who - 10 Worst Hotel Wreckings

Found in a copy of Q Magazine from 2004. It was a special issue devoted to British rock band The Who ('The Inside Story') and the piece was titled "Remember the Gaff Where the Doors we Smashed"- a line from their song Bellboy. The article was mentioned on the cover as 10 Worst Hotel Wreckings. At Jot we are fond of lists, even lists of debauchery and excess - so here goes in slightly  abbreviated form:

1 New York
4 April 1968
The Who's first headlong tour of the US found them ejected from the Gorham Hotel after Moon rained cherry bombs (highly explosive red firecrackers) down on New York City cops from a ninth-floor window. He used another to blow up his toilet, knocking out the plumbing on the whole floor in the process.

2 New York
5 April 1968
The Who had barely unpacked their cases at the Waldorf Astoria before they were given their marching orders for failing to provide a cash surety. Moon, unable to retrieve his luggage because the door was locked, blew it open with another cherry bomb.

3 Saskatoon
11 July 1968
According to a myth-making interview Keith Moon conducted with Rolling Stone in 1972, it was at a hotel in Saskatoon that the bored drummer chopped all of his hotel furniture into kindling.

3 Toronto
14 October 1969
Roger Daltrey rarely instigated pranks, but this time he set roadie Bob Pridden's shoes alight after he'd left them outside his room to be cleaned. The fire brigade were called, The Who ejected and Keith Moon blamed by all concerned. 

5 New York
March 1971
Moon was partying at the Navarro Hotel with some of The Grateful Dead and wanted to play them some music but his tape recorder was in a roadie's room next door. When Moon couldn't rouse the roadie, he carved a hole through the adjoining wall

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Physiognomy of the Oligarch

Found in a small book from 1831 this analysis of 'The Oligarch.' The word has now come to signify 'Russian billionaire' but there are (and were) other resonances. The Characters of Theophrastus Illustrated by Physiognomical Sketches to Which Are Subjoined Hints on the Individual Varieties of Human Nature (A J Valpy, London, 1831.) The ancient Greek classic of psychology and character study, updated  to incorporate the findings of modern science, (including the new science of phrenology, although it is not named as such.) The plates are in the vein of Hogarth, Hieronymus Bosch, and the grotesque drawings in the Notebooks of da Vinci.


An arrogant desire to dominate over his fellows, appears in the opinions, the conduct, and the manners of this partisan of despotism. When the people are about to elect colleagues to the Archons for the direction of some public solemnity, he stands up to maintain that the magistracy should on no occasion be shared. And when others are voting for ten, his voice is heard exclaiming 'One is enough.' Of all Homer's verses, he seems to have learned only this:

"…think not here allow'd/ That worst of tyrants, an usurping crowd.

He is often heard using expressions

Friday, May 2, 2014

Pop music novel 1957

Novels, especially thrillers,  with pop or rock music settings are becoming quite collectable ..this novel Lantern Hill (Joseph, London 1957) by Barbara Worsley-Gough is so early it's practically an incunable. It has all the modern elements-- obsessive fans, excess, celebrity hauteur, displays of wealth (fabulous designer interiors) and an entourage; also the star even goes to a country retreat to get her head together...

The blurb on the inside flap of the dust wrapper reads:

Phyllis Flower, beautiful and famous, has become the 'top pop singer' with an immense fan-club following. Although an essentially nice person, she has been spoiled by success and made tyrannical by flattery. Like many successful people in the entertainment world, she is surrounded by a crowd of so-called friends and hangers on, all of them greedy for pleasure and bent on making as much as they can out of their generous patroness.

But Phyllis leavs her Knightsbridge house and goes to Lantern Hill, the Irish country home of her dead husband. There she romps in the fields with her child, takes pleasure in roughing it and forgets for a while that she is a celebrity whose faces known to everyone, whose voice has become the property of those thousands of unknown people who buy her records.

At Lantern Hill a tragedy occurs, a sudden death by poison. The unravelling of the mystery

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Kent writer self-combusts

In the Dartford Chronicle for 7 April 1919 appeared an extraordinary report of a fire. A local writer named J. Temple Thurston had been found dead in his blazing home, Hawley Manor, under quite bizarre circumstances. He was discovered sitting up fully clothed at three in the morning with large red patches on the thighs and lower parts of the legs. At the inquest it was remarked that ‘it was much as if, bound to a stake, the man had stood in a fire that had not mounted high.‘

Although the victim’s torso was severely burnt, his legs were not wholly consumed and his clothes remained unscorched. The firemen found the fire raging outside Thurston’s room. There were no signs of arson, robbery or any such criminal act. The cause of death was given as heart failure due to smoke inhalation.

This is one of the cases included in Charles Fort’s Wild Talents, a pioneering study of unexplained phenomena. It gets in because the seat of the fire seems to have been the torso of the victim himself. Had it begun in the room next to Thurston’s, it surely would have burnt his clothing to ash. Fort suspected ‘spontaneous human combustion ‘and in the 70 years since the book’s publication, other similar cases have occurred that tend to support this theory. Two of the most frequent features of such suspected cases are that extremities, such as legs and arms, are left comparatively untouched and that clothing is sometimes unscorched.

Recent breakthrough research by Cambridge University biologist Professor Brian J Ford, has concluded that the production of highly inflammable acetone