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“Joseph Campbell slept here.”

“Myths are public dreams; dreams are private myths. By finding your own dream and following it through, it will lead you to the myth-world in which you live. But just as in dream, the subject and object, though they seem to be separate, are really the same.” — Joseph Campbell

A chance encounter with Joseph Campbell — whose books I haven’t read since college — reminded me that a small town in northwestern Iowa deserves its own myths.

Band Books

book burning

When Hamish Brooke’s shop, Shelf Life, changed hands in 1960 (from his estate sale), it passed through several half-hearted hands to keep the business afloat — without much financial success. Brookes had sold books reluctantly; a book is certainly not an object of commerce, it’s something you adopt. Making a purchase from Hamish involved what amounted to an interview: Were you worthy to be entrusted with this tome? Is your home suitable and safe? His process was more rigorous than application at a social service agency. Recently, however, it has come into enthusiastic new ownership and, in the spirit of our current political discourse, changed the name to “Band Books”. Which have nothing whatsoever to do with high school music instruction. Their specialty are gently used books, of course and as before, but especially those of troubled lineage, found “dangerous” in certain parts. Turns out, it’s the “parts” that are dangerous, not the books.

Consider giving them your custom.

Henry W. L. Hurst [1865–1938]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

HURST, Henry William Lowe / “Hal” [1865–1938]

“An Italian Night”

watercolor / 13.5 inches by 8 inches (image)

“Born Henry William Lowe Hurst in London in 1865, he was the son of Henry Hurst, a well-known African traveller and publisher (Hurst and Blackett). He was educated at St. Paul’s School in London and soon after started recording the political instability of Ireland through drawings and illustrations. He travelled to the United States of America where he found work illustrating newspapers in New York City and Philadelphia. Hal returned to Europe studying art at the Royal Academy Schools and the Académie Julian in Paris. He exhibited extensively at all the principal London galleries and was elected member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1896, Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1898, and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1900. He was a founder member of the Royal Miniature Society from its inception in 1896 and elected Vice-President, a position he held until stepping down in 1913 — he was given the distinction of Honorary member status the following year.

“Hal shared a studio at 23a South Audley Street, Mayfair, London with Alyn Williams founder of the Royal Miniature Society. A motivated, prolific and respected artist, Hal illustrated in excess of 20 published books including Mark Twain’s The American Claimant. In addition, his illustrations were published in Punch, Harper’s Weekly, Vanity Fair, The Idler and the Illustrated London News, amongst others.”

[Wikipedia.com]

Frank Edward Butler [1881–1976]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

BUTLER, Frank Edward (1881–1976; British-American)

Trinity Church, Boston, Massachusetts

woodcut / 7 inches by 9.75 inches

undated

British-American artist Frank Butler seems to be best known for a 1922 collection of his woodcuts illustrating the Chelsea section of London. Few copies have been available for auction.

Chelsea WoodcutsBy Frank Butler- RARE WOODBLOCK PRINT TITLE WITH 17 ORIGINAL PRINTS -[No publishing information, but probably London: Self-published, 1922]. Softcover with mounted title plate woodblock print on front cover. Measures about 9 x 6-3/4 inches; unpaginated [20 pages: (2-blank), (16-plate pages printed on both sides, each with hand-titled original blockprint), (2-blank)].An apparently extremely rare original edition – OCLC locates no copies and a Google search only turns up a few mentions, including a r eview in “Bookman’s Journal which is Incorporated the Print Collector, Volume VI, No. II, August, 1922” in which the following prints are mentioned: “Carlyle’s House, Cheyne Row, two cuts showing stately houses and humbler group in Cheyne Walk; Chelsea Old Church; Lindsey House, Cheyne Walk; World’s End, and Night ; Battersea Bridge”In about good condition with loose binding an thin brittle stock with covers and some pages chipped, etc., not affecting the prints………………………..Frank Butler was born in England in 1883. He and his wife immigrated to America in 1924, settling permanently in Marblehead, Massachusetts in 1926. He was still living in Marblehead in 1971 at the age of 88.

Butler’s view of Boston’s Trinity Episcopal Church reveals the primary geometric power created by architect H. H. Richardson [1838–1886] at the beginning of his ascendancy to the rank of America’s greatest 19th century architect.

John Edgar Platt [1886-1967]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

PLATT, John Edgar [1886–1967; British]

“Staithes, Yorkshire”

1920-1930

woodcut / 25.1 cm x 37.2 cm / #73 of an unknown edition

Without any intention of the sort, the Collection has acquired another woodcut by British printmaker John Platt — the fourth of his works and allied with the work of other artists.

Staithes is a picturesque coastal fishing village in North Yorkshire, possibly a place over-visited by tourists in recent years but surely a remote destination when Platt recorded his visit during the 1920s. Platt was among the earliest British artists to respond the Japanese ukiyo-e or “floating world” printmaking and here he has captured the essence of “place” with a seemingly minimum artistic effort — though we know the woodcut process requires endless hours of carving and perfect registry during the printing phase. In the spirit of current Minimalist art, there is an almost inverse relationship between effort and image: greater complication and effort are required to achieve effortless simplicity.

Platt’s other work can be found here, here, and here. Note the predominance of picturesque coastal themes.

ge·müt·lich·keit

The first — and, who knows, perhaps the only — post of the New Year.

Gemütlichkeit could be my favorite word in the German language, just as “saudade” is in Portuguese. The German word means “a state or feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer”, which is something devoutly to be wished these days. But with more than a little hesitation.

I’m reminded of the admonition that the goal of Christianity is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. I wonder if the Germans have a word for gemütlichkeit’s opposite.

27 December 2021

“So it is written – but so, too, it is crossed out. You can write it over again. You can make notes in the margins. You can cut out the whole page. You can, and you must, edit and rewrite and reshape and pull out the wrong parts like bones and find just the thing and you can forever, forever, write more and more and more, thicker and longer and clearer. Living is a paragraph, constantly rewritten. It is Grown-Up Magic. Children are heartless; their parents hold them still, squirming and shouting, until a heart can get going in their little lawless wilderness. Teenagers crash their hearts into every hard and thrilling thing to see what will give and what will hold. And Grown-Ups, when they are very good, when they are very lucky, and very brave, and their wishes are sharp as scissors, when they are in the fullness of their strength, use their hearts to start their story over again.”
― Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

26 December 2021

“The fascination of what’s difficult
Has dried the sap out of my veins, and rent
Spontaneous joy and natural content
Out of my heart. There’s something ails our colt
That must, as if it had not holy blood
Nor on Olympus leaped from cloud to cloud,
Shiver under the lash, strain, sweat and jolt
As though it dragged road metal. My curse on plays
That have to be set up in fifty ways,
On the day’s war with every knave and dolt,
Theatre business, management of men.
I swear before the dawn comes round again
I’ll find the stable and pull out the bolt.”

—William Butler Yeats (1910)

What goes up…

…eventually comes down.

Agincourt was founded after the passing of braced-frame construction, though it’s hard to imagine a substantial home like this being dismantled because it was out of date. There has to be a story here. I just haven’t figured it out yet.

No title required

“there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movement of
the hands of a clock.

people so tired
mutilated
either by love or no love.

people just are not good to each other
one on one.

the rich are not good to the rich
the poor are not good to the poor.

we are afraid.

our educational system tells us
that we can all be
big-ass winners.

it hasn’t told us
about the gutters
or the suicides.

or the terror of one person
aching in one place
alone

untouched
unspoken to

watering a plant.”

― Charles Bukowski, Love Is a Dog from Hell