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Past Lives of Old Books

And Other Essays


R.B. Russell


R.B. Russell’s collected essays range from a discussion of authors from Arthur Machen to Donna Tartt, from Robert Aickman to Alain-Fournier, and from Denton Welch to Katherine Burdekin, taking in classic supernatural fiction, erotic decadence, biographical and dystopian fiction, though to poetry, bibliography and reference books.


Russell also deals with books themselves—as physical objects to be collected and whose individual histories may be speculated upon. There are essays on book collecting, book-shops, bookdealers and bibliographers, through to the tiny booksellers’ labels that can often be found stuck in the front of older books.


Past Lives of Old Books is an evocative exploration of books and book collecting, with occasional forays into authors and characters who may not exist, music and films.


Contains: ‘Introduction: Less Frequented Paths’, ‘Rolfe’s Revolver: The Baron Corvo Archive at the Brotherton Library’, ‘In the “Virtual” Footsteps of Arthur Machen’, ‘ “Find the Happiness They had Never Noticed”: Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes, ‘Correspondence, or Otherwise: Aickman and L.T.C. Rolt’, ‘Brocard Sewell: A Black Swan’, ‘Alastair’, ‘Pierre Louÿs: Pagan Sensuality’, ‘Bibliography of Pierre Louÿs’, ‘Robert Aickman’s “Holiday Photographs”’, ‘Alternative Lives: Arthur Machen’s “A Fragment of Life” and Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes’, ‘Roman Polanski’s The Tenant’, ‘The Connoisseurship of Count Stenbock and Phyllis Paul’, Count Stenbock Bibliography’, ‘Phyllis Paul Bibliography’, ‘Booksellers’ Labels’, ‘Walter J.C. Murray and Copsford’, ‘Immortal Creations: The Brontës Went to Woolworth’s’, ‘Chapman Winston Blubberhouse, and How He Returned to Haunt Me’, ‘The Moon and the Sledgehammer’, ‘Fragile Ivory Towers: The Critics and Donna Tartt’, ‘Denton Welch and Jocelyn Brooke: Kindred Spirits’, ‘Denton Welch Bibliography’, ‘Jocelyn Brooke Bibliography’, ‘George Locke: The Passing of a Legend’, ‘Collecting Arthur Machen Rarities’, ‘Visiting Chydyok’, ‘Past Lives of Old Books’, The Cocteau Twins’, ‘Christopher Millard: Posthumous Friend of Oscar Wilde’, ‘Bibliography of Stuart Mason/Christopher Millard’, ‘Frank Baker: Master of the Absurd’, ‘N.F. Brookes: International Man of Mystery’, ‘Addendum’, ‘Literary Revelations’, ‘The Dangers of Nostalgia’, ‘Pruning a Book Collection’, ‘Down the Literary Rabbit Hole’, ‘Asking About the Weather’, ‘Quentin Crisp Bibliography’, ‘Internal Narrators’, ‘Reference Books’, ‘Outsider Literature’, ‘The Most Frightening Book, Ever’, ‘Katherine Burdekin Bibliography’, ‘Memento Amori: The Poetry of John Sewell’, ‘John Sewell Bibliography’.




'Lovers of obscure authors and literature will welcome this eclectic collection of mostly previously published essays from British editor Russell His easy, accessible style is a delight to read. Publishers Weekly

'Highly engaging', Michael Dirda, The Washington Post


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