Thursday, 31 July 2014

Holiday correspondence

"July 31st:
The beginning of the holidays signalled, as usual, by the making of appointments with dentist and doctor. …

Spend much time writing to, and hearing from unknown mothers whose sons have been invited here by Robin, and one grandmother, with whose descendant Robin is to spend a week.   Curious impossibility of combining dates and trains convenient to us all, renders this whole question harassing in the extreme.  Grandmother, especially, sends unlimited letters and telegrams, to all of which I feel bound to reply -- mostly with civil assurances of gratitude for her kindness in having Robin to stay.
Very, very difficult to find new ways of wording this -- moreover, must reserve something for letter I shall have to write when visit is safely over."

Diary of a Provincial Lady  E.M. Delafield

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Cecil Beaton's diary

"Friday, 30th July

...At 5.30 I went to tea with Emerald……The Princess de Polignac came in and said to Emerald, 'This charming young man came to dinner with me, and wrote me a beautiful letter.  Then, if you please, he sent me Tom Jones--but in a rare edition of two volumes of priceless value.'  This frightened me stiff for I asked myself how much that villainous Nancy would  charge me for this book.

I joined Jamesey at Rule's restaurant… I said that more people ought to keep diaries, but the trouble was that the most unscrupulous diarists were too scrupulous when it came to putting personal truths on paper. James said that Cecil [Beaton's] diary would be the chronicle of our age, that we would only live through it.  I said Eddy Sackville West kept one.  James said, 'We could not be hoisted to posterity on two spikier spikes.' "

Ancestral Voices  James Lees-Milne

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Travels in the Air

More Signs and Wonders: Mirage and Luminous Aureola,  Eugene Ciceri and A. Tissander, lithographers
From  Travels in the Air 1871 by James Glaisher, FRS, meteorologist and hot air balloonist.
Image courtesy NOAA Photo Library

Sunday, 20 July 2014

'Across space and time'

"Letter to Peter Claire from Countess O'Fingal

My dear Peter,
  I do not know if my letter ever reached you.
That any letter -- which is so insubstantial a thing -- reaches its destination, when I consider what routes it must take and what weather may fall upon its bearers, does make me marvel.

When Johnnie  O'Fingal once read to me the sad drama of Romeo and Juliet  and I understood that all was lost because that Friar Lawrence's letter to Romeo was lost, I remarked to Johnnie that we are ever and always searching for ways by which we can be joined to those we love across the immensity of space and time, but that these ways are fragile and surely on the winds and tides must move a great quantity of lost things that will never be found?"

Music and Silence  Rose Tremain

Friday, 18 July 2014

Sato's sword

My Table

"Two heavy trestles, and a board
Where Sato's gift, a changeless sword,
By pen and paper lies,
That it may moralise
My days out of their aimlessness.
A bit of an embroidered dress
Covers its wooden sheath.
Chaucer had not drawn breath
When it was forged.  In Sato's house,
Curved like new moon, moon-luminous,
It lay five hundred years.
Yet if no change appears
No moon; only an aching heart
Conceives a changeless work of art. "

From Meditations in Time of Civil War  W.B.Yeats

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Poet of the dawn

"An old man in a lodge within a park;
The chamber walls depicted all around
With portraitures of huntsman, hawk and hound,
And the hurt deer.   He listeneth to the lark,
Whose song comes with the sunshine through the dark
Of painted glass in leaden lattice bound;
He listeneth and laugheth at the sound,
Then writeth in a book like any clerk.

He is the poet of the dawn, who wrote
The Canterbury Tales, and his old age
Made beautiful with song; and as I read
I hear the crowing cock, I hear the note
Of lark and linnet, and from every page
Rise odours of ploughed field or flowery mead."

Chaucer  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Signs and wonders

"I have heard that on a day
Mine host's signboard flew away
Nobody knew whither till
An astrologer's old quill
To a sheepskin gave the story --
Said he saw you in your glory
Underneath a new-old Sign
Sipping beverage divine,
And pledging with contented smack
The Mermaid in the Zodiac!

Lines on the Mermaid Tavern   John Keats

Thursday, 10 July 2014

A profusion of lettering

"And finally, while you are still puzzling over the mystery of things, there will come to you like a revelation the knowledge that most of the amazing picturesqueness of these streets is simply due to the profusion of Chinese and Japanese characters in white, black, blue or gold, decorating everything -- even surfaces of doorposts and paper screens.  Perhaps, then, for one moment, you will imagine the effect of English lettering substituted for those magical characters; and the mere idea will give to whatever aesthetic sentiment  you may possess a brutal shock, and you will become, as I have become, an enemy of the Romaji-Kwai -- that society founded for the ugly utilitarian purpose of introducing the use of English letters in writing Japanese."

Writings from Japan  Lafcadio Hearn, edited F. King

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Three Queens' Binders

"G.D. Hobson gave the name 'Queens' Binder' to the craftsman who was thought to have bound both for Catherine of Braganza and Mary of Modena.  Howard M. Nixon has now taken this further and shown that three binders were involved: Queens' Binder A, Queens' Binder B and Queens' Binder C. Rather like those awful sums in old-fashioned arithmetic books, Queens' Binder A was the more prolific but ( and this will rejoice the hearts of all readers of Stephen Leacock) B was the better craftsman of the two.   Recent research suggests the Queens' Binder A may well be William Nott 'the famous bookbinder, that bound for my Lord Chancellor's library', visited by Pepys on 12 March 1668/9.  Pepys added: 'Here I did take occasion for curiosity to bespeak a book to be bound only that I might have one of his bindings.'  "

Great Books and Book Collectors   A.G. Thomas 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Discoveries: conversation pieces

"In fact, human imagination may be the most powerful instrument of discovery, allowing us to question the ideas of others, no matter how illustrious and famous they may be."

Liba Taub, Director, Whipple Museum of the History of Science, Cambridge

"All objects in museums acquire significance by talking to the company they keep."

Robin  Osborne, Director, Museum of Classical Archaeology, Cambridge

Discoveries: Art, Science and Exploration.  
Exhibition catalogue © Two Temple Place 2014

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Gilded spines

"…I  to  Paul's churchyard to treat with a bookbinder to come and gild the backs of all my books to make them handsome, to stand up in my new presses when they come."
Samuel Pepys,  13 August 1666

The Shorter Pepys,  edited R. Latham.