Too busy to blog for a number of days – but back in action now. And welcome to all the new readers directed here by the links on Sheppard’s Confidential and TheBookGuide.
Busy, busy, busy – but let me mention a flying visit to Bernard Quaritch in their discreet offices on South Audley Street. I can’t think of another bookselling firm in the world who can safely be referred to by just an initial – “Q”. Established in 1847 and still a leviathan of the trade. This is bookselling from the very top drawer. Always good to see Ian Smith – but flying because I was already late for another visit to another initials-only institution – older and even grander – the British Museum. Some of us still think “not in BM” as we type “not in BL” (as it has been since 1973 when the British Library was spun off). This remains pretty much the highest accolade we can bestow on a book. Still gives me a mortal pang to see Panizzi’s wonderful old round reading room turned into a giant cafeteria.
But a delightful half-hour in a rather less changed BM Prints and Drawings as I presented a copy of British Map Engravers to Sheila O’Connell. The book has of course hundreds of illustrations supplied by the BM, who – mirabile dictu – still do not charge any reproduction fees for non-commercial and academic publications. Bless them and all hail. A free book was the very least we could give them for upholding that noble principle – and Sheila was delighted by the use we had made of them.
Yesterday was dominated by the first ABA Council meeting after the long summer break. Always an extended meeting, the September one. It all began a little fractiously, but after we were given a dressing-down (me in particular, I think) in her best school-mistressy fashion by Janette Ray for behaving like squabbling schoolboys it all settled down and we got through a long agenda. Council happy to give the office staff a pay-rise; excellent progress on some new ideas for next year’s big fair at Olympia; the Chelsea Book Fair in November looking all set and ready to roll – with a terrific art exhibition to go with it – well done Leo Cadogan and his team; Janette leading us gently to twenty-first century standards of presentation and design in all our future output; new members elected and a welcome number of fresh applications coming through; Stephen Avedikian (Cathay Bookshop) voted some money to reinvigorate our social activities and get us out and about enjoying each other’s company; the venue of the Christmas Party fixed (thank you Pom Harrington of Peter Harrington); excellent report on some ideas already in train from Jean Hedger and Pom on the new Benefits Committee; equally promising things from the Educational Trustees – including a new series of seminars and lectures on book-collecting and related topics to be hosted at London University, all free to the public (watch this space); some forward thinking and interesting proposals being worked up by Future Planning; some welcome news of the new online export licence application system from Julian Rota (Bertram Rota); and a firm promise from the new Management Committee to get a grip on the costs and increasing complexities of our activities.
Fours hours of all that was quite enough – but a pleasure to adjourn with almost the entire Council to Tim Bryars’ shop in Cecil Court, where we had a informal launch party to celebrate British Map Engravers finally coming out. We were joined by luminaries from the map world, the ever-popular John Critchley from the ABA Office, colleagues in the trade, friends, family, some of the team who made “The Beauty of Maps” such an extraordinary success for BBC4 last year – and I suspect some people who just happened to be walking down Cecil Court at the time.
Most entertaining map-related moment for me was a description from a tabloid journalist of how in far-off pre-mobile days the reporters from a well-known national newspaper were issued with maps showing the local telephone boxes in the vicinity of the story – this so they could disable them all before any of the rival hacks could get a report through. Maps not in BL? – you bet.