John Saumarez-Smith et alia

We’re delighted to announce that we have provided a desk here for John Saumarez-Smith. Since retiring from Heywood Hill after 40+ years, this celebrated bookdealer has been operating from Maggs Bros in Berkeley Square. As the long lease on their premises comes to an end, John has had to move out. It gives us great pleasure to welcome him here. His extraordinary bibliographic knowledge will be an asset for us (and perhaps a caution), and we will gladly steer antiquarian enquiries his way.

Last Thursday evening we had a party here to celebrate the launch of Elisabeth de Bièvre’s magnificent “Dutch Art and Urban Cultures, 1200—1700”. The fruit of 30 years work, it argues that the Dutch Golden Age was not unified. Rather, distinct geographical circumstances and histories shaped each urban development and their cultural particularities. Speaking from the extra height of a library stool, which she climbed aboard with the elegance of Grace Kelly, Elisabeth explained to her guests that all cultures are the products of their environment, and we should therefore not presume to disapprove of other cultures because we would be the same had we been in their place. She raised a toast to “unity in diversity”, salutary in advance of Friday’s tragedy in Paris. The book is handsomely published by Yale at £40, and illustrated throughout. The party, filled with the author’s friends and admirers, was a joy.

We leave you today with this paragraph from Jonathan Ames’s exquisite Wodehousian romp, ‘Wake Up, Sir’: “The old brain immediately squirted some serotonin into my system at the sight of the envelope, as it bore a resemblance to a letter, and letters, like dogs, always make me feel instantaneously happy. Unfortunately, I have very little contact with dogs and receive almost no letters. I should probably start a correspondence with a dog pound and combine the two pleasures.”  (Pushkin Press, pbk, £8.99 – and see our Favourites section at the end of our Summer Books 2015.)