MAGAZINE SUMMER 2013 / ISSUE 20
your heart on your sleeve The thriving art of contemporary British book design, by Alan Powers
echoes of empire Andrew Duff on the story of the Tibetan boys sent to Rugby School in 1913
magnificent russians Anna Reid highlights some of the treasures of the Library’s collections
THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE / ISSUE 20
Suzette Field’s trawl through the Library stacks while researching her book on parties in literature unearthed some fascinating and often obscure finds, from blossom-viewing parties in ancient Japan to a soirée held in honour of Diaghilev at the Majestic hotel in 1920s Paris.
12 Walk into a bookshop today and you enter a gallery of contemporary graphic design and illustration. Modern book covers are visual treats, with talented designers such as Coralie Bickford-Smith and David Pearson being commissioned to experiment freely with image and type. Alan Powers celebrates this small art form in all its diversity.
5 FROM THE LIBRARIAN 6 CONTRIBUTORS 8 BEHIND THE BOOK Richard Davenport-Hines’s A Night at the Majestic (Faber & Faber, 2006).
Suzette Field on the wide range of titles that informed her book on great parties in literature
11 BIBLIOTHERAPY Molly Flatt was able to weather separation by turning to the original and erotic portrayal of long-distance love in Elizabeth Knox’s The Vintner’s Luck
12 YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE Contemporary book-cover design is flourishing, as Alan Powers discovers
16 ECHOES OF EMPIRE David Pearson’s cover for Stefan Zweig’s Beware of Pity (1939), 2013 edition published by Pushkin Press. © David Pearson. Courtesy of Pushkin Press.
Andrew Duff on the very different fates of four Tibetan boys who attended Rugby School during the First World War
20 THE LONDON LIBRARY STUDENT PRIZE 2013 Announcing the runners-up and winner of this year’s national prize for final-year undergraduates
The social experiment that transported four Tibetan boys to Rugby School in 1913 was a political exercise to strengthen ties between the British and Tibetan goverments. Andrew Duff reflects on its impact on the boys themselves and its effect on the relationship between the two countries.
22 POETRY The winning poem of the 2013 Cosmo Davenport-Hines Prize, ‘Tutorial’ by Richard Brown
Photograph at Rugby School in 1914, showing the four Tibetan boys. Rugby School Collections.
23 HIDDEN CORNERS The Russian collections at the Library, including around 15,000 Russian-language titles, are well stocked and expanding, as Anna Reid explains
27 MEMBERS’ NEWS
The Library is stocked with an extensive and magnificent collection of Russian books. Anna Reid selects some highlights, including the 1581 Ostrog Bible and a run of Iskra, the SocialDemocratic Workers’ Party newspaper, from the 1900s.
31 EATING OUT
Cartoon depicting Nicholas II embracing a policeman, Iskra, 1 May 1902.
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On the cover
Edward Bawden’s Life Guards, 1952–3, lithograph. Bawden was one of a selection of artists commissioned to produce a lithographic print by the Royal College of Art for the college’s Coronation Series in 1953, exhibited that year at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. © The Estate of Edward Bawden. Courtesy of the Fine Art Society.
FROM THE LIBRARIAN The summer is for many a time of rest, but here at the Library, as the next phase of our redevelopment begins, our days have been more than usually action-filled! All books and furniture have been removed from the Reading Room and also from the North Bay (now to be called the Writers’ Room), the contractors have moved in, and we’re on our way to creating more of the kinds of spaces – light, well-equipped and comfortable – that you, our members, need. If you’re looking forward to getting work done in the Library over the warmer months, never fear: our Reader Services team have made sure that temporary reader spaces are located throughout the Library to compensate for Reading Room closures. See page 27 for more information on temporary desk locations, our book retrieval service and how to stay up to date on the latest Phase 3A news. We’ve also been busy recognising excellence at both ends of the literary spectrum, from budding writers to those who have spent a lifetime crafting the written word. On pages 20 to 22 you can read all about this year’s winners of The London Library Student Prize, open to final-year undergraduates across the UK, while on page 29 we announce the recipient of the 2013 London Library Life in Literature Award, sponsored by Heywood Hill. These two awards represent beautifully the way in which the Library has always supported the work of both new and established writers, something you can see here, on any given day, in the diversity of members walking through our doors. With summer reading on everyone’s minds, and so many enticing prospects gazing at us from the Library’s stacks and the shelves of bookshops, Alan Powers’ piece on book design (pages 12 to 15) is timely and informative. Never has a stunning jacket – not to mention the typeface, paper and binding – been more crucial in catching the bibliophile’s eye. Elsewhere in this issue, literary parties are the subject of Suzette Field’s Behind the Book (page 8), and the story of a fallen angel teaches us lessons in long-distance love in Molly Flatt’s touching Bibliotherapy (page 11). In Hidden Corners, Anna Reid turns her attention to the Russian collections (pages 23 to 24), and on pages 16 to 19 Andrew Duff recounts the unlikely tale of four Tibetan boys sent to Rubgy School during the First World War. Plenty of variety, we hope, to keep you interested as you relax on a sun lounger or simply take a cup of tea into the garden on a warm summer’s day. Wherever you are, and whatever you’re reading, we wish you the most restful of breaks.
Inez T.P.A. Lynn Librarian Published on behalf of The London Library by Royal Academy Enterprises Ltd. Colour reproduction and printing by Tradewinds London. Published 28 June 2013 © 2013 The London Library. The opinions in this particular publication do not necessarily reflect the views of The London Library. All reasonable attempts have been made to clear copyright before publication.
Editorial Publishers Jane Grylls and Kim Jenner Executive Editor Aimée Heuzenroeder Editor Mary Scott Design and production Joyce Mason Picture research/proofreading Sarah Bolwell
Editorial committee David Breuer Peter Parker Erica Wagner
Advertising Jane Grylls 020 7300 5661 Kim Jenner 020 7300 5658 Hannah Jackson 020 7300 5675 Development Office, The London Library Aimée Heuzenroeder 020 7766 4734
Magazine feedback and editorial enquiries should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Molly Flatt joined the library in 2011
Richard Brown is an MA student in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. He grew up in the Midlands and read History at New College, Oxford, where he took a First. Before returning to London (and academia) in 2012, Richard lived and worked in Dubai; he has been writing poetry and prose for his own amusement for several years.
Molly Flatt is a writer, journalist, editor and Word of Mouth Evangelist for the global marketing agency 1000heads. She writes about books, technology and culture for the Guardian and Bookdiva, and is Features Editor of Phoenix, a luxury fashion magazine. She is currently writing her first novel, which is, rather appropriately, about a library, although this one contains the unfolding stories of every living human being. (@mollyflatt and mollyflatt.com.)
joined the library in 2012
joined the library in 2011
Andrew Duff is currently writing his first book, Imperial Misadventures in the Himalayas, an account of a personal journey into the story of Sikkim and Tibet. He also writes on India and related subjects for UK and Indian newspapers. The Times describes his blog (luddo.com), as ‘witty and insightful – well worth a read’. He lives in London and the Scottish Highlands. Suzette Field was born in Los Angeles. In 1996 she moved to London where she set up a cinema in a converted warehouse in Shoreditch. Since 2000 she has been organising parties, initially for the Modern Times Club and most recently for the Last Tuesday Society, whose events include séances, crying parties and masked balls. Suzette also has a curios shop, gallery and museum in Hackney.
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joined the library in 1982
Alan Powers is a writer, teacher and curator specialising in 20th-century British art, architecture and design. He has had a long involvement with the Twentieth Century Society and is an editor of its journal, Twentieth Century Architecture. His many books include surveys and monographs, among them Front Cover: Great Book Jacket Design (2001). His new book, Eric Ravilious: Artist and Designer, will be published later this year.
Anna Reid joined the library in 2004
Anna Reid’s latest book is Leningrad: Tragedy of a City under Siege, 1941–44 (2011). She spent the early 1990s in Kiev, as the Ukraine correspondent for the Economist, and from 2003 to 2007 ran the foreign affairs programme at the think tank Policy Exchange. Her previous two books are Borderland: Journey Through the History of Ukraine (1997) and The Shaman’s Coat: A Native History of Siberia (2002).
Suzette Field is Tribune of the Last Tuesday Society, which organises parties and literary and cultural events in London. Her book A Curious Invitation (2012) features 40 of the greatest parties from works of literature. She found The London Library, where she researched her book, an oasis of calm away from the social whirl.
The London Library may seem like an unusual place to find a professional party promoter, but I’ve unearthed some of my best party ideas from books. I’ve hosted crying parties on Valentine’s Day (Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum ), Satan’s ball at Halloween (Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita ) and even a McMurphy’s ward party (Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest ).
The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball: 15 June
1815, by David Miller (Staplehurst 2005). H. Napoleonic Wars. This legendary party, held in Brussels on the eve of Waterloo, was feted in literature by both William Makepeace Thackeray and Lord Byron. Byron talked of how ‘a thousand hearts beat happily’, and his lover Lady Caroline Lamb pronounced that ‘All the young men who appeared there [were] shot dead a few days after’. With military precision Miller debunks both these myths. It seems there were a mere 225 guests at the ball, and of the 103 military personnel there only 11 perished in the ensuing battles. And of those, only four were young. A Night at the Majestic: Proust and the Great Modernist Dinner Party of 1922 by Richard Davenport-Hines (London 2006). Biog. Proust. Unlike the Duchess of Richmond, Violet and Sydney Schiff have been overlooked by history. This rich, cultivated English couple hosted a dinner party in honour of Sergei Diaghilev at the Majestic hotel in Paris in 1922. Davenport-Hines opens his biography of Proust with a 49-page description of this soirée, which his subject attended. We know that boeuf à la gelée and lobster à l’américaine were on the menu and Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso and James Joyce were also on the guest list. Proust and Joyce were unacquainted
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Suzette Field’s A Curious Invitation (2012).
with one another’s work, but apparently engaged in enthusiastic conversation on their respective bowel complaints. Babylon by Joan Oates (London 1979); and The Babylonian Akîtu Festival by Svend Aage Pallis (Copenhagen 1926). Both H. Assyria & Babylon. We know from the Book of Daniel 5 that ‘Belshazzar the King held a great feast’ but the Bible does not specify what the occasion was, so I turned to Oates for elucidation. It seems the highlight of the Babylonian social calendar was the New Year Festival of Akîtu. Pallis gives a full description of this 11-day celebration that included dramatic performances, libations, sacrifices and sheep-shearing. Belshazzar (who was in fact just the Regent of Babylon) had suspended the festival (which must have been a bit like cancelling Christmas). Little wonder his disaffected subjects allowed in the Medes and Persians who slew Belshazzar at his own party. The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan by Ivan Morris (London 1964). H. Japan, Social &c. In search of material about the blossomviewing party described in The Tale of Genji, the eleventh-century Japanese novel by Murasaki Shikibu, I looked to Morris’s book, which provides an insight into the punishing round of social events that had to be endured by medieval Japanese courtiers. In addition
to the hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) there were also wisteria-viewing parties, not to mention other festivities, including the Washing of the Buddha and the Presentation of the Full Moon Gruel. The ladies of the court would beautify themselves by whitening their faces with powder and blackening their teeth with iron and gall-nut soaked in vinegar. Manuscripts Don’t Burn. Mikhail Bulgakov: A Life in Letters and Diaries by J.A.E. Curtis (London 1991), Biog. Bulgakov; and Bears in the Caviar by Charles Wheeler Thayer (London 1952), H. Russia, Social &c. Satan’s ball from Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita (published posthumously in 1967) was based on a real party that the author and his wife Yelena attended at the American Embassy in Moscow on 23 April 1935. Curtis spent ten years researching his book on the Bulgakovs, and had access to their diaries and personal letters. Yelena’s diary entry for the day gives an account of the party, which featured ‘live pheasants and other birds [...] live bear cubs in one corner, kid goats and cockerels in cages’. Thayer was the Embassy secretary who organised the occasion. He describes how he borrowed the menagerie from Moscow State Zoo. The zebra finches all escaped and a bear cub got drunk on Mumm Cordon Rouge.
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Molly Flatt suggests a heavenly remedy for the trials of a long-distance relationship
THE VINTNER’S LUCK ELIZABETH KNOX We had been going out for a year. I wasn’t quite a waitress in a cocktail bar but, as an out-of-work actress, I was close enough. He was a lawyer, which was bewildering. We shared a fabulous, fractured 12 months in London before he announced that, inspired by seeing me pursue a career that I loved (although considering that by this time I was starring in a Japanese shampoo commercial, the terms ‘career’ , ‘pursue’ and ‘love’ should be interpreted in the loosest of terms), he was jacking in his magic circle fast-track to retrain for a job in the sports industry instead. In Arizona. For two years. Followed by, as it turned out, a summer working in New York, then nine months in Paris. On receipt of the news, I put on an impressive display of bravery, selflessness and quietly anguished solidarity, which was, I am reluctant to admit, cut through with an ignoble whiff of joy. Because although being in a relationship with this good, gorgeous man was flesh-sweet, soul-deep and everything in between, it was also sorely starting to encroach on my reading time. I’d only ever previously had undemanding flings, and had thoroughly underestimated how much talking and gazing and basically non-book-related activity true love requires. Of course, several months later, finally curled alone on his massive bed after he’d gone, I fondled and discarded one paperback after another; for the first time I had discovered a space inside me that a book couldn’t fill. That’s when I met Xas. Xas was a fallen angel with enormous white wings, leather trousers, a penchant for gardening and a lingering perfume of snow. In short, the
perfect lover: exotic, damaged, fickle, faintly ridiculous and, being fictional, incredibly discreet. The Vintner’s Luck (1998), a novel by New Zealand writer Elizabeth Knox, tracks the unique relationship between Xas and Sobran, a vintner in eighteenth-century Burgundy. At the start of the story Xas, injured from a divine battle, tumbles out of Hell, on to a hill-top, and into the arms of the wistful young peasant. Year after year the angel descends to the same spot, to see what changes joy, violence, illness and betrayal have wrought on his mortal specimen, while Sobran quietly provides the tenderness and constancy Xas secretly craves. Between rendezvous, we follow Sobran’s struggle to build a meaningful life – with his homely wife Celeste, his rough wartime comrade Kalmann and his beautiful widowed employer, the Countess de Valday – as France itself struggles to reconcile the new scientific discoveries with the old comforts of faith. Knox’s brilliantly original story had everything I needed to weather separation: escapism, romance and torment, not to mention what is perhaps the ultimate portrayal of lifetime long-distance love. Arizona might have seemed unbearably hot and far away, but Hell, gratifyingly, sounded worse. Knox’s themes are epic, but her prose is subtle and earthy, lyrical in the most specific and sensual way. It’s also highly erotic, and when you’re on a 12-hour plane journey anticipating the first sexual contact you’ve had in 3 months, a bit of inter-species sodomy goes splendidly with your complimentary nuts. On my last visit before the by now
Elizabeth Knox’s The Vintner’s Luck (1998), 2009 Vintage edition.
ex-lawyer was unexpectedly transferred to London for good, I took him a copy of The Vintner’s Luck, lovingly inscribed. He told me he hated it, and I seriously considered throwing those three loyal years away. Instead, Reader, I married him, which has resulted in the most extraordinary bliss. And now, whenever I think back to those early years of our own modest, still-unfolding drama, I always return to the very last lines of The Vintner’s Luck. ‘You fainted and I caught you. It was the first time I’d supported a human. You had such heavy bones. I put myself between you and gravity. Impossible. ’ THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 11
YOUR HEART ON
THE APPEAL OF THE MODERN BOOK COVER The art of the book designer is now justifiably celebrated after decades of being barely acknowledged. Alan Powers selects some striking examples of this small art form.
London Library members have long been used to the pin-up boards in the catalogue hall showing the book jackets from recent accessions. They give a last glimpse of the gaudy apparel already stripped from the books themselves. Like monks or nuns, the books are committed henceforth to a life of sobriety and near-anonymity in plain cloth. In this fashion, libraries continue the puritanical practice common among book buyers in older times, when jackets were seen as a protection from handling and ambient dirt in the shop and perhaps as a dangerous gesture towards advertising, due to be discarded in the home of any serious reader. That all now seems a long time ago. The jacket or cover establishes the brand for the title, the author and for the publishing house at the same time. Much thought and originality now goes into the visual presentation of both hardback and paperback books to make them appealing as objects in competition with electronic alternatives. Book jackets originated in the London book trade in 1832. Since so many of them were thrown away, the early history remains patchy. British publishers were in advance 12 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE
Edward McKnight Kauffer’s cover for Lytton Strachey’s biography of Queen Victoria (1921), 1924 edition published by Chatto & Windus. © Simon Rendall.
of most of Europe, however, in issuing case-bound books for customers, while other countries normally supplied them en broche, sewn with limp covers for the customer to send to his or her binder. The book jacket protected the cloth, and then the cloth itself began to be decorated, with its jacket later following suit. After the First World War, the quality of binding cloth and the blocking of lettering on it began to decline for reasons of economy, and the jacket gained in importance. At the same time, better colour printing combined with a simplified style of graphic design brought a more adventurous approach. Edward McKnight Kauffer, poster designer supreme for the London Underground, led the way, along with the more obscure Theyre Lee-Elliott, more teasingly abstract than Kauffer, followed by a group of recent graduates from the Royal College of Art, most notably Edward Bawden and Barnett Freedman, the last two often commissioned by Faber & Faber. In spite of his patronage of these and other artists such as Rex Whistler, Richard de la Mare, the son of the poet and one
Above left Edward Bawden’s cover for Albert Camus’s The Outsider (originally published as L’Etranger in 1942), 1946 first English-language edition published by Hamish Hamilton. © The Estate of Edward Bawden, courtesy of the Fine Art Society. Above right Barnett Freedman’s cover for Sacheverell Sitwell’s Dance of the Quick and the Dead, 1936 first edition published by Faber & Faber.
of the company’s directors, described the book jacket in 1936 as ‘a wretched thing’ , adding that ‘the amount of time and trouble that has to be devoted to [it] is out of all proportion to [its] value’ . Other quality publishers were equally negative, in a way that reminds us how conservative the book trade was then. Victor Gollancz asked ‘Why a man who was approaching a new book, with any curiosity about its contents, should be fobbed off with a picture on the jacket?’ He solved the problem with his famous yellow jackets that carried only typographic titles and promotional copy (often entertaining and provocative) in black and maroon. When Allen Lane founded Penguin Books in 1935 to reach beyond the stuffy bookshops of the time to customers at Woolworths, he still insisted that, unlike American readers whose paperbacks were sold by means of lurid realistic illustrations, British readers would be treated like Europeans, whose books still tend to be plainer than ours. Penguin’s
ban on illustrated fiction covers continued well into the post-war years, and only after Lane’s death in 1970 did full colour begin to appear on all the publisher’s series. Behind these objections that now seem so extreme and anti-commercial was a dislocation that we might now find hard to understand between the cultures of word and image, in which pictures represented an affront to the intelligence of the reader. Today, we accept that these elements are inseparable. In general trade publishing,
the customer needs the clues that a book jacket provides in order to feel confident about buying the book, and it is in the uncertainty of how best to provide these that the fascination of the book jacket lies – being both an art form and a marketing tool. Walking into a bookshop today is a semiotician’s dream; everything that you see is clamouring to be decoded. It is also a living museum of graphic design and illustration, with some perennial favourites marching on (especially in the children’s section) and the new titles frequently taking their cues from the old. It seems as if nearly all the styles of lettering, illustration and layout have been around for decades, in genres both high and low. The designer becomes a postmodernist curator, ever choosing a style and a mood that references something else. Perhaps the old gentlemen of the 1930s would despair at the extent to which most books have now become a form of product rather than a straightforward, decently presented object with a purpose. We tend to associate publishing with new titles, but book design is perhaps an even more important element when presenting something old. The Penguin 60s series, launched to celebrate the company’s anniversary in 1995, was a huge marketing success, offering short texts at the price of a cup of tea. Sales of the volume of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius rose by
David Pearson’s cover design for Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature, no.46, volume 3 of the Penguin Books Great Ideas series, 2008; Pearson also devised the series design. © Penguin Books. THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 13
125% in a year compared to the full text. The Great Ideas series, launched by Penguin Press with twenty slim titles ten years later, raised the visual and tactile quality of a similar selection of extracts and proved again that buyers are attracted by the right physical presentation. David Pearson, a young designer in the company, drew inspiration from the Penguin backlist, designing some covers himself and commissioning others to make a set that was austere in its combination of black and red – an identity that has been extended with different colours through subsequent series – but playful in its typographic responses to each book’s content, period and mood. As Pearson relates, pictures were excluded: ‘Owing to the subjective nature of the writing it felt like a mistake to dress the covers in imagery that might simply mislead. I imagined that a less literal treatment might better serve the subjects and challenge the readers to project their own meaning on to the covers. If you can activate readers’ interpretive participation you stand a much better chance of making their experience a meaningful one. ’ There was a precedent when Everyman’s Library, that worthy staple of study texts, was relaunched in an elegant minimalist format in 1991. In this case, as with Great Ideas, the series identity was the focus, and this had a strong appeal to readers, who may have felt flattered by the absence of pictorial fuss. With competition from
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eBooks, publishers have awoken to the need to give their customers a visual and tactile treat. A new line of Penguin Press Clothbound Classics, designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith with decorative cloth case bindings and nicely reset text inside, has proved very popular. ‘Re-presenting classic literature through patterns is fun; there is so much to go on within the text, ’ BickfordSmith has said of this varied but still instantly recognisable set of books, far removed from anything that Penguin has done before in response to a changing market. These books make an affordable treat at a price not much more than a plain version of the same text. They are comfortingly nostalgic in form and design style, a rather feminine counterpart to the austerity of Everyman, and their tactile quality challenges the eBook in an area where the latter has no hope of fighting back. In a different vein, Bickford-Smith’s patterned art-deco jackets for F. Scott Fitzgerald have encouraged readers to buy the whole set as part of their interior furnishing (and for reading, too, one assumes). Faber & Faber has one of the finest literary backlists as well as remaining a distinguished house for poetry, fiction and general books. Eleanor Crow, Senior Designer, sees the visual element of book production as increasingly important in helping to project books to a target market. For many years, Faber had a house style, initially shaped by the designer Berthold
Wolpe and then by John McConnell of Pentagram. Now there is no overall look, but rather a series of genre-related designs such as the fiction reprint series Secrets and Lies, for which Crow commissioned full-face photographs in which the eyes line up across all the covers, challenging the convention that characters in stories should be seen from behind or have their faces cropped in the design so that readers can form their own idea of how they look. One of the exciting features of recent publishing in Britain is the growth of classic texts in translation. The Anglophone market has traditionally been resistant to foreign literature, but small publishers have used design to help nudge readers into new discoveries. Pushkin Press was founded in 1997 but has recently been bought by two former Penguin staff, Adam Freudenheim and Stephanie Seegmuller, who worked with David Pearson (now a freelance designer) and his partner Clare Skeats to create a new look for the company. They have retained the distinctive small format for many of the titles but have rejuvenated the look, with vignette illustrations on a white background. This subtle tweaking is in the tradition of one of Pearson’s heroes, Jan Tschichold, who revived the Penguin identity after the war, and showed how Coralie Bickford-Smith’s designs for the first series of the Penguin Press Clothbound Classics, 2008.
YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE
Above left Yann Kebbi’s cover for Marcel Aymé’s short story collection, The Man Who Walked Through Walls (originally published as Le Passe-muraille in 1943), translated by Sophie Lewis and published by Pushkin Press in 2012; series style conceived by David Pearson and Clare Skeats. Courtesy of Pushkin Press. Above right Ed Kluz’s design for W.N.P. Barbellion’s The Journal of a Disappointed Man (1919), published by Little Toller Books in 2010. © Ed Kluz. Courtesy of Little Toller Books.
every fraction of a millimetre is crucial to getting a perfect sense of a grand book in miniature. The whole book is presented with care, with flaps to the paper covers (now a common way of upgrading a paperback). Rather akin to the presentation of organic vegetables or meat in a restaurant or farmers’ market, the books contain details not only of the author’s career, but information about the whole book production: the typeface, paper and binding as well as the location of the independently owned printer in Padstow. ‘Trust us’ is the message: you are helping to maintain standards in a wicked world by buying this book. What then of the book retailer who provides the crucial point of junction between the publisher and the customer? New titles have to make their impression visually as well as verbally, and a good cover will help the book to cross the first hurdle on the race to the till. At the renowned independent Aldeburgh Bookshop in Suffolk, shop owner Mary James has seen the uplifting effect of a redesign such as Jeff Fisher’s new covers for the thrillers of Andrea Camilleri. It was Fisher who launched a still continuing fashion for slightly naïve hand lettering, with his
Rather akin to the presentation of vegetables in a farmers’ market, books contain information about the typeface, paper and binding as well as the location of the independent printer
branch of Daunt’s in Marylebone High Street reflects the general trend in book design at present towards nostalgia, even if it involves a recycling of relatively recent imagery and styles (when it acquires the label ‘retro’). Many recently formed small publishers, such as Slightly Foxed and Little Toller Books, are built on sophisticated rootling in the forgotten corners of other publishers’ backlists, with visuals to match, in the latter case a few new commissions and some good picture research among mid-century British artists. The store cupboard of ideas cannot be infinite, but cover design seems to be in a healthy condition, with publishers, at the higher end of the market at least, willing to risk the less obvious approach and let the design develop a positive character. The demand is matched by a flurry of new artists, printmakers and designers. No more than ten years ago, book-cover designers were relatively secret people and the art they practised was not much discussed. Now some of them are approaching celebrity status, with their own websites and blogs, where they discuss their work with becoming modesty (after all, they are British) but receive adulation from their fans. Those jackets pinned up at The London Library should be archived at once as representatives of a small golden age of creativity.
cover for Louis de Bernières’s Captain Corelli’s Mandolin in 1998, described as ‘the most influential cover design of the last 15 years’ . Mary’s colleague Kathleen Beller emphasises the need for a good clear spine, since the front board, over which publishers agonise, is seldom the first visual clue to reach the eye of the prospective purchaser, and there is limited space in which to give books the coveted ‘face out’ display. At Daunt Books in Marylebone High Street, Diana Liu remarks on how ‘production has gone up several notches’ in response to the eBook challenge. The aura of the
Jeff Fisher’s cover for Andrea Camilleri’s thriller The Voice of the Violin (originally published in Italian as La voce del violino in 1997), translated by Stephen Sartarelli and published by Picador in 2006. © Jeff Fisher. THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 15
ECHOES OF EMPIRE
Britain, Tibet and Rugby School in 1913
Andrew Duff tells the story of two Dalai Lamas, the British in Tibet, and how four Tibetan boys ended up at Rugby School during the First World War Late one evening in February 1910, two British military telegraphists lay asleep in their small wooden hut, an outpost 14,000 feet up a mountain on the border between Sikkim, a British Indian protectorate in the Himalayas, and Tibet. They were woken by an urgent knock at the door. The hut was on the trade route between India and Tibet along which muleteers often passed, but it was pitch dark and well below zero, the nearest dwelling was some distance away, and the snow had been falling all day. Grabbing their rifles, they opened the door to find a ‘gathering of Tibetans all in the most excited condition’ . Earlier that day they had been warned that the 13th Dalai Lama was heading in their direction, fleeing from a Chinese assault on the Tibetan capital Lhasa, but they had given up on him reaching their hut that night. Now the visitors confirmed that one of them was indeed the Dalai Lama. The two men ushered the bedraggled group inside, made them tea and gave them what food they had. Forsaking their beds for the Dalai Lama and his guards (‘a privilege, ’ one said later, ‘I was only too pleased to grant’), the two telegraphists ‘dossed down in front of the fire’ , their rifles by their sides. The Tibetan guards kept watch through the night in case the pursuing Chinese should reach the hut. The following morning the weather cleared. After a hurried breakfast, the telegraphists 16 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE
Above The 13th Dalai Lama (centre), with Charles Bell and Maharaj Kumar Sidkeong Trul-ku, 1910. Private Collection, Bridgeman Art Library. Below right Map showing Tibet, Sikkim and India, Scottish Daily Express, 2 December 1959. Courtesy of Martha Hamilton.
escorted the Tibetans for three miles down the steep mountainside, far enough to point them towards Darjeeling, India and safety. The arrival of the Dalai Lama in British India was a great coup for Charles Bell, the British Political Officer in the area. The British considered Tibet to be a vital ‘buffer state’ protecting the northern flank of British India, and Bell was responsible for relations with Tibet. Six years earlier he had been involved in a mission led
by Colonel Younghusband, which had worked its way across the high Tibetan plateau to Lhasa, leaving a trail of bloody encounters in its wake, the worst of which was a massacre of 600 Tibetans. But for Bell and others like him, the mission had served its purpose by establishing relations between the British and the Tibetan leadership. Younghusband had been forced to withdraw rapidly – London had never fully approved the mission – so in 1910 Bell and the British still understood very little about Tibet. They also lived in fear that renewed Russian, Chinese and even Japanese influence in Lhasa could threaten the integrity of the British Indian Empire’s northern frontiers. The appearance of the Dalai Lama in India in 1910, Bell realised, offered a golden opportunity to convince the Tibetan leader of the value of strengthening relations with British India. Over the next two years Bell developed
Rugby School photograph of 1914 with Mondo, Gongkar, Kyipup and Ringang. Courtesy of Rugby School Collections.
a close relationship with the Dalai Lama. Bell, a scholar at heart, was eager to learn more about Tibet and its interleaved political and religious systems. He visited the Tibetan leader in the house that had been arranged for him nearly every week for long and involved discussions. The Dalai Lama, a man of curiosity and intelligence, wanted in turn to learn how he could secure his country’s future as an entity that no longer relied on the increasingly aggressive Chinese. In 1912 the Chinese left Lhasa, their Empire in ruins after the fall of the Qing dynasty. The Dalai Lama returned to his
capital convinced of the need for Tibet to modernise. Educating Tibetan boys in England, Bell told him, would be an excellent first step. So, in March 1913, to thank the British for the ‘great favours shown to us while we were in India’ , the Tibetan Cabinet sent four ‘energetic and clever sons of respectable families’ (Mondo 17 years old, Gongkar and Kyipup both 16, Ringang 12) to Charles Bell, accompanied by a guardian, Kusho Lungshar, and his wife. Bell immediately arranged for the Tibetans to be sent to England, accompanied by a local British trade agent, Basil Gould, and a Darjeeling policeman, S.W. Laden La. The party sailed from Bombay on the P&O S.S. Arabia in early April. The food
on board was a challenge to them all, with Gould having to enlist ‘the help of a steward who on rough days produced what he called “Tabasco sauce with a dash of soup in it” ’ . They arrived in Portsmouth on 24 April 1913, greeted by a Daily Mirror journalist who splashed photographs of the ‘First Party of Tibetans to Visit England’ on the front page two days later. They were housed in Farnham, near Aldershot, and the boys were enrolled at a local Berlitz language crammer. Confidential instructions from the India Office to Basil Gould’s brother Edwin (who was their initial tutor) spelt out the political nature of the enterprise: the main object was ‘to produce a type of man, fitted for some kind of useful public service in Tibet, who will be united to England by THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 17
The Dalai Lama’s gifts for George V included
a suit of Tibetan armour; in return he
received gifts including a fine set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica ties of affection and esteem, and will … encourage the Tibetans to look to England, rather than to other countries, as the training ground for their young men’ . In India, the Viceroy talked of the importance of success, ‘otherwise Tibetans will turn to Russia or Japan for education of their youths’ . Lungshar, the boys’ guardian, was troublesome from the outset. Gould knew he had met up with Chinese officials in Calcutta, and once in England he regularly demanded to be moved to London. But since he bore gifts from the Dalai Lama for King George V, the British could not avoid granting him quasi-ambassadorial status. At a carefully choreographed reception at Buckingham Palace in June, Lungshar and the boys were presented to the King and Queen. The Dalai Lama’s gifts for the King, valued at £1,000, included a suit of Tibetan armour and a saddle reputed to be 500 years old; in return Lungshar received gifts worth £1,127 19s. 4d. to be taken back to the Dalai Lama, including photographs of the King and Queen, a pair of 12-bore hammerless ejector guns, an English saddle with bridle and all accessories, a Dollond telescope on a mahogany stand, and a fine set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Meanwhile Basil Gould met up with two India Office officials to choose the boys’ school. Between them they claimed Winchester, Eton and Harrow as alma maters, but none were willing to push their own school’s case. They settled on Cheltenham College but this had to be abandoned after it was discovered that the new President of the Chinese Republic also wanted to send his three sons to the school. There was a flurry of correspondence; the British were deeply suspicious of the timing, 18 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE
and having both parties at the school was impossible. New arrangements were hastily made for the Tibetans with the headmaster of Rugby School. In the meantime the boys were enrolled in a local Army College near Farnham for a term of gymwork and horse-riding practice. In January 1914 the boys finally went up to Rugby where Colonel Richardson, one of the housemasters, took a year’s lease on a house large enough to accommodate them. A simple curriculum was drawn up, consisting of English, History, Mathematics, Scriptures and Drawing. By the end of the first term the boys had been given the unimaginative nicknames Tibby 1, 2, 3 and 4. In March 1914, the Daily Mail reported that one of the boys, Gongkar, had a fondness for loud clothing, and had been seen ‘walking down Church street with an English chum, his mauve and
blue-striped cap at the correct Rugby angle … when questioned [he] declared school life “tophole” (pronounced “t’pole”).’ The oldest boy, Mondo, was already showing promise as a pianist. The youngest, Ringang, was said to have a weakness for Frank Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade. Gould later wrote of ‘their readiness to laugh at all times, especially if they got a kick on the shins at Rugger’ . F.W. Odgers, the boys’ 30-year-old form master and a Cambridge blue, was assigned responsibility for their school holidays. In Easter 1914 he took them to Cornwall where they visited Trevose Head lighthouse and learnt golf, before heading to London to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Savoy Theatre, and an exhibition of Herbert George Ponting’s pictures of Captain Scott’s expedition to the South Pole. Summer holidays in the Yorkshire hills reminded them of Tibet, as the war loomed in the background. By the end of 1914 the boys, hitherto generally obedient, began to challenge the daily routines imposed on them. During the Christmas holidays in Worcestershire, they staged a minor rebellion over being taken to church each Sunday, saying they would rather play golf. Keen to avoid offending the Dalai Lama, officials at the India Office declared that while school discipline dictated that the boys must attend chapel during term, rules could be relaxed during holidays provided they were set a suitable ‘Sunday task’ instead. When this turned out to be studying ‘Romantic Legend of the Buddha’ (translated ‘from the Chinese – quite suitable for a Tibetan’) by a British Oriental scholar, Samuel Beal, the boys were understandably mystified. The church incident was a sign that it was time for the project to move into its next phase. Bell had always intended that the boys should receive professional training so that they could return equipped to shape Tibet in line with British principles, and in May 1915 he advised that this would best be achieved through developing their military and engineering skills. Gongkar, who had shown signs of possessing an ‘unruly nature’, was sent to Colonel Richardson’s old regiment as a ‘cadet without
ECHOES OF EMPIRE rank’ . He spent 16 months with the East Yorkshires and the Northumberland Territorial artillery, where he became the ‘regimental mascot’. By the time he returned to Tibet in 1916 the India Office declared that ‘Gongkar, from being a weak vessel, has apparently become an attractive and capable young man’ . In Lhasa he was immediately made Commander-in-Chief of the army but, still in his early twenties, he failed to command the respect of his soldiers, some of whom were from a higher social rank and therefore refused to obey his orders. Tragically, he died of malaria in 1919 while undergoing further training in India. Mondo, the oldest boy, had showed great promise at Rugby but told the India Office in early 1915 that he was ‘very impatient to start on some kind of education of a practical nature’. They chose mining, sending him to a colliery in Grimethorpe, Yorkshire, and then a metalliferous mining school in Camborne, Cornwall. He returned to Tibet in 1917 with a prospecting kit to locate gold and other precious metals but also encountered resistance, this time from those who said he would disturb the local spirits. His mining plans were dropped, and Mondo went on to have a chequered career as a monk official in Tibet. A British traveller who encountered him said he ‘spoke English hesitantly and with difficulty, but it was perfect English when it did arrive’. The British found Kyipup the least easy to understand. He was identified early as having ‘much more of the east in him than the other boys’ , and at Rugby one of his reports had him down as ‘well to the front when there was a town and gown row’ . At the end of the summer holidays in 1915 Odgers reported that he was ‘sphinx-like as ever’ , noting rather dismissively that ‘One asks a question like “Marmalade, Kyipup?” and one has to wait ½ minute for an answer. We have often tried to find out what happens in that ½ minute, but we have failed. He drifts along like a bit of seaweed and is doing no good that I can see. ’ Odgers and his wife, who seem to have been fond of Kyipup despite his slightly abrasive nature, speculated that he might be useful running a Tibetan Daily Mail, but in September 1915 he wrote decisively to the India office in a beautiful hand: ‘I have made up my mind to leave the school at the beginning of this term. I have come to the conclusion that I want
Opposite Front page of the Daily Mirror, 26 April 1913, two days after the Tibetan party landed at Plymouth Harbour. Copyright Mirrorpix. Left The present (14th) Dalai Lama in Sikkim en route to the Buddha Jayanti, 1956. Courtesy Martha Hamilton.
to study geography, because I think it is an essential thing to introduce maps into Tibet. ’ The India Office arranged remedial Mathematics classes before organising mapmaking sessions with a tutor at the Royal Geographical Society, fieldwork in Reigate, and a period of training at the London Telegraph Training College in Earl’s Court Road. But the India Office eventually concluded rather brutally that ‘no amount of training will make Kyipup expert in any kind of professional activity whatsoever’ . He too returned to Tibet in 1917 where he worked on setting up the telegraphy system. Despite developing a ‘nervous and apologetic manner’ , he eventually became City Magistrate and Head of Police in 1935 but was later dismissed for being too lenient. By the 1940s Kyipup was acting as an interpreter and guide for English-speaking visitors. Ringang – the youngest – gained most from the experience. At Rugby he had excelled at Mathematics, and was sent to a Polytechnic institute in London in 1917 to study electrical engineering, gaining practical experience in building a smallscale hydroelectric scheme at Dolgarrog in North Wales. In 1919 he returned to London’s Imperial College City and Guilds for further training. He had now been away from Tibet for six years, and had forgotten how to read Tibetan; letters sent from the Chief Minister in Tibet to London were returned to Kyipup in Tibet for translation, and then posted to London again so that Ringang could respond. He went back to Tibet for two years to assess how hydroelectricity might work in Lhasa, returning to London from 1922 to 1924 for short training periods with British
engineering firms GEC and Armstrong Whitworth. He also spent time at Woolwich Arsenal to learn how to ‘erect and maintain a munitions factory’. Ringang became the most anglicised of the boys, noted as ‘a most agreeable companion at tennis, golf and chess’. He succeeded in constructing – with some help from British engineering equipment – a hydroelectric scheme in Lhasa, bringing electric light to Tibet for the first time in the mid-1920s. The boys make frequent cameo appearances in the memoirs of Frontier Cadre officers, some of which are to be found in the T. Tibet section of the Library. Whether the experiment was worthwhile for the boys or for either country, however, is a moot point. The 13th Dalai Lama died in 1933; the 14th (and present) Dalai Lama arrived in Lhasa as a four-year-old boy in 1939. Shortly after India’s Independence in 1947, the British Government all but abandoned Tibet. When the Tibetans appealed to the UN after the Chinese Communists invaded in 1950, the British representative summed up his country’s evasive position in a private note: ‘Politically, I have no doubt at all that what we want to do is to create a situation which does not oblige us in practice to do anything about the Communist invasion of Tibet. ’ Four decades earlier, the 13th Dalai Lama had received succour from the British when they saw value in his country as a strategic buffer. Now, in the postimperial world, Tibet was to be left to fend for itself. In March 1959, almost half a century after his predecessor had done so, the 14th Dalai Lama stepped out of Tibet into India. He has never been back.
THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 19
Judges 2013 Bill Emmott Journalist and Chairman of The London Library Tom Gatti Deputy Editor, The Times Saturday Review Patrick Ness Award-winning author and London Library member Erica Wagner Books Editor, The Times
We are deeply grateful to the Stanley Foundation, which also enabled us to establish the Student Prize in 2011/12, for providing the prize money for this year’s Student Prize winner and runners-up. 20 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE
After a wonderfully promising start in 2012, The London Library Student Prize has grown and flourished in its second year. Established to help raise awareness of the Library among potential future members, and to recognise emerging literary and journalist talent, the Prize is open to final-year undergraduate students, in any degree discipline, at any UK higher education institution. Entrants are invited to write an 800-word response to a theme chosen for its relevance to students studying the widest possible range of subjects; in 2013, the theme was ‘Gap years – a new form of colonialism?’ We were delighted to receive 178 entries from universities as diverse and far-flung as Aberdeen, Falmouth, Bangor and Leeds, indicating that our promotional campaign – ranging from postcards and flyers to social-media activity and large advertisements in The Times – reached students across the UK, studying at a wide range of institutions. While most entries came from students taking degrees in literature and languages, essays also came from those studying astrophysics,
business and psychology, to name just a few of the disciplines represented. Our winner this year, Kathryn Nave (Philosophy, King’s College London), receives a cheque for £5,000, as well as a year’s subscription to The Times, a year’s London Library membership and a miniinternship at The Times. Kathryn’s essay appears overleaf and will also be published in the Opinion pages of The Times. The two Prize runners-up – Jacob Burns (History of Art, Goldsmiths, University of London) and Paul Creeney (Ethical World Journalism, Staffordshire University) – receive £1,000 each, along with London Library membership, Times subscriptions and mini-internships at the newspaper. Our warmest congratulations to this year’s winners. Thank you to all who took the time to submit essays, and to London Library Student Prize partners The Times and milkround, with whose help we are able to reach thousands of students around the UK. By ensuring that near-graduates nationally hear about the Prize, we also raise the profile of the Library among the talented, clever and engaged members of the future.
The opportunity offered by The London Library Student Prize not only to be published in, but also to gain work experience at, a major newspaper is unmatched. Such an experience is invaluable to any student hoping to make a career in a competitive field like journalism.
Kathryn Nave, Winner, The London Library Student Prize 2013
The London Library Student Prize 2013 Winner and Runners-Up Kathryn Nave (Winner) Philosophy, King’s College London Kate is in her final year studying Philosophy at King’s College London. Having grown up in a small village outside Manchester, university provided the opportunity to fulfil her dream of living in London. She spent last year studying at the University of North Carolina, where she wrote for the student newspaper. After graduating she plans to cycle around South America before returning to university for postgraduate study, either in the UK or America. She has recently taken up fencing and somewhat more successfully enjoys drawing, painting and reading. Her favourite authors range from Borges and Nabokov to Patrick Rothfuss and Anthony Horowitz. In the future she hopes to either continue in academia or work in journalism.
Jacob Burns (Runner-up) History of Art, Goldsmiths, University of London Jacob Burns grew up in Edinburgh, and has just completed a BA in History of Art at Goldsmiths, University of London. He also works as a research assistant for the Forensic Architecture project there, and is going on to study for a Master’s degree. In his writing he is interested in the intersection of contemporary critical theory, conflict and spatiality. He is also passionate about music. He blogs at radialspaces.tumblr.com and tweets under @jacobtburns.
Paul Creeney (Runner-up) Ethical World Journalism, Staffordshire University Paul comes from Runcorn, an industrial town on the Mersey. He likes to walk. He worked in a kitchen-unit factory to fund backpacking around Peru, where he spent time teaching art and English at a charity school in Cuzco. He also travelled through Mexico. While in Spain, after walking the 500mile Camino de Santiago, he had to sign documents to prove that he hadn’t died in Barcelona. Paul has worked as an intern at environmental magazine Resurgence & Ecologist. Having completed his degree, he is torn between working as a journalist and taking another long walk, Spain’s 600-mile Via de la Plata.
THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 21
Kathryn Nave’s winning essay
Gap-Year Tourism: A Defence Against Neo-Colonialism? Is there any stereotype more maligned than that of the ‘gap-yah kid’? Attacked from all angles, in newspaper articles and YouTube videos, they are ‘spoilt’ , ‘entitled’ and ‘naive’ . But ‘the new colonialists’? The charge is a popular headline-grabber on the journalistic side of things, most recently after a report by the think-tank Demos. The report itself uses the word ‘neo-colonialism’ only once, and in quotation from a journalist. The words were not repeated for good reason and play little part in the substance of the report. Our teenage travellers heading to India to ‘find themselves’ are not reincarnations of the viceroys of the Imperial Raj. Even the most hedonistic, alcohol-fuelled travel plans rarely involve the aspiration of taking control of a country, let alone the economic exploitation of its population. The accusation of colonialism is an unhelpful exaggeration. The report, which surveyed more than 2,000 gap-year alumni, does however raise important issues with the state of gap-year tourism. A number of those interviewed reported doubting whether the local community really benefited from their volunteer work. I know the feeling. In my time teaching English in a Cambodian school, the only mark I can claim to have left behind is in a classroom full of children with impeccable pronunciation of the word ‘orange’. Contrasted with the benefits that the travellers claimed personally, more than 80 per cent citing increased self-confidence with improved leadership skills, such anecdotes may indeed suggest gap-year tourism is the exploitation of local communities in service of the employment prospects of British teenagers. Yet anecdotal evidence hardly justifies tarring the whole gap-year industry with the same brush. More than 70 per cent of respondents felt that the project they participated in not only made a material difference to people’s lives, but that the community was still benefiting up to 18 months on. Besides, the focus on such limited benefits misses the real contribution of
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gap-year travel to international development. As Miriam Schwartz, of Germany’s Weltwärts programme, notes, with participants sharing an average age of 20 and often joining straight out of secondary school, ‘they cannot directly contribute to the achievement of international development goals’. The project’s aim is rather the ‘nurturing of a new generation of development workers’ , who can go on to spread awareness of development issues back home. The benefits of such projects should be assessed not by the immediate effects on individuals but in the long-term change of public attitudes. While talk of ‘broadening horizons’ may sound glib, the cost of an internationally disengaged public should not be taken so lightly. After all, the injustices perpetrated abroad in the age of colonialism could not have gone unchecked without an element of ignorance, apathy and complacent superiority at home. What better cure for such ethnocentrism than travelling to another country, meeting its people and adapting yourself to their cultural norms for a change. The effect of gap-year tourism is more powerful than just informing travellers about issues in international development. There is a fundamental difference between watching a Panorama programme on sweatshop labour in a distant country and travelling there to meet the very people who work in such conditions. The philosopher Peter Singer exposed the inconsistency in the ease with which we tolerate distant injustices. To use his example, I hope none of us would hesitate before ruining an expensive suit in the course of saving a child drowning in front of us. Why then, when asked to donate the cost of such a suit to save hundreds starving in Africa, do we find it so easy to turn away? It certainly becomes a lot harder to swallow the ignominious origins of your fancy Nike trainers, when you spent your summer teaching English to the child whose parents were paid so little to produce them. If colonialism is the exploitation of people and resources in one territory by those in another, then neo-colonialism is to be found in sweatshops and corporate land grabs. It is
the Ivorian child labour behind brand-name chocolate products and the resistance to paying a fair price to cocoa farmers, not the sending of idealistic young people to build schools in South Africa. The most compelling argument for gap-year travel is in the remarks of those returnees who said that seeing the impact of multinational domination on small-scale farmers made them decide against working for such companies, unless they could be sure their actions were not having such a negative effect. Just as globalisation of industry makes this exploitation possible, globalisation of awareness makes it unsustainable. Gap-year tourism is not neo-colonialism, but perhaps our best defence against it.
Poetry Cosmo Davenport-Hines, who was the youngest life member of The London Library, died on 9 June 2008, aged 21. The Cosmo Davenport-Hines Prize was set up at King’s College London in his memory. Richard Brown’s poem is this year’s winner.
Tutorial An oracle, consulted week by week Who’d sit there Sherpa-hunched and read it through, Grim lines scrawled on his forehead. Eyebrows raised, He’d call each hopeless essay ‘deathless prose’ And tear my craft to pieces with his pen, His hieroglyphic glosses preaching style Like scripture, to be marked and dwelt upon Till there arose infinitives unsplit And sentences which eloquently ﬂowed; Concision in the thought, unlaboured points; Beginning, middle, end, and nothing more. Richard Brown
The Library’s collection of Russian books includes some wonderful volumes, from a 16th-century Bible to a range of new publications. Anna Reid selects some particular delights.
At the end of last year the Comments Book hosted a spat. ‘I feel, ’ wrote a member, ‘that we seem to buy too many books in Russian. What is the percentage of members who read Russian?’ Another, noting a thicket of Cyrillic on the Acquisitions shelves, added that ‘there must be a Russian invasion of The London Library!’ No invasion, but the Library does indeed have an extensive – and magnificent – Russian collection. At its core, explains Anna Vlasova (who was in charge of Russian acquisitions at the time of writing), are about 15,000 Russian-language titles, 13,000 of which have been electronically catalogued over the past dozen years. Add to these thousands more on the country in French and German as well as English, and you have as good a guide as any to Churchill’s ‘riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma’ . The oldest book in the collection is the 1581 Ostrog Bible, printed in what was then the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and is now north-western Ukraine, by a borderland magnate anxious to defend Orthodoxy from encroaching Catholicism. The first printed Bible in any Slav language, it is not, in bibliophile terms, particularly rare – there are 12 other copies in Britain – but a magical object all the same, its twin columns of chunky Old Slavonic as bold as if carved by a chisel in stone. Its pages are hardly yellowed, an advantage, Anna
explains, of rag paper over later wood-pulp. It is so well preserved that it is hard to believe that it is over 400 years old. From the Ostrog Bible the collection jumps forward two centuries, to the threepart Journey Through Russia (1771–85) by the young German botanist Samuel Gottlieb Gmelin. Published by Petersburg’s Academy of Sciences, these are luxurious volumes, buzzing with the energy and omnivorous curiosity of the Enlightenment. Gorgeous fold-out plates show plants, birds, native costumes, sleds and musical instruments, the layout of a Cossack fort and a view of Astrakhan, its windmills and wooden docks strung along the wavetossed Volga. Baku is still a small walled town, its domes and minarets climbing into the mountains above the Caspian. (It was also the last town visited by poor Gmelin, who was taken hostage by a local khan and died in captivity aged only 29.) Of the same period is the first full-scale Russian history, Vasily Tatishchev’s History of Russia, published in five volumes between 1768 and 1848. Dedicated to ‘Her Most Royal Highness, most Sovereign, most Majestic Empress and Autocrat of all the Russias, Catherine the Second’ , the Library’s copy comes with the ex-libris of Sergei Sobolevsky, an easy-going gourmand and bibliophile best known as Alexander Pushkin’s drinking-companion. Nicknamed ‘Pushkin’s Belly’ by their friends, he
A page from the Ostrog Bible (1581).
dissuaded the poet from at least one duel, but tragically for literature was away in Europe when he picked his fatal quarrel with Georges-Charles d’Anthès. Since Sobolevsky was generous with his library, these volumes may well have been thumbed by Pushkin himself. All through the nineteenth century Russia attracted curious Western travellers. An 1849 Murrays (above the Library’s Issues and Returns desk) guided them round St Petersburg, giving tips on hiring a good ‘lacquey-de-place’ , and advising that from twelve to two was the best time to stroll the Nevsky, since it was when ‘the ladies of the haut ton do their shopping’ . The ‘whither Russia?’ books the visitors wrote on their return strike a disapproving note, combining amazement at the luxuries of the rich with complaints about the climate, the bureaucracy, the state of the peasantry THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 23
and the roads. They are too many to list here, but as well as first editions of classics such as the Marquis de Custine’s Letters from Russia (first published in French in 1843) and Fred Burnaby’s A Ride to Khiva: Travels and Adventures in Central Asia (1876), we have treats such as Through Russia on a Mustang by Thomas Stevens (1891); On Sledge and Horseback to Outcast Siberian Lepers by Kate Marsden (c.1893), and one George Carrington’s Behind the Scenes in Russia (1874), which he closes with the recommendation to English would-be governesses that they ‘try, and perhaps they will find the country not so bad as I have painted it’ . One visitor who did so try was the Library’s own Robert Harrison, who prior to his Librarianship worked as tutor to the immensely wealthy Demidov family, sharing their peregrinations between gossipy Petersburg and vast feudal estates on the Volga, all vividly and affectionately described in Notes of a Nine Years’ Residence in Russia, From 1844 to 1853 (1855). He finally left in 1853, driven out by the oncoming Crimean War and by a creeping feeling of ‘moral lethargy … which seemed to arise from the consciousness of all thoughts and speech being “cabined, cribbed, confined” by some invisible, but controlling power’ . The same feeling drove much lateimperial Russian publishing abroad. Among the Library’s greatest treasures are first editions, in cheap pamphlet form, of many of Leo Tolstoy’s religious tracts and short stories. Some bear the words ‘passed by the St Petersburg censor’; others were published in London by the émigré Russian Free Press Fund (supported by Harrison’s equally Russophile successor Charles Hagberg-Wright). Dramatically illustrated, and printed on flimsy paper in large type, they are a reminder that 24 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE
Tolstoy was as much popular campaigner as he was novelist, and could not be more different from today’s reverential Penguin Classics. Utterly unreadable, but perhaps most historically important of the Library’s rarities, are materials published by the exiled revolutionary movement, including a not quite complete run of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party’s newspaper Iskra (‘Spark’), initially edited by Vladimir Lenin and variously published in Stuttgart, Munich and Geneva. Its layout is suitably austere, save for a cartoon in the issue of 1 May 1902 showing Nicholas II embracing a policeman, with behind him the seedy figures of an informer, a detective and a ‘provocateur’ . Post-Revolution, the look and feel of the collection changes radically. Out go the Belle Époque typefaces and doubleheaded eagles. In come Lenin’s profile and photographs of dams, combineharvesters and experimental housing blocks. A collection of Boris Pasternak’s poetry (1933) comes to the Library from Isaiah Berlin, who was given it by Pasternak in 1945, during the same trip on which he famously met the poet Anna Akhmatova. Inside, Pasternak has written ‘Lucky book – it will travel to Oxford instead of me’ . On the History shelves, Left and Right battle it out. The fellow-travelling E.H. Carr and naive Alec Nove (whose solemn analysis of the Soviet economy, based entirely on official statistics, I was forced to study in the early 1990s) rub shoulders with cold warriors Robert Conquest (The Great Terror, 1968, and Harvest of Sorrow, 1986) and Richard Pipes (Russia Under the Old Regime, 1974, The Russian Revolution, 1990, and Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime, 1993). First-hand accounts range from the shrewd (Eugene Lyons’s Assignment
Above, left and right View of Astrakhan and an illustration of an owl, from Samuel Gottlieb Gmelin’s Journey Through Russia (3 vols., 1771–85).
in Utopia, 1938, highly recommended) to the ludicrously starstruck (rounded up in Paul Hollander’s Political Pilgrims: Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China and Cuba, 1928–1978, published in 1981), to the bitterly disillusioned (John Scott’s Behind the Urals: An American Worker in Russia’s City of Steel, 1942; Scott arrived in the USSR aged 22 with a welder’s certificate in his pocket, spent 5 years helping build Magnitogorsk, and was extremely lucky to get out again, with his Russian wife and children, in the midst of the purges). One particularly slavish tome, Are You Going to Russia?, written by a Danish–American Communist as the purges got under way, cites ‘zealous police protection’ as one of the country’s upsides, and helpfully reproduces the words ‘Where is the GPU [KGB] post?’ in extra-large Cyrillics, to be shown to the nearest official if lost. Revolution went unacknowledged by the Library’s shelf-marking system. Russia never became the USSR – a decision justified by time. (Less so the fact that Ukraine has yet to get its own shelf-mark – Ukrainian members, please protest!) Twenty years into post-Communism, what is the Library buying today? Anna Vlasova says that, given the constraints of the purchasing budget and the Library’s ‘no-weeding’ policy, she has to be careful to pick only the best, and not to fill the shelves with ‘endless stuff on Rasputin and the architecture of St Petersburg’ . And what are we members taking out? Despite the ‘invasion’ of new titles, way out ahead, in both Russian and English is – who else? – Tolstoy.
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THE CAPITAL PROJECT PHASE 3A NOW UNDERWAY
The new Writers’ Room, formerly the North Bay, will feature reader spaces at gallery level.
The redevelopment and refurbishment of the Reading Room and of the North Bay – or the Writers’ Room, as it is now to be called – is currently underway. Both rooms are closed until 31 August while we redecorate, improve lighting and ventilation, increase the number of study spaces and, finally, install new desks and chairs (although the armchairs, rest assured, will remain!). Several temporary study spaces have been created so the overall number of desks available to members is not dramatically reduced over the construction period:
• The Carr Room on Floor 2 of the Central Stack offers study space with power for laptop users • The Members’ Room has been divided and half the room will provide a space for quiet study • Extra desks have been also been provided on the Mezzanine level of T.S. Eliot House
Other individual spaces have been created where possible. If you have trouble locating a study space, please speak to a member of staff, who will be delighted to help. If you are looking for materials which have been relocated during Phase 3A, staff will be happy to guide you to their temporary locations. Alternatively, a retrieval
service will be available: items can be requested to be held at the Issue Desk until closing time on the day of request. To use the retrieval service, please speak to a member of staff or email details to email@example.com. Upon receipt of requests, staff will advise when items will be available for collection. This service can also be used for retrieval of items in parts of the Library where contractor works temporarily make volumes more difficult to access. Thank you for your patience while this important work is carried out. We look forward to giving you a glimpse of the new-look Reading Room and Writers’ Room in the next issue of the Magazine.
To stay up to date on what’s happening with Phase 3A, we encourage you to visit the ‘Latest News’ page on the Library website (londonlibrary.co.uk/latestnews). An overview of Phase 3A can also be found on the ‘Phase 3’ page (londonlibrary.co.uk/phase3). Ad-hoc updates will also be provided via Facebook, Twitter, The London Library Blog, our members’ e-newsletter and on signage in the Library itself. If you have any questions about Phase 3A, please contact the Development Office (020 7766 4704; firstname.lastname@example.org). THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 27
THE FOUNDERS’ CIRCLE FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH We are delighted that the Founders’ Circle is continuing to grow on both sides of the Atlantic. Established three years ago in the UK, the group meets at a variety of exclusive events throughout the year. Recent highlights in London include a private tour of the National Portrait Gallery’s Archive in February, while in March the Library’s Chairman Bill Emmott hosted a dinner exclusively for Founders’ Circle members at the Thackeray and Dickens level. The dinner was held at the Travellers Club – the birthplace of The London Library – with special guest Simon Schama. In April, Founders gathered in the splendid Great Subscription Room at Brooks’s club for an evening of ‘Bad Behaviour’ with Lady Selina Hastings and Richard Davenport-Hines, who chatted over wine and canapés about the challenges and rewards of writing biographically or historically about subjects who behaved rather badly. Over in the US, members of the Founders’ Circle came together in April for the annual London Library Heywood Hill Lecture. This year’s lecture was given by acclaimed author Michael Shelden, who spoke about his new book, Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill. John Spurdle (Secretary, International Friends of The London Library) gives his own account of the evening: ‘Michael Shelden’s research has uncovered extraordinary new material on a revered subject, Winston Churchill, this time as a young man. He spoke brilliantly, and with authority, not a note in hand, to a spellbound audience. Behind him, on Fifth Avenue and beyond,
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raged a thunderstorm of Wagnerian proportions – thunder, lightning and bucketing rain – as accompaniment to his talk, which had just got to the First World War! A firework display erupted at the same moment, in Central Park: a celebration of summer in New York.’ The Founders’ Circle plays a vital role in the life of the Library and offers a unique and enjoyable opportunity for members to contribute to its ongoing success. If you are interested in joining, please contact Bethany McNaboe in the Development Office for further information (tel. +44 (0)20 7766 4750; email@example.com).
Founders’ Circle members enjoying pre-dinner drinks in the Issue Hall.
The London Library Life in Literature Award 2013 sponsored by Heywood Hill This year’s London Library Life in Literature Award, sponsored by Heywood Hill, was announced at a magical dinner in the Reading Room on 16 May. Eighty guests, including members of the Library’s Founders’ Circle, received some early hints as to the Award’s recipient: especially keen art buffs realised that tables were named after paintings by Picasso; then, on entering the Reading Room, guests were greeted by the sight of two magnificent works by Picasso – kindly provided by Sotheby’s – glowing under spotlights on either side of the lectern. When Sir Tom Stoppard stepped up to the microphone to announce the winner of The London Library Life in Literature Award 2013, it all made sense: the Award’s theme this year was art history, and the honouree was acclaimed Picasso biographer Sir John Richardson. Sir Tom explained that the judges’ task had been to select a writer who had succeeded in bringing art to life through words in a truly exceptional way, bringing a wide range of readers into the world of art not
merely with rigorous scholarship, but with an understanding of the importance of narrative. Sir John Richardson, who has spent his life writing about art with an erudition matched by the freshness, vividness and originality of his prose, could not have been a more worthy winner. Sir John, who had travelled from New York to accept his Award, took the opportunity to thank the Library for having been the place where, at the very beginning of his career, he was inspired ‘to write about art rather than sell it’. At the end of the evening, the Picasso artworks (and their dedicated security guard) returned to Sotheby’s, but Sir John’s work remains on the Library’s shelves for the enjoyment not only of current members, but of generations of readers to come. Our thanks to Heywood Hill for their generous support of the Award again this year, and to Sotheby’s for providing such extraordinary Picasso artworks to display on the evening.
The London Library Life in Literature Award, sponsored by Heywood Hill Winners 2011 Josephine Hart and Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor (posthumous awards) 2012 Philip Mansel 2013 Sir John Richardson
Above Sir John Richardson (centre), winner of the London Library Life in Literature Award 2013, sponsored by Heywood Hill, with Sir Tom Stoppard, London Library President (left), and Nicky Dunne, Executive Chairman of Heywood Hill (right). Left Guests enjoyed getting up close to the two Picasso pieces loaned by Sotheby’s. THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 29
THE LONDON LIBRARY ANNUAL LECTURE 2013 This year’s London Library Annual Lecture was held on Friday, 31 May 2013, at the glorious Hay Festival, where the sun managed to shine – at least some of the time – on the thousands of book buffs who had made the journey to Wales to hear some of today’s most exciting writers, thinkers and performers. We were fortunate to have historian and long-time Library member Tom Holland as our 2013 lecturer, speaking on ‘Decline and Fall – when did the Roman Empire end?’ As ever, the Festival programme was filled with a host of other erudite London Library members, including Edna O’Brien, Antonia Fraser, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Bill Emmott, Jim Naughtie, Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Francine Stock, A.C. Grayling, Kate Summerscale, Ed Stourton, Owen Sheers, Simon Schama, Neil MacGregor, Joanna Rossiter, John Sutherland, Guy Walters, and many others. Our thanks and congratulations to Peter Florence and the entire Hay team for another amazing festival. For all those who couldn’t be at the Festival, an edited version of Tom Holland’s brilliant lecture will be published in the autumn issue of The London Library Magazine.
Sunshine at the Hay Festival.
DIARY DATE london library 2013 AGM The 172nd Annual General Meeting of The London Library will be held in the Reading Room on Tuesday, 5 November 2013 at 6pm. Please feel free to join other members, staff and trustees in the Issue Hall for a glass of wine from 5.30pm.
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DINING OUT NEAR THE LONDON LIBRARY This is an advertisement feature.
4 6 9
To advertise please call Janet Durbin
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on 01625 583180.
7 FRANCO’S Franco’s has been serving the community of St James’s for over 60 years. Open all day, the personality of the restaurant evolves from a quietly and gently efficient breakfast venue to a sharp and charged lunch atmosphere, to elegance and romance in the evening. The lunch and dinner menus highlight carefully prepared traditional and more modern Italian dishes. The service is always relaxed, friendly and personal. 61 Jermyn Street, SW1Y 6LX, 020 7499 2211. francoslondon.com
10 HIX MAYFAIR This fashionable restaurant offers an outstanding menu of classic British dishes, using local seasonal ingredients. Mark Hix and Lee Streeton offer a full à-la-carte menu alongside a special set-lunch, pre-theatre and dinner menu of £27.50 for 2 courses and £32.50 for 3 courses. Brown’s is also home to the award-winning English Tea Room and the chic Donovan Bar. Brown’s Hotel, Albemarle Street, W1S 4BP, 020 7518 4004. hixmayfair.co.uk
5 GETTI JERMYN STREET A modern Italian restaurant at the fast-paced heart of London’s West End, Getti Jermyn Street is an authentic Italian dining venue in London’s historic tailoring district, dedicated to offering a traditional and memorable Italian dining experience. A splendid destination for locals and tourists alike, Getti Jermyn Street focuses on serving simple, regional dishes from mainland Italy. Private dining available. 16/17 Jermyn Street, SW1Y 6LT, 020 7734 7334. getti.com
8 GREEN’S Green’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar is a truly British institution that serves world-class food: simple, well-presented dishes that everyone likes and that allow you to have meaningful conversation. The menu includes fresh fish, meat and seasoned game. 36 Duke Street St James’s, SW1Y 6DF, 020 7930 4566. greens.org.uk
11 HIX SOHO HIX Soho opened its doors to critical acclaim in 2009 and won the Time Out Award for London’s Best New Restaurant in 2010. The restaurant boasts Mark Hix’s signature daily-changing menu of seasonal British food, and an eclectic collection of mobile and neon artworks by celebrated British artists. 66–70 Brewer St, W1F 9UP, 020 7292 3518. hixsoho.co.uk
3 BENTLEY’S OYSTER BAR AND GRILL Since 1916, Bentley’s has been serving its fish and chips and feeding the hungry masses. For almost 100 years, the grande dame of Swallow Street has served fresh oysters, grilled fish, shellfish platters and steaks, sourced from around the British Isles. The restaurant is now under the watchful eye of Michelinstarred chef Richard Corrigan. 11–15 Swallow Street, W1B 4DG,
6 THE FOX CLUB Situated a stone’s throw from Green Park and the famous Hyde Park, the Fox Club Dining Room is one of London’s best-kept secrets and a lunch-time essential. The modern European menu changes on a weekly basis, offering refined excellence without being pretentious. The effect is a change from the jaded palate of life. The Fox Club now offers a delightful afternoon tea from 3–5pm. 46 Clarges St, W1J 7ER, 020 7495
9 GUSTOSO RISTORANTE &
12 WILTONS Established in 1742, Wiltons enjoys a reputation as the epitome of fine English dining in London. The atmosphere is perfectly matched with immaculately prepared fish, shellfish, game and meat. Choose from an exclusive wine list. Open for lunch and dinner, Mon–Fri. To make a reservation, please quote The London Library Magazine. 55 Jermyn Street, SW1Y 6LX, 020 7629 9955. wiltons.co.uk
020 7734 4756. bentleys.org
1 AL DUCA Serving modern Italian cuisine, Al Duca focuses on bringing out the very best elements of what is one of the most acclaimed gastronomic regions of the world. Simple fresh ingredients are skilfully combined in a wide range of traditional dishes offered both in classic style and with a new twist, all following Pulze’s ethos of reasonably priced good Italian food. Now serving breakfast. 4–5 Duke of York Street, SW1Y 6LA, 020 7839 3090. alduca-restaurant.co.uk
4 CUT AT 45 PARK LANE World-renowned chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant debut in Europe, CUT at 45 Park Lane is one of London’s most desirable American steak restaurants, serving prime beef, pan-roasted lobster, sautéed fresh fish and salads. Breakfast and Sunday brunch showcase a twist on the American classics, while the exceptional wine list features one of the largest selections of American wines in the UK. 45 Park Lane, W1K 1PN, 020 7493 4554.
2 BELLAMY’S RESTAURANT Located in central Mayfair (near New Bond Street), Bellamy’s offers a classic French brasserie menu with an affordable famous-name wine list. The Oyster Bar menu includes Bellamy’s famous ‘open’ sandwiches. Le patron mange ici. Open for lunch Mon–Fri; dinner Mon–Sat. 18–18a Bruton Place, W1J 6LY, 020 7491 2727. bellamysrestaurant.co.uk
ENOTECA This home-style Italian dining room is found moments from Westminster Cathedral and Victoria Station. Quietly situated and pleasingly intimate, Gustoso is the ideal place to unwind with friends or to enjoy a little romance. Cocktails are served from the bar and the menu is based around the Italian classics. 35 Willow Place, SW1P 1JH, 020 7834 5778. ristorantegustoso.co.uk
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