‘What would you with the princess?
Nothing but peace and gentle visitation’
Love’s Labour’s Lost introduced, appropriately we thought, our Women’s issue for your spring delectation. Leading the way for the many women involved at all levels of collecting and owning is the formidable Lisa Baskin. This is her voice: ‘The notion that collecting is a pastime only for wealthy and affluent men, is false. My women’s collection required something rather different: curiosity, vision, obsession, and the patience to ferret. My persistence allowed me to discover things that were often discarded or spurned.’ Her article, ‘You Can’t Do It Alone’ is a must for anyone wanting to challenge a few norms.
‘Shall We Dance?’ asks Moira Goff, Britain’s expert on dance literature, especially the ballet, in ‘The Ballerina and the Book’ after which Anke Timmermann astonishes us with the first of a four-part series on Alchemy. ‘The salt...was fusible ponderous & very transparent when melted, but when cold it looked white like ones thumb nail or pearl, but brighter & was something transparent like cloudy horn, & tasted sweetish.’ Thus Isaac Newton at the age of 37, describing an experiment in January 1680 to Robert Boyle. Whether or not it’s the way to make gold, it’s fascinating stuff. Almost contemporary with Newton was the Duchess Anna Amalia, whose famous library at Weimar has its history traced by Silke Lohmann.
After this we continue our series on the great libraries of the National Trust with an article on Belton House by its ever-present cataloguer, Peter Hoare. Belton was the home for almost 300 years of the Brownlowe and Cust families. We believe that Dame Alice Brownlowe’s bookplate of 1698 was one of the first engraved specifically for a woman. Another very womanly affair is discussed by Karen Limper-Herz: a binding for a presentation copy to Sarah Sophia Banks from Princess Elizabeth, the seventh child of George III and Queen Charlotte. Sarah was the sister of Sir Joseph Banks, naturalist and patron of science, and one of the great female collectors of her time. Mirjam Foot writes more expansively on bindings in ‘Women as Owners of Fine Bindings’ and John Stokes describes just one part of the collection of another great lady, Mary Eccles, whose Oscar Wilde collection is at the British Library. An intriguing aspect of it covers Wilde’s relationship with Max Beerbohm. In 1954 Beerbohm wrote apropos the Wilde centenary, ‘I suppose there are now few survivors...who had the delight of hearing Oscar Wilde talk. Of these I am one.’
The centrepiece of our Woman’s issue is an article of colossal wit and learning by Victoria Dailey: ‘Pavement Nymphs and Roadside Flowers: Prostitutes in Paris after the Revolution.’ You really need to read it yourself to capture the originality of her writing.
It would have been nice to finish this report with a nightcap but a White Lady (basically gin and cointreau) usually appears a long way before bedtime. Yes, we speak of cocktails and Spencer Stuart’s lusciously illustrated article on the Savoy Cocktail Book of 1930. Cheers!
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