The Personal Librarian, by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
The book that got me out of my listening rut was The Personal Librarian, which has been on my list for a while. This work of historical fiction follows the real story of Belle Da Costa Greene, the personal librarian of American financier J.P. Morgan, the woman who helped him build his precious rare books and incunabula collection, which was turned into the public Pierpont Morgan Library after his death, now known as The Morgan Library & Museum.
Her story is a very inspiring one and it’s beautiful to see how a woman was able to pave her way in a cultural field dominated by men, but it’s also very cool to read how she became a sort of intellectual socialite, dubbed as ‘the most glamorous librarian’, in a class of her own really in New York high society. As far as dream jobs go, this one for me takes the prize.
Of course, the most important part of the story is Belle’s struggle with her identity as a coloured woman passing as white, her family’s story and the bits of historical context about racism and segregation that are sparsely scattered throughout the book, enough to give real context to this seemingly fairy-tale story of a woman achieving unprecedented professional success.
The Personal Librarian gives a lot to enjoy, a lot to admire, as well as a lot to reflect on and regret.
Mrs Harris Goes to Paris (2022)
This is a delicatessen of a movie! I knew it would be ever since I discovered and delighted in the book last year, by pure serendipity – one of the best surprises my home library has offered me over the years. I can’t remember when or why exactly I bought the book, but it must have been the title – Flowers for Mrs Harris.
The story is simply too whimsical and has too many sure hits to miss – a sort of middle-aged Cinderella, a witty and funny cleaning woman dreaming of nothing more and nothing less than a Dior Haute Couture gown. Throw in a bunch of challenges, balanced with the help of really good friends, old and new, an unexpectedly long trip to Paris and plenty of delightful treats along the way and I am sold.
A feel-good movie with a stylish and inspirational twist.
Painting in Old Books
I simply love this idea of little artworks painted on the pages of old books and the Instagram account of the watercolour artist responsible for these beauties has quickly become one of my favourites. I wish I had the talent to paint in a few of my favourites to make them more mine and more special for whoever will enjoy them next, hopefully a dear one like my son when he grows up.
Imagine the thrill of opening a newly acquired book from a car boot or antiquarian and discovering a hidden treasure like this, it would just make the whole experience feel a bit surreal for me, like something I would dream of happening.
I sometimes dream I am in an incredible shop full of antiques and vintage clothes, and that I am finding treasures everywhere… like some exquisite buttons or lace or beaded bags. I must have had this dream at least ten times in my life, the store is always different and it’s always a little heart-breaking to wake up and realise it was a dream…
Now I think I’ll add books with painted pages to my dreamworld treasures…
I discovered this concept a while ago but seeing that it is actually glove season now, I was reminded of it and thought worth doing a bit more digging. It feels like one of those details that won’t go unnoticed and can speak volumes about one’s interest in style beyond fashion and using it to make a sartorial statement.
Source – Man Ray, Hands Painted by Picasso (1935) and Trompe l’oeil leather gloves, Schiaparelli Haute Couture (1936–1937)
In my online wanderings, I was also reminded of the now iconic red nail gloves by Elsa Schiaparelli, recreated by many other designers since the 1930s. What I didn’t know was that she was inspired to create these by a photograph taken by Man Ray of hands painted by Pablo Picasso. Now you can buy a similar pair of leather gloves and know the design it’s a melange of the work of three brilliant artists. What a treat!
Personally, I am dreaming of a pair of adorned gloves, perhaps with red nails á la Schiaparelli, an oversized ring and maybe also a tiny bracelet. I’d have to see how it all looks together to decide if it’s too much. But this will have to be a DIY project as I can’t find anything like what I have in mind online. I am just waiting to find a simple pair of soft leather gloves at a decent price, so I don’t regret it too much if I end up ruining these unfortunately.
Bonus exquisite find while researching online was this pair of fancy cleaning rubber gloves by Laila Gohar which I wanted instantly, a shame that I don’t wear gloves when I wash the dishes or clean around the house… but maybe I should start.
One of the most special experiences I had recently was visiting the Frameless immersive exhibition in London with my son. We had previously visited the Van Gogh Exhibition, which was also beautiful, but I didn’t stop to consider how much I would enjoy this one too, so I guess the delight was greater because it took me by surprise.
Van Gogh Immersive Exhibition
We visited four rooms focused on different themes – Surrealism, Impressionism, Abstract and From our World, and the large scale projections, combined with the movement and the music or sounds, were simply awe inspiring…
It’s an amazing way of introducing kids to art but it’s a powerful way of connecting with art for anyone! I will certainly be on the lookout for future similar opportunities. Dali and Freeda Khalo are in town, so we might start with one of these two.
Have you ever been to such an immersive exhibition and what were your thoughts?
Source: ‘Sculptural’ Plum Pie
Browsing my ‘saved’ tab on Instagram, I seem to have collected quite a few examples of very aesthetically pleasing food and drinks, mainly inspired by flowers. I have shared beautiful food before, like these apparently simple to make rose apple pastries, the sophisticated bread of Linda Ring and even this vintage ‘swan cake’.
Source: Sophisticated Bread by Linda Ring
Now it’s time for this incredibly pretty rose apple tea, a plum pie looking more like an abstract sculpture, ‘magical pickles’ looking like anything but a jar of pickles, and even a slice of pizza you could offer instead of a rose bouquet, looking surprisingly delicate and dreamy.
Full disclosure, I’ve not attempted any of these and most likely never will, apart from the apple tea maybe, but I admire this level of dedication to making every aspect of daily life as beautiful as possible. Which one would you try?
Source: Rose Bouquet Pizza Slice
Rare Word – Incunabula
While writing about The Personal Librarian above, I remembered stumbling upon this strange, vaguely familiar word in the book, but it took me a while to bring it back and figure out the correct spelling so I can learn exactly what it means.
In the history of printing, an incunable or incunabulum (plural incunables or incunabula, respectively), is a book, pamphlet, or broadside that was printed in the earliest stages of printing in Europe, up to the year 1500. As of 2021, there are about 30,000 distinct incunable editions known.
The word comes from Latin and the original meaning was ‘swaddling clothes’ or ‘cradle’, which could metaphorically refer to “the earliest stages or first traces in the development”. It was fascinating to read how this relatively short, yet essential evolution step fits within the history of the printed word and books as we know these today.
Source: Decorated Incunabula
In case you’re not sure what your next investment, or really just passion purchase should be, I’ll have you know incunabula are highly covetable and collectable, of course.
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