You'll have to take my word for the fact that the most beautilicious
book I had seen since last Tuesday arrived on Saturday morning and poor
Jim the Postie was left clutching his lumbar spine as he hobbled back
to his van because this one weighs in very heavy.
Bookhound staggered upstairs with it, because I'll own up I was still in bed reading (thanks as always to Mary Azarian for the woodcut)
Lived in London, Blue Plaques and the Stories Behind Them edited by Emily Cole, published by Yale University Press and if ever there is a book you would want to walk around London with here it is.
Therein lies the rub as they say and the best suggestion I can make is that, weighing in at just over 7lbs - a good newborn size, you tuck it up in a nice pram and wheel it round. That is until it's published in a more portable set of octuplets perhaps and you can then leave seven at home with the nanny.
I love love love literary heritage now and will happily travel miles to see the place where someone has lived, written, died or is buried, just to make that connection in my imagination and I look back with regret on those years living in London in the 1970s when I cared little for such things.
Lived in London is divided into geographical areas with a map fronting each section and taking Bloomsbury and Holborn as an example, forty-seven blue plaques and the keen Blue Plaqueur (sorry, I've reinvented the flaneur) could bag eight of those by walking around Bedford Square alone.
There's a history of the architecture included plus a brief biography of the Blue Plaquee (sorry, I'm having to be inventive here and not sound like I'm a dental hygienist, I expect the very learned Blue Plaques Panel are having kittens about it ) old etchings complement twenty-first century pictures as well as illustrations of gardens and interiors. Nip across to Chelsea and bag ten in a short stretch of Cheyne Walk, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Mrs Gaskell's birthplace, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Hilaire Belloc and Sylvia Pankhurst and if you've done eighteen you've still got 782 to do.
I've spent hours browsing this book already and it's apparent that a vast amount of diligent and painstaking work has gone into it as Emily Cole confirms in her Acknowledgements, whilst Stephen Fry's Foreword confirms my own imaginings about blue plaques.
'For me, they are a unique imaginative portal into the past, for in my mind all blue plaques are contemporaneous, which is to say, the people commemorated by them are in their buildings now...'
and he goes on to imagine a conglomeration of Blue Plaquees, released from the constraints of time and history all passing one another in the street, Charles Darwin shaking his head in disbelief at the sight of Jimi Hendrix in tight purple jeans. Stephen Fry, who serves on the Blue Plaque Panel also offers illuminating insights about nomination and consideration processes; plaquees must have been dead for twenty years or have been born more than a hundred years ago, but you've still got to be dead to be a Blue Plaquee. There's no chance of being a guest at your own unveiling other than as a ghostly presence or, as in the case of Madame Tussaud (24 Wellington Road NW8), as a wax replica.
The process is about
'recording the kind of life achievements that change the course of human history, understanding and culture.'
This is an expensive book retailing at £40 but (with apologies to all the booksellers it's out there online at £26.38 post free but it's a keeper and a treasure, hour upon hour of fascinating 'did-you-know-that...' reading, so a lovely gift.
However I did say it was the most beautilicious book I'd seen since last Tuesday, more about that other book soon, I think that's enough treats for today.