One of the many treats on my trip to London was the chance to set foot in a couple of publishers' archives. More of my mesmeric staring at the green and very pleasant land that was the shelves at Virago soon (yes really, ALL the modern classics) and my sincere thanks to Faber for the chance to peek into their new premises alongside the British Museum (and incidentally overlooking my lovely old nurse's home in Bedford Place.) It was lovely to meet Gemma who so kindly sorts out Faber reading copies for me and prize draw copies for you and to meet all the office staff upstairs, along with archivist Robert downstairs working in amongst all that history.
Faber also have an online archive which you can access here
I think if you've been reading for any number of years you know Faber covers by a sort of invisible osmotic process, they seem to me a prime example of marketing that filters in and stays put without you really noticing and that's all been enhanced this year by two things.
That sounds like a bit of a sad demise but for many years the kitchen diary and its holy place on the worktop has been one of the most important of books in the house and even with fewer of us living here we still all need and use it.
I have been amazed through the year as I turn the page to a new week to find a book jacket I know and a week's thinking about it has then ensued every time I go near it write things like 'hair 11am' or 'septic tank emptying 3pm' or 'airport 4am'...that last is the Kayaker and thankfully involves Bookhound not me, as does the septic tank appointment, I'll stick with hair.
But I have also been subliminally absorbing the covers in the Book Room where I have been test running Faber and Faber Eighty Years of Book Design by Joseph Connolly. Now it wasn't until I took this picture that I realised how clever the actual cover design of this book is, you somehow don't see it when it's there in front of you and nor does the picture give the idea that the book measures 11 inches x 8 and a half inches (sorry no metric here).
It has sat on the side all year and every day, as I walk in the room, I turn over to the next page so it's been a year full of Faber surprises in the Book Room as well as the kitchen.
Joseph Connolly likens his time spent researching the book in the Faber archive as akin to a 'kid in a sweetshop' and having been there I'd upgrade that to 'chocolate factory with vat loads of luxury centres' plus I stood in front of the picture of Ted Hughes on the wall and worshiped and touched (yes touched) the copy of Birthday Letters on the shelf. I don't care what anyone says about Ted, everyone rushes to add all the bad bits but how on earth can there be any doubt that he deserves to be commemorated in Poet's Corner?
We shouldn't even need a debate about that.
So along the way, book-room testing my tome I've learned little snippets too.
There never was another Faber. Just the one, Geoffrey who pursued a career in publishing after his pregnant wife Enid discovered that living in close proximity to the family brewing business was 'too disgusting for words'.
Along came T.S.Eliot to help. He stayed for the next forty years and personally I think he made quite a useful contribution...