This month, in honour of National Book Lover’s Day (9 August), LCF library staff have chosen their favourite books, journals and artist’s books from our collections. The choices are varied and demonstrate both the breadth of our collection and the range of interests held by the library team. The selection is on display in the library throughout the month. Listed below are some of the choices accompanied by a few words from each staff member about why they chose the books as their favourite. Click on the bibliographic details to find the items on our library catalogue.
My suggestions are all from the perfume section.
Favourite because entertaining to dip into this big book of perfume reviews. Fun to read even if you don’t care for scent because of the fun language (and also for the snarky one star reviews … ‘L by Lamb…The scent equivalent of that acid shade of lime green that designers convince the public to wear roughly every six years, after we’ve forgotten the horror of last time.’ Or ‘Ultraviolet Man by Paco Rabane. Green violet leaf and sugar: why? The bottle seems modelled on a staple gun.’)
- Dugan, H (2011) The ephemeral history of perfume: scent and sense in early modern England. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
This book opened my eyes to ideas about smell in lots of different ways. The historical context for ‘good’ or ‘bad’ smells and how this is bound up in socio-economics of race, class, capitalism and colonialization. But also how historians research ephemeral experiences of the past. It’s super interesting.
Also this one is rather fun! It has smell strips to illustrate the smells as you read along. However, on the downside, because it’s from the ’70s the smells have faded quite a lot, and also because it’s from the ’70s there’s of rather a lot of images of topless women seemly unconnected to the text. And somebody has cut out quite a few pictures!
- Brook, P. (1996) The Empty Space. New York: Simon & Schuster. (Originally published: London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1968)
My favourite book is The Empty Space by Peter Brook. Peter Brook is one of the most acclaimed theatre directors in the world. In this, his first book, he discusses his philosophy of theatre by dividing it into the four categories of Deadly, Holy, Rough and Immediate. Brook expresses the joys and agonies of directing, acting, but most importantly of being a spectator who craves a theatre that speaks to every aspect of their spiritual, political, intellectual and emotional life. The Empty Space is a superb introduction to modern theatre and remains a key text for performance scholars and artists nearly fifty years after its publication. I bought it when I was seventeen and it has accompanied me throughout my career in academia.
- Greer, G. (2006) The Female Eunich. London: Harper Perennial. (Originally published: London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1970)
This book was the first book about feminism I read. I was surprised, at the time, to find it so accessible, inspiring and funny. 47 years after it was first published parts of it can seem dated and some of the language might offend our more PC sensibilities, but it is worth a read to see how far things have come and perhaps more alarmingly that many of her concerns – equal pay, stereotypes, body image, female abuse, are still with us.
This was the book that got me into historic fashion. It was essential reading for a class I took on costume design for theatre during my BA. Thinking about history through fashion really enthralled me. Designing and creating costumes for period productions brought to life that historic time period in a way that nothing else had done for me. I was not interested in history at school. I found it boring and difficult to relate to because all we learned were names of kings and dates of wars. But once I began learning about historic fashion, I couldn’t get enough of history. I started out in the theatre but quickly learned that my interest in historic methods of construction and fabric choice were not highly valued in the fast-paced world of theatrical illusion. I turned instead to working in a museum and studying historic fashion in the UK. Eventually my research led me back to the world of books, and most appropriately, to LCF library, where, much to my joy, I saw this book once again. I will always value it as the stepping stone to a life-long love of historic fashion.
- Gan, S., Dean, C. & Kaliardos, J. (eds.). (2000) Visionaire 32: Where? New York: Visionaire Publishing, 2000.
This is my favourite Visionaire for the reason that it centres around chance encounters: ‘Stephen Gan met Jean-Louis Dumas, the president of Hermes, in Moscow one snowy winter night. Jean-Louis carries around a little sketchbook wherever he goes and uses it to record all of his various travel experiences. Years later, the idea came up for this Hermes travel pouch – designed by Jean-Louis himself. We [Visionaire] were traveling a lot at the time and were amused by the idea of a collection of imaginary, faraway places and the silly postcards’ (Visionaire World, 2017).
I first saw this artist’s book in Cardiff, where I heard the artist (Otto Dettmer) speak about their work at the conference ‘Livres d’artistes: the artist’s book in theory and practice’. The book’s text outlines recommendations for what a book should wear to be included within a library’s collections, but when unfolded, can be worn by the reader as a garment.
Of all the magazines and journals in LCF this one is my favourite and I’ve been reading and collecting it since 2006 when I first bought number 13 The Costume Issue. The contents and the production quality is so good that Selvedge is more like a book than a magazine and I can’t ever imagine giving away any of my copies.
Marja De Sanctis:
Although I love a lot of books from the LCF collection what steal my attention and heart most of the times is the magazines collections. I am very fond of ID and Vogue, not only because they keep me updated with new trends and visions of Fashion, but also because, as an Illustrator, I cannot help of looking at the clothes and women presented as a source of inspiration and reference for me.
I’d probably plump for The French Ribbon by Francis Amiand. It combines the best of new photographic reproduction technology with a collection bordering on unbelievable that you think it must have been made up. I dare anyone not to open it and be, a) struck by its beauty, b) stroke one or two pages in case the ribbon is actually there, c) contemplate however fleetingly starting one’s own collection of ribbon.
- Shakespeare, W.; Appignanesi, R. (text adaptor); Deas, R. illustrator. (2008) London: Self Made Hero.
Because I never knew such a thing existed till I joined LCF, and oh my god! Why didn’t they use these versions in school! The fly leaf quote says it all for me ‘Macbeth, a great warlord, desires to rule as king in a future world of post-nuclear mutation’. I mean, come on!!
- Nabokov, V. (2015) London: Penguin. (Originally published: London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1959)
Been a favourite of mine for ages, but I hadn’t read it in years, maybe decades. I re-discovered it whilst shelving and was initially worried to read it again. So often it’s dangerous to look back at things you once loved because nostalgia is a great concealer, and there’s almost nothing worse than realising that something that you once loved so much is actually not that great after all. But I re-read it, and if anything, loved it even more. It’s one of my favourite books, probably my top thirty all-time favourites.
The key reason I chose this book is for the beauty of its cover. Both the front and back covers of this slim special collections item are attractive, tactile in appearance. The book invites you to open its pages, to run your fingers over each of the motifs. I was pleased to discover that all the designs are ‘exact reproductions; in their actual size, of the original embroideries’, this brings you closer to the embroideries themselves. The language of the text (written in the 1970s) and the ‘important recommendations’ given with regards to cleaning embroideries, especially avoiding petrol, made me smile. Plate 20 is my favourite in the book, the embroidery looks like clover leaves and snowdrops, both plants that remind me of my childhood.
I don’t know why I first picked up Daring Do’s, possibly I was tidying the books in the area where it lives, but I was immediately entranced by the elaborate hairstyles and clean, accessible text. My interest in hair stems from my academic background in Anthropology. Hair occupies that interesting space between “nature”, our physical bodies, and “culture”, the things we create and change together. Hair is a part of our body that can be used to express who we are and a way of signalling this to the people around us. I particularly liked the way that eighteenth century women in the book are shown in cartoons of the time as being completely unafraid to take up space with their massive wigs! Though I suspect the reality wasn’t actually like this.