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You shall have a fishy on a little dishy…

October 8, 2010


The Library bell in the old servants' hall


In preparation for a creative bookbinding workshop which we are hosting this weekend, I spent a happy hour in the castle’s library yesterday looking for possible items of interest for the visitors. The bindings from the early twentieth century are amongst my favourites, especially the ones which display an Arts & Crafts or Art Nouveau influence. Even the more functional bindings of this period tend to use beautiful clear typefaces, which are a blessed relief after the tortured fancies of the Victorian era. While looking at books from this period, I was reminded that I am far from the first member of the family to appreciate the trees here. This book belonged to my husband’s great-grandfather:

Seeing this volume amongst the many tomes on genealogy and biography, one can’t help feeling that the life histories of trees were valued just as highly as those of his human acquaintances.

Perhaps the most ornate bindings date from the mid to late-nineteenth century. The magnificence of this one caught my attention:

It’s not to my taste, although I am sure that Queen Victoria would have approved. This useful book professes to be a practical guide for the modern cook. So if you, like me, have friends to feed this weekend, how about a nice simple salmon dish?


'Salmon a la Chambord'


Generally, I prefer to smear a salmon steak with green pesto, wrap it in tinfoil and stick it in a hot oven for fifteen minutes. What Monsieur Gouffe would have thought of such sluttishness I dread to think. Happy reading this weekend, anyway – and happy cooking!

See also: ‘they say that life’s the thing…but I prefer books’; abroad thoughts from home

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2010 9:59 pm

    Those books you’ve shown are still in wonderful order and even human life histories are put into tree form! My husband has a great library of antiquarian angling books (many from Scotland!) and, whenever we purchase one, centuries old, we drip and drool over the tooling on the cover.

    Is that a wee octagonal table you have them sitting on? The work there is also exquisite.

    I went to your link and would also love to pore through that little book on calligraphy!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      October 9, 2010 7:21 pm

      Hi Alaine, I do like your point about family ‘trees’. I hadn’t made that connection.
      The table is indeed octagonal: a little side table. It’s one of those things that has ‘always been here’, not particularly fine work, but rather sweet.
      You would have loved our weekend at Innerpeffray, I’m sure!

  2. October 10, 2010 3:42 pm

    I had to google Gouffe – and have had so much fun!!
    Did that book fall open to a favourite page, by any chance?

  3. dancingbeastie permalink
    October 10, 2010 11:10 pm

    Actually it didn’t. I wonder if anyone ever used it at all, to be honest. It dates from a time when the laird here was a bachelor: perhaps he tried unsuccessfully to persuade his cook to use it. The book is still in suspiciously immaculate condition!

    • October 10, 2010 11:19 pm

      I suspected as much, judging by the condition!
      A Creative Bookbinding weekend sounds wonderful. I took a course from a Japanese paper shop which was fun, but I never actually use the small books I made because they are too beautiful to be sullied with my scrawl.

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