Review: Timothy d’Arch Smith’s “The Times Deceas’d: The Rare Book Department of The Times Bookshop in the 1960s”

by writereaderly

The Times (London newspaper) used to run a library as a benefit to subscribers. d’Arch Smith ran the Rare Book Department in its last decade and this memoir addresses those years: the customers, the books, the quirky bibliocommunity. Alternately unreadable and delightfully archaic – an example sentence: “Her correct syllables contrasted vividly with languider, rehearsed delivery of her assistant, Mrs Ward, no less efficient in the execution of her duties conducted with a sinuosity of deportment suggestive of managerial responsibility in a more exotic line of business transactions far in the past” – it was both entertaining and bewildering. The antiquarian book trade was evidently riddled with “characters” – Britain does thrive on rich eccentrics – and the wry anecdotes offered of in-clique odd-bods are quite fun. Evidently, also, the trade thrived on books published by cognoscienti of “socratically inclined” (gay) and/or occult materials, as per d’Arch Smith’s specialities. (This does not, however, explain the collection of homosexual erotica posing as cricket books.) Quite winning, I’d recommend it.

Where it came from: DC’s Bookshelf
Time & manner of reading: In a few serious sit-down reads, where its preciousness could be protected (copy 133 of 500, limited edition)
Where it went to: Home
Reminds me of:
Who I’d recommend it to: Bibliophiles, particularly those who actually know what they’re talking about
Also reading: The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene; The Reivers by William Faulkner; Moby Dick by Herman Melville; Working Hot by Mary Fallon