Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A marvellous online experience you can share

Also in today's blog
The puzzling word in Cronin's The Citadel
"She woke at noon..."

This morning I had an online experience which may be equalled during 2007 but is unlikely to be surpassed.

I first heard of Maggs, the rare book dealers, in my early teens [the 1940s] in a second hand bookshop, Thomas Crowe's in St Giles Street, Norwich. I was eavesdropping on a conversation between the shop's owner and an elderly gentleman who, when he entered the shop, had looked at me with the sort of shocked distaste a hospital ward sister of that era would have looked at a cockroach.

Mr Crowe was also bit intimidating, so later I asked another scruffier sort of book dealer, with a shop in the narrow cobbled street called Elm Hill, if he knew about Maggs. He did, but gave the impression they were the royalty of the book trade, far above his touch or mine.

Years later, in the Eighties, after I had been interviewing Mark Birley, owner of Annabel's at 44 Berkeley Square, for my first mainstream novel, I passed Maggs at No 50 but was too preoccupied to consider knocking on the door.

It was not until this morning that, at last, I was able to explore their elegant rooms filled with handsome mahogany bookcases and other delights such as the gilded overmantel in the Travel Room.

The way this happened may be of interest. Bored with the news pages of the UK broadsheets, I turned to the obituaries and came upon this – "Bookbinder who undertook royal commissions and helped restore priceless volumes after the floods in Florence."

Which led to – "Elizabeth Greenhill, who has died aged 99, was a leading designer bookbinder; during a career which began in the 1920s she worked with Walter de la Mare and Hilaire Belloc and was one of a team of experts sent to help with the restoration of priceless collections of books after the Arno flooded Florence in 1966."

Where better to look for Ms Greenhill's bindings than at Maggs. To my surprise and delight, I found that their website, far from being rather dull and old-fashioned, has a virtual tour of their premises with panoramic views of all the rooms and their façade on the west side of Berkeley Square.

They also have an excellent explanation of RSS feeds for anyone who isn't clear how they work.

Plus a fascinating history – "The firm of Maggs was founded in the 1850's, probably in 1853, by Uriah Maggs, who at the age of 25 had left his home town of Midsomer Norton in Somerset to set up in business in London. Like many migrants of all times, he never got far from his port of entry, and set up shop firstly in Westbourne Terrace and later in Paddington Church Street, both shops still close to the Great Western Railway terminus of Paddington."

"…This was a period of rapid expansion for the rare book trade as the gradual relative decline in prosperity of the European aristocracy brought increasing quantities of rare books on to the market. At the same time the great tycoons of the United States were beginning to form their incomparable collections and the collecting of rare books was becoming an important part of a fashionable life on both sides of the Atlantic."

When you next have a break, do read the whole thing. I shall be returning to this site often. Here's a recent addition to their stock. Pallas, (P.S.) Zoographia Rosso-Asiatica. Eleven original watercolour drawings for this major work on the Russian fauna. [1800-1810] £ 17,500 22 January 2007

The puzzling word...

Here is an email from James, husband of Nora, previously referred to by her initial. But now I have permission to mention them both by name.

"Dear Anne [James writes] The mystery over "camsiled" has already been solved, since I discovered its meaning late Friday night. Along the way, it is interesting to note that the mighty Internet search engines have picked up the interest in this word. When I first tried Google there were zero results returned; Google reported,"Your search -- camsiled -- did not match any documents." (The sort of response you receive when entering nonsense words). Now, Sunday lunchtime, there are TWO results. No surprises that the top match is currently a certain Bookworm on the Net! Meanwhile, in Scotland, they are probably starting to wonder why a property in Kilmacolm is generating some interest over the Internet...

The answer is to be found in the 10-volume Scottish National Dictionary. Together with the 12-volume Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, this is available to search online at http://www.dsl.ac.uk/ as the Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL). Even then, to actually find the word, one has to change the search type from "Headword Form" to "Full Entry" in the drop-down list at the top right-hand corner, before typing in "camsiled" above it and clicking the "Search" button squashed into the corner.

It seems "camsile" is an alternative to "camceil" (also *NOT* in Chambers) with a cross-reference to "coom". Finally, "coomceiled" actually *IS* in Chambers, under the headword coom(2), as follows:

"_adj_ *coom'ceiled* said of an attic room with the inside ceiling sloping from the wall. [Origin obscure]"

The Shorter OED (strictly speaking this is the "New SOED" as it is the 1993 edition: the Shorter OED, third edition, was published in 1944) contains none of this at all. One is left wondering just how many past readers of The Citadel have passed this word by without understanding, especially as it is not to be found in the above two big dictionaries (Chambers and SOED) let alone the smaller dictionaries to be found (if at all, today) in the average home.

Perhaps this is why some of the older books are much more worth reading. Quite apart from the sheer skill with words shown by earlier practitioners, reading actually *enriched* your vocabulary. A contrast to the "good giddy ..." and other trash you have recently quoted in your blog."

"She woke at noon…under the camceil roof."

I also asked Scottish novelist, Eileen Ramsay, with whom I had a most enjoyable dinner and chat-session at our London club in September 2005, if she knew any Scottish architects.

She does and her friend Steuart Watson has supplied the following info for which I thank him.

CAMCEIL, Camsile, n. A sloping roof (Slg.3, Arg.1 1938). Also used attrib. with roof. [kmsil, kmsil]
*Arg. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days v.:
She woke at noon among the scented curtains, in linen sea-breeze bleached, under the camceil roof.
*Lnk. 1925 G. Blake Wild Men xi.:
A shelf of books . . . under the camceil.
Hence camsiled, having a sloping roof (Abd., Slg. 1916 T.S.D.C. II.). See also coom-ceiled s.v. COOM, n.2
*Lnk. 1862 D. Wingate Poems and Songs 118:
Laigh the roof and sair camsiled.
[See COOM, n.2, and CIEL. The above forms may derive from Gael. cam, bent, crooked.]

Katie Fforde and Joanna Trollope on Meet The Author

"I think of my books like Mars bars," says Katie Fforde, talking about her novel Restoring Grace at Meet the Author. At the same site Joanna Trollope talks about Second Honeymoon.

I'll comment on both these 90-second soundbites tomorrow.


At 07 April, 2009, Anonymous Christian said...

Why not get someone to read these out aloud, record them, upload them to youtube etc, and then put a player on your blog - so people can 'read' your writings whilst working!!

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