Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reggie Out & About: An Embarrassment of Book Signings

The other day, while idly sitting at my workaday desk and daydreaming when I should have been doing other more productive things, I realized that Boy and I had been to rather a lot of book signing parties this past autumn and winter.  Toting them up in my head, I counted that between the two of us we had attended six of them.

As far as I can tell, there was an explosion of new design and decorating books published in the months leading up to the holidays.  One hears dire stories that book publishing as we know it is on its last legs, under siege from the likes of the Kindle, downloads, and blogs.  While electronic media is, indeed, changing the way many of us gather and share information, I seriously doubt it will ever fully supplant physical books, and that glossy, picture-filled decorating and lifestyle books are probably the least vulnerable publishing category for inroads from same.  That is, if the avalanche of that type of book published in the latter part of 2010 is any indication.

Here's a tour of the books we acquired this winter while traversing Manhattan's book signing circuit:

The first party we attended was for Pauline Metcalfe's Syrie Maugham, Staging Glamorous Interiors, published by the Acanthus Press.  Held at Liz O'Brien's ultra-chic gallery on the UES it was an absolute crush.  Ms. O'Brien had gone the extra mile for the party, filling the rooms with gorgeous flower arrangements inspired by those of the English plantswoman extraordinaire, Constance Spry, whose arrangements filled the houses and smart apartments Mrs. Maugham decorated in the day.  Ms. Metcalfe inscribed the book "For Reggie: How nice to meet a loyal fan" which is how I had rather tongue-in-cheekedly introduced myself to her, as I have another one of her books, Ogden Codman and the Decoration of Houses, in my collection and which I consult regularly.  I attended a book-signing party for that book, too, when it was first published, long ago, and also had it autographed (then) by its authoress.

The next book signing we went to was for Emily Evans Eerdmans' The World of Madeleine Castaing, published by Rizzoli Press.  It was a very swell, well-attended party full of fashionables, and was held at the International Antiques Show at the Park Avenue Armory, where the party was sublimely—and lavishly—catered by Glorious Foods.  Fabulous!  EEE looked particularly glamorous that evening and was wearing her signature—or is it trademark?—green gloves when graciously receiving her adoring public and signing copies of her hotly-awaited monograph of the highly-influential, bewigged French antiquaire.  Our copy joins the other autographed books we own by Ms. Eerdmans, including her delightful Regency Redux, which was a publishing sensation when it came out in 2008.

I missed the book signing for Alexa Hampton's Alexa Hampton, the Language of Interior Design, published by Clarkson Potter.  Held at John Roselli's antiques-packed galleries—in the same building as Liz O'Brien's gallery—Boy attended the party with his assistant Clarissa Montgomery.  Boy said that Ms. Hampton was charming and gracious, which is just how I remember her from when I met and spoke with her at a cocktail party half a dozen years ago.  Reggie is quite pleased that she inscribed the book to him, and notes with appreciation Ms. Hampton's beautiful handwriting.

As I wrote in my earlier post featuring cookbook author, chef, and bon vivant Gail Monaghan, Boy attended a book signing celebrating the publication of her newest cook book The Entrees: Remembered Favorites From the Past: Recipes From Legendary Chefs and Restaurants.  I was, unfortunately, not able to attend the gathering, held at the Rizzoli flagship store on 57th Street, as business had called me away to South America the day of the party.  Fortunately, Gail was willing to inscribe our copy to the both of us, even though I was absent.

And absent I was, again, I am afraid, at the book signing party for Thomas Jayne's The Finest Rooms In America, published by the Monacelli Press.  The book signing was held at the dangerously tempting Archivia Books on the UES, and was—I understand—very well attended.  I first met Mr. Jayne more than a decade ago when we both attended an Antiques Forum held at Williamsburg, and he is a particularly charming fellow.  And he's a rather tall fellow, too!

Fortunately, I was able to attend the book signing party held in December for Suzanne Rheinstein's At Home: A Style For Today With Things From the Past.  The party was held, again, at the John Rozelli antiques gallery where the Alexa Hampton party took place earlier in the season, and in the same building as Liz O'Brien's gallery.  The party was packed with what I have come to appreciate as all the usual suspects, plus many friends and acquaintances of the book's charming author, who—I was delighted to learn when speaking with her—is a sometime reader of this blog!  I particularly liked her inscription, "Restraint is worth it!" a view we share in common as it turns out.

But there is one book signing party that eluded Reggie this season, which was for Peter Pennoyer Architects: Apartments, Townhouses, Country Houses.  Published by Vendome Press and written by Anne Walker, Mr. Pennoyer's co-author with several other books on architecture, this is a lavish celebration of the architect's gorgeous, classically-inspired creations, and a book that I have spent many delighted hours pouring over.  There were several parties held to celebrate its publication that Reggie was invited to in the city, but neither he nor Boy were able to attend any of them, due to rather tiresome conflicts, and Reggie's copy of the monograph remains uninscribed by its distinguished subject.  Reggie does hope to find himself in such close proximity to Mr. Pennoyer one day as to have the book inscribed, or at least autographed.  But for now, at least, it remains an unsullied tome amongst his more besmirched volumes.

Tell me, do you—like Reggie—seek to have your books inscribed by their authors, or do you prefer to leave them clean of such scribbles?

All photographs by Boy Fenwick


  1. LOVE when my books get signed... be it by the author, have a few of those, but also when friends and family members write a note.
    It is like a sweet little surprise!

    Northern Light

  2. I enjoy having books signed by the author if the process is not an intrusion. Although many maintain it devalues the book if ever re-sold, one could not help but think, someday in the very distant future, a book formerly from the Darling library would be a desirable feature.

  3. I personally cherish my signed books and never, ever lend them out to friends. (Funny about lending books, the people you think are the most responsible never seem to give them back. I try not to lend books anymore if I can help it.)

  4. Once again I am green, but a very lovely shade of green, with envy.

  5. It is always nice to have a book author or the giver if the book was a gift...

  6. The books you supported are very high resolution delivery systems for high quality images and design. Technology can't replace the. Yet. They are to opera as e-books are to hip hop beats on MySpace.

  7. That's a nice ole stack of books you have there, Reggie!

  8. Reggie, I love a good book party. One of these days we'll meet at one.

  9. Reggie - You may have another opportunity for Peter Pennoyer to sign your book. I just received an e-mail from the Institute for Classical Architecture -- I believe they are sponsoring a lecture by him on March 16 (in NYC). I look forward to hearing him in Chicago in just a few weeks.

  10. Dear Reggie,

    Thank you very much for your kind words about my book. Please let me know if you would like to visit my firm. If so, I could inscribe your book.



  11. Bummer.. i was at the Alexa Hampton party! I'd have loved to meet boy. I was with John Gargiulo and he was great to introduce me to loads of people.

  12. I appreciate a signed book and I always inscribe a book that is a gift. I do allow myself a brief disappointment when someone gives me a book that is not inscribed, however...

  13. Reggie,
    You are as generous with your books as you are with your words. How were you ever able to loan me the most ruinously expensive, rare AND signed book? That inspired me as much as the book itself.

  14. make me want to write a book! Just so I can sign it!

    I love all of those books...Suzanne has been a friend for ages...and she is sublime.......EEE is sublime also!

    and,I agree......books aren't going out of style anytime bookshelves are is my husband........"what? more books?? How could you possibly???" He runs the business.......and as long as there is some......he is fine.....! "I need them!" is all I have to say!

    And it is the God's truth!

    I keep threatening to write one. I think I may. Just about building a house. Just one.

  15. Natasha: Yes, I agree, thank you.

    Devoted Classicist: Why, thank you, Reggie is most flattered.

    Paul Gervais de Bédé: That is probably a wise thing. I occasionally will lend them out (see EEE comment), but that is an exception to my general practice (mostly because I'm terrible myself about returning lent DVDs, etc., at least within a reasonable period of time).

    Lucindaville: But, of course, I would expect nothing less than a sublime shade of the most beautiful green from you. The remedy to such affliction? Move to NY!

    MLS: Agreed!

    LPC: I agree with your assessment. In addition, there is nothing quite like a book when it comes to examining its subject's output, all in one place, as is the case with these tomes.

    CashmereLibrarian: Yes, Reggie is a fortunate fellow. Thank you for your comment.

    BB: Given our shared interests and trodding of many of the same paths here in Gotham, I'll be sure to look out for you at these sort of things. Hopefully we'll connect at some point soon.

    SAS: Thank you, I attend the ICACA lectures from time to time, too. I love the building they are held in here in NYC.

    Mr. Pennoyer: Why, how very gracious of you to comment here. Thank you for your kind invitation, which I accept with alacrity, and with pleasure. I will contact your office in the next several days to arrange a visit. Thank you! -- Reggie

    Pigtown-Design: I am sure that Boy would have been very pleased to meet you at the AH party, if he had the opportunity to do so. I know that I would have, if I had been there!

    Colleen: Fortunately, such a disappointment as your describe can be quickly remedied with the stroke of a pen. Thank you for your comment.

    EEE: Wait a minute, you mean to tell me that book was SIGNED!?!

    Penelope Bianchi: You must write a book, as I always look forward to your comments. You would have us all in stitches, at least when we weren't wiping the tears of merry laughter from our eyes. Thank you.

  16. Dearest R, What a delightful cornucopia of parties you have attended recently....and these, of course, are just the ones at which books have been signed. Goodness knows how you manage to fit in such a wealth of social events whilst having to attend your paid work for, I imagine, at least some of the time.

    I long ago made the decision to only have books signed by authors who are friends.

  17. Goodness; your mention of the Antiques Forum brings back memories. Years and years ago while working at the Williamsburg Inn, we realized several of our delightful, rather elderly ladies (who attended the Forum every year) liked to "help themselves" to various items on display in the Inn. We handled the issue discreetly (and had to watch them like a hawk!) but on a recent visit back to the Inn, I noticed quite a few things are now bolted to the walls, the tables and the fireplace mantels.

  18. Something about Thursday must inspire a book report? I did one, too. No collusion, either! :)

    V handsome, one's preferences don't count - it's your book report. God save me from the partypraises, my book report was about a bad party that turned out OK in the end.

  19. Oh, lucky you! I loooove inscriptions almost as much as the books. The gentleman and I were recently treated to a "books and booze" wedding shower, where no less than half the books were presented by their authors. When I realized it, I looked around in awe at my talented friends. Reading their inscriptions nearly brought me to tears!

  20. LOVE to have my books inscribed by the author, (EEE as one of them), but hate to see author inscribed books up for sale.

    smooches to little Pompey.

  21. Dear Reggie,

    Your blog is an online book, and I enjoy reading it very much!

    Dean Farris


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