Thursday 26th March 2020

Close Up and Personal

Bugs and contagions are without doubt on all our minds presently, so I thought it perhaps appropriate to describe the circumstances by which I was bitten and smitten by the virulent love of old bits of paper in the first place.

As aforementioned in a previous blog, 'Watch This Space', Mr Leadlay opened his Gallery in July 1974. I joined him in August '78, a callow graduate, B.A. (Hons.) History (Just). I took the job thinking that it would pay my rent in the Smoke until such a time that a 'proper' one might come along. Fortunately, as it turns out, that day has never dawned.

I was always attracted by the visual side of history: some of my earliest ‘texts’ were Ladybird Books, with a picture on the left-hand page, and chapter and verse to the other. Whilst the former, colourful and dramatic, were a feast for my eyes and rocket fuel to my imagination, the words on the other hand, I have not even a distinct recollection of reading them. (But then, as I admit, I never was the most assiduous student).

Imagine my delight therefore in the pictures I found in such plenty at Warwick Leadlay Gallery. Big pictures, tiny pictures, exquisite pictures, tatty pictures, rare pictures, overlooked and underestimated pictures. History pictures! And so, I set to work …

Now here’s the thing. Warwick had a kind heart and a generous soul. On top of my stipend he allowed me a sort of ‘share allowance’ paid out in antique maps and old engravings I could call my own. Portable property, far more valuable to me than pound-notes. So, right from the start I began to pick and choose and salt away certain bits that particularly caught my eye. You could say that in doing this I was breaking the cardinal rule of the shopkeeper, i.e., “Don’t name the pig!” which must remain our watchword: buy and sell, don’t get too attached. The Quarter-day cometh.

It does indeed! However, I persuaded myself I was merely putting these things away out of prudence, against a rainy day. Well, as we are no doubt all agreed, it is presently p, p, pouring down all around. Therefore, the time has come to untie the rather battered old portfolio (once held, as you see, by ‘our man in Iberia’, now long-since retired) in which some of these choice ‘Personal’ items have been kept from that time to this. They are in no particular order inside, but willy-nilly as they went in, I now intent to draw them out one by one. In my next post I shall reveal and describe the first goodie. And attempt to share it's delights with you …

Till then, please stay safe!


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