Spring cleaning in the study.

Do books furnish a room? You could certainly sit on the piles of them in our house. Imagine my delight when I met Michael Gibbs, the nearest thing London has to a Parisian bouquiniste, having been forced to abandon his Bolingbroke Bookshop, in these dark days for book-sellers, in favour of a stall in the Northcote Road market (www.bolingbrokebookshop.co.uk). He’s launching a ‘bespoke libraries’ service to help private clients with their bibliophilic needs.

This could include assembling complete collections, refreshing a library that hasn’t been kept up to date or, as I sincerely hope in our case, sorting one out. ‘Shelves,’ he said, a few minutes after seeing my study. I need a whole wall of them.

The basement could do with one, too. Once they’re built, Michael will take down all our books and sort them. I’m still reeling from the idea. No more wobbly towers of reference material around my desk. Empowering, but wouldn’t my very personality be threatened?

A friend has just had his specialist collection of natural-history books catalogued using software that imports the necessary information from the 13-digit International Standard Book Number used since the 1970s. (Old books must be entered manually.) Total control! Perfect order! I’m feeling faint.


  • Many readers of ‘Country Life’ use their nearest public library. My mother loved your magazine, a subscription to which we gave her every year before she died, because she did not have the luxury of books “furnishing” her rooms. Nor, I expect do many others. Please, readers of this article, if you are aware of your local public library being under threat, consider putting your considerable abilities behind any efforts to keep it open and staffed.