Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Low Profile - Book Review

Low Profile - A Life in the World of Books
by Frank Herrmann
Oak Knoll books 2002

Low Profile is the autobiography of Frank Herrmann, author, publisher, one-time director of Sotheby's and founder of Bloomsbury Book Auctions.

Herrmann was born in Germany in 1928. In 1937 his jewish family emigrated to the UK where Frank grew up. He attended Westminster school while the school was not in London. During the war the school spent most of the war in Surrey, Devonshire and Herefordshire. After the war, he attended Oxford University reading chemistry but dropped out when he discovered that he didn't really like chemistry and formulae. He preferred literature and words. So he got a job as a typographer with Faber books.

Frank Herrmann's biography offers a tantalizing, behind-the-scenes look into the hidden worlds of Herrmann's life and his various careers. Beginning with his early years as a book designer at Faber (publishers of TS Eliot), the author then shares the times when he had the good fortune to work for firms who published Evelyn Waugh, Ernest Shepard (illustrator of A A Milnes's books), Beatrice Potter, the children's authors of Miffy and Babar, as well as Mrs. Beeton and a host of other famous figures in the writing world.

Herrmann continues his story describing his stormy career as a Sotheby's director and then becoming the founder of his own publishing company and antiquarian book auction house. This well written text is illustrated with many rare photographs of the "movers and shakers" of the British publishing world.

I purchased this book from a rare book shop for one of my birthdays sometime in the last few years and it has sat on my TBR pile ever since. I decided that this Bibliophilic Challenge was a good time to read it. I had been reluctant to start reading it, as I thought it was going to be boring.

Guess what. It was NOT boring. I really enjoyed it. A lot more than I thought I would.

While I was in Hospital I had read another one of my books on the TBR pile. This one was about Sotheby's the auction house - called Sotheby's, Bidding for Class by Robert Lacey. There was not one mention in that entire book, of Frank Herrmann as a director of Sotheby's, as head of Sotheby's European operations and as the official biographer of Sotheby's.

Herman wrote several books - the most noteable being Sotheby's-Portrait of an Auction House, The English as Collectors, and the childrens book All about the Giant Alexander.

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