Edward Bayntun-Coward runs George Bayntun, a venerable bookbindery and rare books seller in Bath, England, that was founded by his great-grandfather in 1894.
READING I have got a couple of really wonderful clients who have asked me in the last year to rebind first editions of all of Evelyn Waugh, all of George Orwell and all ofGraham Greene. And so I did and I thought, “Oh, God, I want to reread them,” but I can’t afford my own books, so I found some really tatty Penguin paperbacks from the 1980s. I’ll read those and they’ll fall to pieces and that’s it.
If I really love a book, I will get a copy specially bound either by one of my craftsmen or I’ll find a binder somewhere in the world if we’re too busy. For example, I got a signed copy of a first edition of “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” by Richard Flanagan and had it bound by a wonderful female binder in Buenos Aires called Sol Rébora. She’s just sent it back, and it’s lovely.
LISTENING Elgar is getting a good sounding as I am working on my pomp and circumstance. On 13th March I am due to be installed as the high sheriff of Somerset at a very grand service in Wells Cathedral — trumpets blaring. The first high sheriff of the county was Godwine, back in 1061. I get to carry a sword, and wear tights, and represent the queen for the year.
At every ribbon cutting and event in the county, they say in the absence of the queen, the high sheriff is here, and everybody has to sort of bow and scrape and be nice to me. I don’t have to wear tights on those occasions. I wear a suit and a medal and I have a pennant on the car. My wife and children think it’s going to be so embarrassing.
FOLLOWING I follow the cricket scores online. I love the game. Do you understand cricket? A lot of people don’t. I had a lovely client called Paul Getty, an American, who became completely obsessed by cricket and part of my job, aside from buying the most expensive books in the world for him, was looking after his special cricket pitch and cricket team. And I was forever having American friends of his come to these matches and it was my job to explain to them what was going on. There are crazy pictures of me with Charlton Heston trying to explain, “No, in baseball you’re allowed a kink in your arm, but in cricket you have to keep it completely straight.”
COLLECTING I am grossly materialistic and a great shopper, but nearly all of my purchases are second- to tenth-hand — 18th century mezzotint portraits and ceramics, maps, engraved copper printing plates, Japanese kimono stencils, Indian textiles, ancient Roman memorial inscriptions, Italian majolica and so on and so on. I have 468 pictures on the walls of my house, but I say it’s good for insulation. My wife despairs.