March 20, 2007

T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings

I think that I've mentioned a place in Baltimore called The Book Thing. It's a wonderful little non-profit organization where people donate books that are then given to anyone who wants them, and in any number. It's located in an old warehouse and is only open on Saturdays and Sundays.

I have found some of the most interesting books there, and when I stopped by this weekend, my luck continued. Here's a partial list of what I have found on this and other visits:

  • Goodbye, Mr. Chippendale, by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings
  • Several David Hicks first editions
  • Dorothy Rodgers - The House in My Head
  • Early issues of Martha Stewart from the 90's
  • Early edition Eloise books

I read Goodbye Mr. Chippendale with great interest, for several reasons. First, Mr. R-G is very funny, with that dry British sense of humour. Secondly, the illustrations by Mary Petty are delightful and third, he speaks several times about William Randolph Hearst and his castle in Wales (see previous post). My copy has the disclaimer about being in compliance with using war materials because it was originally published in 1944. It also has an author's note as follows: The architecture and decoration mentioned in this book are real and no reference is intended to anything imaginary.

This little book is a spoof of antiques in modern design. Mr. R-G skewers everyone from Louis Sullivan to Elsie de Wolfe. He talks about Mr. Hearst having too many houses and when he had his great auction, many things had never even been unpacked from their boxes.

Mr. R-G also wrote Homes of the Brave, Mona Lisa's Moustache, A Dissection of Modern Art and Furniture of Classical Greece, probably a little more scholarly in its tone. When you look at examples of his work, you can certainly see echoes of classical Greece in them.

Although they were made more than 50 years ago, they're still fresh today. I found this wonderful pair of chairs that were on sale for about $45,000, which puts them out of my price range! Mr. R-G created more than 200 pieces of furniture for a house in Bel Air, California in the early 50's. When the house was subsequently sold in the late 70's, all of the furniture was auctioned. Can you imagine that auction? WOW!

In a twist on Thomas Jefferson's quote on the right side of this blog, Mr. R-G says "The surroundings householders crave are glorified autobiographies ghostwritten by willing architects and interior designers who, like their clients, want to show off".


  1. WOW! First, you are so lucky to have The Book Thing- wish we had one in Atlanta. I would probably go there a few times a week! And great book finds. I've always wanted to get a copy of Goodbye Mr. Chippendale; now I only want it more. And I love that quote- in many ways, it's quite true. Fun post!

  2. Great find, what an amazing idea. Thanks for posting!

  3. Goodbye Mr Chippendale is one of my favorite commentaries on Design, so thanks for bringing it to light. I too, wish we had a book place like the one you mention, it sounds like such a great resource, and you can tell from my blog that i am a book fiend!

  4. I have a copy of that book too, and Mr R-G really is quite witty.


Thank you for reading and commenting on Pigtown*Design. I read each and every comment and try to reply if I have your e-mail address.