RetroProgressive – Magnum opus, or book on booze?

Around this time last year, I read an article about a ‘wine bible’ costing a whopping £640,000. The sixty four million dollar question is how the publishers, Kraken Opus, arrived at such a price? Okay, this is an 850 page limited edition book weighing more than 30 kg, so I suppose the postage is likely to be on the steep side. The volume also comes with crate of wine from each of the 100 top vineyards listed, plus invitations to innumerable free wine tastings. I’m not sure why, but this got me thinking of the library scene with Sir Cathcart D’Eath in Porterhouse Blue, where bottles of booze are stashed away in bookcases, behind the spines of fake books…

Anyway, it seems that in this age of e-readers and impending library closures, the world of real books is suddenly looking altogether more attractive. Super-sized limited edition tomes – popularly known as ‘luxury lit’, and marketed as highly collectable – are popping up all over the place. But are these worth their weight in paper (or wine), or are they simply books for bankers with money to burn?

As far as liquid assets are concerned, I’ve a feeling The Dabbler’s 1p books may be a far better investment, as you’re much more likely to find a buyer at 2p than £640,001.  What’s more you can pick up bargains with far more style than Taschen’s GOAT (short for ‘greatest of all time’ – an 800 page book on Muhammad Ali, complete with sculpture by Jeff Koons).




I’m sure even Benedikt Taschen (a former comic-book-store owner from Cologne in Germany) would approve of the delightfully charming illustrations in the 1980s book by Ronald Searle that I recently picked up for a fiver (I was robbed!) from a long forgotten shelf at the back of a rather quaint old antique shop in Oxford.

Searle’s drawings of curious wine ceremonies from around the world will give me far more pleasure than any publishing publicity stunt, however many sommeliers and vineyards are involved. Plus, I’ve a feeling this book is rather like a fine vintage – if I do eventually decide to sell, I think I stand to make a bob or two…

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

6 thoughts on “RetroProgressive – Magnum opus, or book on booze?

    August 28, 2010 at 13:28

    Great post, FT has feature on designer fashion books today too.

    August 28, 2010 at 13:42

    Thanks Mark, I spotted that as well. Funny, books are appearing everywhere – I focused on fashion and books in my blog over at ShopCurious today.

  3. Gaw
    August 28, 2010 at 13:59

    I love that last illustration. Would look good on the wall as well as act as something of a warning.

    August 28, 2010 at 17:52

    Lovely book that – and talking of books, do you know his Slightly Foxed – But Still Desirable (Souvenir Press, 1989)? Such a brilliant draughtsman, and witty…

    August 28, 2010 at 19:15

    Brilliant Nige – and perfect for the Curious Cognoscenti!

    Gaw, is that a warning about the wine or the books?

  6. Worm
    August 30, 2010 at 18:15

    Something in the Cellar a great book, I used to read it as a kid, before I’d even tasted wine, also The King of the Beasts. Searle’s drawings for the St. Trinians books and of course Molesworth, are my favourite book illustrations ever.

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