Thursday, December 1 2022

HTSI Editor Jo Ellison © Marili Andre

One of my favorite stories in this issue is about detectives working to solve the rarest crime: book theft. It’s an arena as peculiar, mysterious, and full of characters as any fiction, and depicts feats of sabotage and chutzpah as inspiring as they are dark. Take the “nervous” American gentleman, Mr E Forbes Smiley, who recovered some 97 rare cards from six major institutions before he was apprehended, and only because he dropped his X-Acto blade. Oh ! Or the thief who has stretched a piece of wet yarn into the volumes in order to soften the chosen pages, or the recreators who are content to steal favorites from antique dealers because they feel that the book “belongs” to them.

A sign

A “tortoise crossing” sign in the Galápagos © Tom Jamieson

Meg Honigmann met the Sherlock Holmes of book detectives to find out what inspires such acts of wanton civic disobedience. The motive is rarely money because most stolen rare books are almost impossible to sell. Instead, she describes an underground market where stolen books are obsessed with individuals who just want to own a literary prize. As discovered after the recent return of Charles Darwin’s notebooks, after a 20-year absence from Cambridge University Library, some people take a very, very long view of loan times.

Darwin also figures in our travelogue, which takes us to the Galápagos, although this trip is far from the scientific efforts undertaken by the crew who sailed with the Beagle: it is an altogether more luxurious cruise. Simon Usborne and photographer Tom Jamieson boarded the Aqua-Mare to enjoy her maiden voyage – the first superyacht to sail between islands, the boat is available for charter from $196,000 per week. Before you choke on the thought that the national park is overrun with jet skis, you’ll be relieved to know that all trips must still adhere to the islands’ strict conservation rules. There are many regulations regarding time spent in the water, and all crews must include licensed guides. The time when one is allowed to swim alongside green turtles, schools of parrotfish and reef sharks is very limited; but as Simon finds out, in those few moments, it’s one of the deepest luxuries on earth.

Ardbeg distillery workers in Islay

Workers at the Ardbeg distillery in Islay © Benjamin McMahon

More otherworldly stories: this week we exclusively reveal the story of an Ardbeg whiskey from 1975, a cask of which has just been purchased for the record sum of £16 million. The sale dwarfs other figures achieved at rare whiskey auctions; as Alice Lascelles reminds us, £16 million is more than double what Ardbeg’s owner, the Glenmorangie Company, paid for the distillery and all his actions in 1997. What caused these epic prices, and what does this tell us about the wine and spirits market today? Alice visits Ardbeg in Scotland to find out how the distillery, once on the brink of dissolution in the 80s, has experienced a phoenix revival and now enjoys almost cult fame. She also becomes one of the only people in the world who can say she took a sip of the mythical Cask No 3.

Emilia Wickstead in her new space in Sloane Square

Emilia Wickstead in her new space in Sloane Square © Joshua Tarn

Finally, I am delighted to announce that Emilia Wickstead is opening a new space on Sloane Street (page 23). I call it World of Wickstead – a linen, pajama and swimwear store where you can also find her designer clothes and shoes. I have known Emilia for a few years and I am still overwhelmed by her humility, her humor, her energy and her talent: the fact that she is worn by everyone, from the Duchess of Cambridge and Jacinda Ardern to Olivia Colman and Alek Wek , says a lot about its broad appeal. Like the exotic and extraordinary creatures of the Galápagos, Wickstead is a rare species. I’m glad to see her doing what she does so well.


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