The view from the oak gallery at Daunt Bookshop is modest but impressive. Endless rows of beautiful books filled with writers’ memories and their stories line the viridian green walls of the storied Edwardian building, nestled amongst the stylish shops of Marylebone high street. Step inside Daunt Books and the Narnia effect immediately takes its grip, time seems to slow and the reality of the modern hustle and bustle outside slides away. On a cold February evening, the swelling gathering below the balcony is one of excited chatter and anticipation. A whole host of people from varied backgrounds are gathering from across London and beyond to celebrate the release of a new book called Ruskinland.
Almost a year ago, we received an email from a journalist at the Financial Times with an inquiry about our link to John Ruskin. In his spare time, Andrew Hill told us that he was writing a new book about John Ruskin - in time for the bicentenary of his birth in 2019. Andrew asked if it would be possible to interview us about some of the ways in which Ruskin's ideas have influenced our business, for a chapter about craft and craftsmanship.
We were delighted to share with Andrew how John Ruskin's guiding principles relating to provenance and sustainability are tightly woven in to our ethos of our brand and to introduce him to our tweed designs which are carefully engineered around a custom fabric to create a signature aesthetic. With a similar feeling to that of Ruskin, two hundred years ago, our belief is that mass production and the ‘buy now’ mentality has significantly reduced the quality of many items and has removed the emotional experience in owning something unique or special. We explained that by promoting smaller, more bespoke production which places the greatest value on quality natural materials and workmanship honed over generations, our aim is to reconnect people with purity and beauty of traditional craft.
Often people have vague recollections of John Ruskin from their school days or museum and art gallery visits and ask ‘wasn’t he the guy who…?’ as Andrew so aptly puts it in the introduction to his book. Ruskinland, explores the enormous influence that John Ruskin has had over the years and acquaints us with the enduring principles that remain highly relevant today. ‘Part travelogue, part quest, part unconventional biography, Ruskinland retraces Ruskin’s steps telling his exceptional and tragic life story, unearthing his influence, talking to people and visiting places...where Ruskin’s vision is, sometimes unexpectedly alive today.’ .
The release of Ruskinland is timely, not least because it coincides with the bicentenary of Ruskin’s birth but also because it aligns with the increasing calls to action for companies to address the important social and environmental challenges that Ruskin advocated so passionately for two hundred years ago. So it was with great pleasure that we celebrated the release of the new book Ruskinland with Andrew last week. We encourage you to pass by Daunt Books, linger for a while, soak up the atmosphere and acquaint yourself with Ruskinland.