Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THE ART and humor of Ronald Searle delighted me once again when I was moving some of my books and came upon Slightly Foxed. This wonderful book addresses one of my passions just as its companion The Illustrated Winespeak pokes gentle fun at oenophilic gabble.

Of quite different character, but equally delightful are two other Searle books, By Rocking Chair Across Russia and By Rocking-Chair Across America (see These combine Searle’s art with Alex Atkinson’s slightly wacky observations, all predicated on the premise that neither had ever set foot in either country.

These and other Searle books are listed at the usual sources, and

The format of Slightly Foxed and Winespeak is simplicity itself: full-page illustrations in Searle’s charming pen and color opposite phrases that are recognizable to anyone sharing a passion for secondhand books or wine, respectively.


Slightly Foxed—but still desirable: Ronald Searle’s wicked world of Book Collecting, by Ronald Searle, Souvenir Press, 1989.

The bibliophilic term “slightly foxed,” of course, refers to brown spots on old paper. It’s not clear what causes foxing, other than age. Oxidation of iron or copper in the paper is one conjecture. Fungal growth is another, possibly related to high humidity.


Numerous critical marginal notes in a contemporary hand.

It’s good fun buying a secondhand book and finding personal observations of previous owners written in it. I especially like travel comments in my old Baedeker’s Handbooks (

Of an entirely different sort was an inscription in a best-seller on a secondhand Dallas shelf that read, “To the man who never loved me enough to give me his name.” It’s difficult to assess who, apart from me, got the last laugh.


Generally a little loose.

The binding of a book that’s only rarely read will likely be tight. Except when, as Dorothy Parker said of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

The value of an old book can be enhanced by being rebound. There are, of course, things to watch for.



Not that I know a great deal about books, but I confess to know rather less about wines. However, I have good friends in the business (visit and, and thus I can parle the lingo. As Searle notes, “All the phrases in this little book have been plucked from unacknowledged but absolutely authentic sources.”


The Illustrated Winespeak: Ronald Searle’s wicked world of winetasting, by Ronald Searle, Souvenir Press, 1983.

The fellow on the cover is obviously Dionysus, from which my own given name derives. According to Wikipedia, he’s the Greek god “of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy.”

Yep, my kinda guy.

My friends advise that some wines are perfectly drunk when young (the wines, not me). Others are appropriately laid down for a time. Searle evidently agrees, though he acknowledges there’s a delicate balance.


Ripe, but lacks concentration.

He also notes that some products of the vine are inherently superior from the very start.


Lots of class and much in demand.

Whereas there are others….


Somewhat lacking in finesse.

Yes, another personal resonance. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013

One comment on “RONALD SEARLE

  1. Richard Baron
    January 31, 2013

    Good fun, Dennis. Greek gods, cool illos and all!

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This entry was posted on January 31, 2013 by in I Usta be an Editor Y'Know and tagged , , .
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