Faber & Faber, the publishing company founded by my grandfather Geoffrey, is ninety this year. I’ve been lecturing on its history, mainly to Arts Society groups around the UK, for a few years now. Excellent design has always been central to Faber’s publishing philosophy, so book covers have provided the necessary artistic hook, while also giving me the opportunity to share insights from my four years as managing director and tell some of the anecdotes I first heard as a child: Walter de la Mare suggesting the name Faber & Faber, despite there being only one Faber, because ‘you can’t have too much of a good thing’; T S Eliot setting off firecrackers under the boardroom table; Lord of the Flies being rescued from the slush pile; P D James being signed up following a chance meeting at an All Souls dinner.
After stepping down from Faber in the 2000s, I wrote two books, one on the violins of Antonio Stradivari and the other on the Fabergé imperial Easter eggs, riding the wave of narrative nonfiction that was fashionable at the time. This was what first led me to the Arts Society. Lectures were a good way both of keeping the