Just north of crowded Oxford Street in London is probably the most opulent single collection of decorative arts in Britain, the Wallace Collection in Hertford House.
Gifted to Britain by Lady Wallace in 1897, the collection was created by her husband and his family, the Marquises of Hertford. The family were wealthy and the 3rd Marques benefited as purchasing agent for The Prince of Wales during the aftermath of French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. These resulted in the sale of many European art collections, most especially in France.
What is especially remarkable is that the collection should have no additions and therefore remains as it was in 1897.
The attraction of the individual and collective works is enhanced by the spacious rooms of Hertford House, in which they are displayed.
The building was specifically finished as a museum for the collection in 1900 and refurbishment in 2000 has added an airy dining venue in the interior courtyard.
Less than 10 minutes walk from The Wallace Collection is Daunt Books, on Marylebone High St. The shop is almost as old as The Wallace Collection, having been opened by Francis Edwards in 1910.
Daunts was established in the shop in 1990 by James Daunt and fabulously specialises in travel books. The Middle East book section is accessed by a flight of beautifully worn wooden stairs, imagine the number of books that have been carried up the stairs.
My pleasure in finding the Bradt Guide to Oman in the shop was tripled by it sharing a shelf with the Jan Morris book Sultan in Oman. This book covers the country warts and all as Jan (then James) made a mad dash with Sultan Said, the ruler of Oman, from Salalah to Nizwa and beyond as the first stage in the reimposition of Sultanic rule over all the country.
Will Jan’s skill with language flow though the books to me, I hope so. A bit farther away I found ‘My House in Damascus’ by Diana Darke, who of course is co-author of the Bradt Guide.