Turning a scholarly biography into a book is in itself an operation of the kind that has probably reached the end of the evolutionary line. Even so, when every single component has been faultlessly calibrated and put together, it is as if you are seeing things through new eyes.
In the case of the biography of the redoubtable art collector Frits Lugt we are talking about over 150,000 words of main text, 1,300 footnotes and 280 illustrations. Compactly presenting such a mass of information calls for a firm hand at the wheel. The notes were moved to the end matter and given their own ribbon marker, making it easy to switch back and forth between main text and notes. In the main text itself the reader is well served by having images and captions as close as possible to the relevant passage. Whether Rembrandt etching or scribbled memo, all the images have been lithographically brightened and stand brilliantly sharp against the matt-smooth paper. Nicely balanced headings in small caps provide ventilation. Every now and then there is a separate spread devoted to one of Lugt’s several residences.
The only thing with which the panel had to reconcile themselves was the dust jacket. Here, by way of introducing Lugt to the general public, a crop from a photo has been rather too enthusiastically enlarged and translated from black into brown. The effect is that the clarity that is so much a characteristic of the book as a whole is here completely lacking.
Apart from that, the Fondation Custodia in Paris – whose founder is the subject of the book – deserves to be complimented for its liberal clientship.