18 JANUARY 1975, Page 22



The financially hard-pressed National Book League — which is a registered charity — has just been offered the freehold on its Albermarle Street premises near Piccadilly. The building's owners, Amalgamated Securities Ltd, are asking just under £1,000,000. To help meet its debts six years ago, the NBL sold the self-same freehold to Amalgamated Securities. The price? A paltry £160,000.

Belated congratulations to Mr Pat Newman, tough-talking chief of Corgi Books, on receiving the MBE in the New Year Honours list. Commercial paperback publishing (pace the late Sir Allen Lane, CH) has evidently become respectable at last. Congratulations also to Mr Philip Hope-Wallace, music critic of the Guardian, on his CBE. Perhaps this will produce a faint blush in Manchester where sits Mr W. L. Webb, literary editor of the paper and editor of the annual Bedside Guardian. Last year it emerged that the Bedside was to include an item by Hope-Wallace — indeed, one reviewer, working from a proof copy of the book, singled the piece out for some advance praise. When finished copies of the Bedside Guardian arrived, Mr Hope-Wallace's contribution had mysteriously disappeared.

For Sir George Weidenfeld, whom a peerage continues to elude, there was some consolation earlier this month. In the latest issue of House and Garden Harold Wilson's once-favourite publisher is accorded a six-page spread, with pictures. Not surprisingly House and Garden are more interested in Sir George's riverbank Chelsea home than in Sir George himself, but the great man is allowed a few words on his highly individualistic life-style. He remarks, for example, that "home is where I really do work"; that "I find increasingly that this is where the essential chores are carried out"; that "it's a far better place to see authors, artists, agents, lawyers, accountants and the scores of other experts and technologists who go to make up our kind of publishing." And he ends with the rhetorical question: "Is there a more sensible, civilised and economical set-up for a working lunch than one's own home?"

Several people might agree with Sir George. Indeed, Sir George's own employees might agree more than most. Eighteen months ago their offices were moved, in the interests of economy, from a pleasant West End locale to the grimy wilds of Clapham Junction.

Bookbuyer is sorry to learn that one of his New Year hopes (January 4) has already been dashed. The Post Office — far from reducing its iniquitous printed paper reduced rates for overseas, has in fact decided to double them, thus making it three times more expensive to export a book by post from Britain than from the United States. A year ago it was actually cheaper. The Government officials clearly do not heed such things as the British Council annual report, published last month. "Literature," it said, "is Britain's most important cultural contribution to the rest of the world." Assuming, of course, that anyone can now afford to send it _to the rest of the world ....