An Unconventional Collector

19th February 2009

Woolley and Wallis has played host to over a hundred friends and colleagues of the late Lord Parmoor, an antiquarian bookseller whose effects go on sale on 24th February. The private view and lunchtime reception on the 19th February brought together many of Lord Parmoor's contemporaries, as well as a large number of the auction house's clients.

Over two hours they viewed the eclectic mix of 17th century and Modernist furniture, with Middle Eastern carpets and a substantial collection of 1920s and 1930s posters, which contains something to interest everybody. As his friend and colleague from Bernard Quaritch Books, Richard Linenthal says in his introduction to the sale catalogue, "It would be difficult to find a single lot in this sale which is boring or conventional". It is a statement which would also ring true of the life of Milo Cripps, the fourth Lord Parmoor, whose lust for life and eccentric behaviour brought him a wide circle of friends.

Stories of his eccentricity begin at a young age, when he was evacuated to Toronto during the Second World War. His classmate at Upper Canada College Prep School, John Julius Norwich, speaks fondly of the young Milo in his recent memoirs and describes how "while the young toughs around him talked ice hockey, he set himself up as an ardent champion of ring-a-ring-a-roses, and somehow got them all to join in".

Lord Parmoor became involved in bookselling in 1971 when his company, Cripps Warburg, acquired Bernard Quaritch.  Milo's love of language, sharp eye for a sensible risk and a good deal, belief in good business discipline, and eye for quality and style suited both himself and his new company.  He redecorated the shop, changed the catalogue prices from pounds to dollars, urged the staff to get onto airplanes, introduced computers at an early stage, proofread catalogues, and fascinated the customers, usually with rigorous intellectual questioning, sometimes hysterical rage, and always paternal support.  He presided over a series of triumphs - the sale of a Gutenberg Bible, the purchase of the Gospels of Henry the Lion for the German government, the de Belder botanical library, and the sale of the original manuscript of Turgenev's Fathers and Sons which he himself offered to Raisa Gorbachev. 

He was a man of diverse taste, who sometimes delighted in buying items which may have astounded some of his more traditional friends. Private commissions of pieces of furniture by Matthew Burt and Sir Alan Peters sit alongside a very fine and large Gordon Russell walnut table (Estimate £25,000-35,000) and two inlaid tables by Carlo Bugatti. His extensive collection of posters will appeal to fans of Art Deco, as will a birds eye maple cocktail cabinet and various items of bedroom furniture from that era. For the more traditional collector, there are several lots from the 17th century, including an Austrian fruitwood rent table and a massive Spanish oil painting in its original frame of the "Expulsion from the Garden of Eden" by Juan Antonio de Frias y Escalante.

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