Joseph Wechsberg (1907-1983), the Czech-born cosmopolitan–journalist, gourmand, international traveler, bon vivant–entertained readers for decades with his essays and longer profiles on the best of European food and culture, wine, music, and other ingredients of the good life. Long a resident of Vienna, he immigrated to America in 1938 and, following World War II, began writing for a variety of publications, including Holiday, the New Yorker, and Gourmet.
Of the many books that emerged from Wechsberg’s reporting, the most loved and durable has been this collection of pieces on restaurants and vineyards, mainly in France. From Maxim’s in Paris to “An afternoon at the Chateau d’Yquem” to a visit at La Pyramide—“the Formidable Monseiur Point”—he spins enchanting tales of the great figures of the haute monde, highlighting their virtues and respectfully exposing their follies. Wechsberg is neither a travel writer nor a culinary critic, but simply an irresistible anecdotalist, who creates perfectly the people, the appearance, the taste, and even the sounds of the places he takes us to. This book, published in 1953, has been kept alive in paperback for many of the years since then, but copies of the fine original Knopf hardcover, designed by Warren Chapell, are a special pleasure for the real reader.
This copy, a second printing from 1954, is almost as good as they get. The copy has been barely handled—no credit to a previous owner—fine, tight, as close to new as we can imagine. The jacket, now in a mylar sleeve, has had one or two small tears, which are archivally closed and barely visible; it is price clipped. Few copies we see are near as good looking. Wechsberg’s collection is a joy to own and to read.