Nicholas Poole-Wilson
Tuesday 01 May 2012

When she realised the mark-up on an array of Erasmus first editions
she knew she had to become a dealer

Oxford, Sunday. Diana Parikian showed me Italian books, mostly obscure
ones with illustrations, including a tiny emblem book honoring the
ninetieth birthday of Pope Clement XI in 1702. The emblems are tucked
into little floral pockets..." Thus Roger Stoddard, curator of rare
books at Harvard, in a memorandum of 1985 on his first European
acquisitions trip.

These and other such books were the stock-in-trade of Diana Parikian
who has died aged 85, one of the first female antiquarian booksellers
in a male dominated trade. She made her name if not a fortune ("I'm
not a good businesswoman") by dint of book-hunting in the byways of
continental renaissance and baroque literature. She never sought
to compete for spoils with the established grandees of the trade,
Georges Heilbrun and Andre Jammes in Paris, or Carlo Alberto Chiesa
in Milan, but her expertise and scholarly approach enabled her to
take her place at their table on equal terms. More than that, she
had a joie de vivre that made her excellent company. Italy was her
happiest hunting ground; she was as familiar with the backstreets of
Perugia as the arcades of Turin. The art galleries and restaurants too.

She became an authority on emblem books and iconography before they
achieved cult status, at a time when the bibliographical reference
tools were limited or out of date. Her Latin was a premier dog-Latin,
sufficient to buy and sell neo-Latin poetry to John Sparrow (his
collection now at All Souls), the British Library, Harvard, Princeton
and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. Art historical
texts, the theatre and opera libretti were further specialities,
to which more recently she added conjuring books. Bill Kalush in New
York became a client: "He knows far more about his subject - which is
not conjuring per se, but the art of deception in the largest sense -
than any bookseller does. So you can always learn from him... Also
he buys every edition of every book, a bookseller's dream". In all
she issued 82 catalogues in 50 years. She knew she had arrived when a
distinguished old-timer in the trade put his arm around her shoulder
to say "Diana, your latest catalogue, I've read it from beginning to
end and there isn't a single author I recognise."

Diana Margaret Parikian was born in London in 1926, the eldest daughter
of George Carbutt, chartered accountant. She grew up in Chelsea and
was educated at Francis Holland School for Girls and later at North
Foreland Lodge where she first encountered Amaryllis Fleming, who
was later to play cello in the Parikian-Milne-Fleming Trio. In 1944
she joined the WRNS, serving at Stanmore and Bletchley Park.

After the war she attended the Royal College of Music, studying cello
and piano; it was here that she met Neville Marriner, her first
husband, by whom she had a son, the clarinettist Andrew Marriner,
and a daughter, Susie Harries, author of the recent biography of
Nikolaus Pevsner.

In 1957 she married the violinist Manoug Parikian, Professor of Violin
at the Royal Academy of Music. Not one to kick her heels in a hotel
bedroom as he performed in the concert halls of Europe, she took to
the bookshops. At first she operated as a "runner", trafficking books
from one dealer to another, in particular to Jacques Vellekoop of EP
Goldschmidt in Bond Street, who taught her much. "Yes, duckey, that's
simply lovely, but now bring me the second edition because..." And
when she discovered the scale of mark-up on an array of Erasmus first
editions she had sold him (the friendship unimpaired), she recognised
that it was time to turn dealer proper, working first from London
and then for 22 years from a comfortable old rectory at Waterstock,
the family home where she brought up her two sons, Stepan and Levon.

In 1981 she was inspired by Colnaghi's exhibition "Objects for a
Wunderkammer" to explore the history of the Wunderkammer, or private
museum, and to document its circuitous progress from haphazard cabinet
of antiquities and objects of wonder to the more extravagant cabinet
of objets de virtu to meet the appetite of a baroque prince, and its
transformation into a public museum. She assembled a core collection of
16th and 17th century source books in conjunction with myself, and Paul
Grinke catalogued them with learning and wit ("Clearly everyone wanted
an Egyptian mummy, a Mexican idol and a Greenland kayak, the blue
chips of the curieux, but most collectors had to settle for a piece of
bitumenised criminal, a late Roman inscription or an Egyptian scarab").

It was a pioneer catalogue in a field now much studied, and originally
issued in very small numbers, it was reprinted in 2006 with additions
and further illustrations. A second reprint will appear later this
year. The books themselves were purchased en bloc by the Getty Museum
in California.

Diana never succumbed to collecting herself but she enjoyed aiding and
abetting Manoug in a 30-year pursuit of Armenian printed books from
the 16th to the 19th century. On his death in 1987 he bequeathed the
collection to Eton College Library. Diana always used the Armenian
alphabet for the cost-coding of her books, something that may baffle
the provenance detectives of the future but will stand as a hallmark of
books of distinction in libraries the world over. Her living legacy is
the band of present-day booksellers and librarians whom she fostered
by friendship, hospitality and example.

Diana Margaret Carbutt, antiquarian bookseller: born London 20 October
1926; married firstly Neville Marriner (one son, one daughter),
1957 Manoug Parikian (died 1987; two sons); died 3 April 2012.