Late Autumn Light

I own almost every book written by John Lukacs—close to 40 now—and several in multiple editions, but never before have I spent so much time contemplating the cover of one of these volumes.  It’s not simply that the jacket, designed by Sam Torode, is attractive, a model of simplicity and elegance: It seems significant.  A black background frames a chair and a simple wooden desk with a green blotter, in front of a bright window looking out at an even brighter arbor covered with vines, a hint of red and yellow in their leaves that may be a harbinger of fall, yet enough light green that it might also be spring.  It is early in the day, but the sun, bright and white on the window frame, penetrates no farther into the room than the sill.  The front of the desk and the back of the chair are lost in shadow.  The desk itself, though, seems to glow gently with its own light.

Nowhere in History and the Human Condition is the image explained, but those who have had the privilege of visiting America’s greatest living historian in his home will recognize it immediately.  This is the desk where John Lukacs writes, in the library that he designed, in the house that he built 30 years ago.  Outside the window, the landscape, too, is a product of his imagination and effort, a living symbol of the human creativity and historical consciousness that have...

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