Introducing Martin Davies
by Emily Kaufman
friends and welcome once again to the history page. This week our topic is not
an historical event, but rather a one-man institution by the name of Martin Davies.
Many of our regular readers are already familiar with Davies's encyclopaedic knowledge
of history, literature, art, architecture and culture in all of its manifestations.
This intellectual maven is our trouble-shooter here at Ibiza History Culture, and,
when faced with difficult queries from readers, we automatically pass them on
All About Martin
of Davies's most endearing habits is that he always brings a bag of books with
him whenever he calls round to someone's house or office. Not a carrier bag, mind
- a sports bag, full of rare volumes, magazines, Internet print-outs, photographs
and sundry study materials - all thoughtfully provided for the delight and erudition
of his hosts. Once, at a party, he made me wash my hands before allowing me handle
a particular art book. It was a limited edition as well as a personal gift to
him from London's V&A Library, making the volume doubly valuable. His precaution
was understandable, for the book's cover was bound with pure silk and its pages
were of such an extraordinary creamy quality that any stray mark would have defiled
Like Erasmus, Davies spends most of his salary on books.
If there is anything leftover, he buys food. Not surprisingly, he is quite thin,
as any book is game for his biblomania. He is just as likely to buy a children's
book as he is to buy an in-depth treatise on ancient pagan religion. He recently
bought the Usborne's Book of World History (miniature edition), despite
the fact that he read history at Oxford. "It's quite a well done book,"
he explains, justifying the whim.
Any book that strikes
Davies as well-made, well-thought out or well-presented will sooner or later end
up on the shelves of his well-stocked library. A single book-buying spree may
see him emerging from the shop, bleary-eyed, with a mind-bending (and perhaps
'spine-bending') selection of tomes ranging from maps of ancient sea-routes to
the great works of Rumanian literature. The purchase might also include a few
translations of books he already possesses - simply to compare the use of language.
A self-help book would probably be tossed in - something along the lines of Ten
Keys to Better Punctuation - while The Life and Works of Mozart would
comprise his racy weekend reading.
What elevates a person to such lofty realms?
The answer, if there is one, probably lies in Davies's childhood. By the age of
ten, he had already lived in three different hemispheres of the globe. Born normally
enough into a British family in Liverpool, Martin was taken to live in Fiji at
the impressionable age of six. His father was a civil engineer whose services
were in great demand in several of the British spheres of influence. After three
exotic years in the New Hebrides, the family of six returned to Britain (Wales
this time) for a six month stint, and then relocated, once again, to Guyana on
the northern coast of South America. Martin spent two years there, excelling at
school without really meaning to, until the age of eleven, when his parents sent
him to St. Chad's prep school in the UK. As a prepubescent child, he was traumatized,
but did not let that stand in the way of his continuing academic excellence. From
St. Chad's he went on to Shrewsbury public school and, finally, to Oxford University,
where, as mentioned earlier, he read history.
of the Student as a Young Man
By the age of 21, Davies
had finished his formal education, but was still undecided as to what career path
to follow. He had been awarded a scholarship to do a Masters in Computer Science
at Newcastle University, but dropped out after only one month. He realized that
computers, while fascinating objects, were not the real love of his life, and
found himself, instead, spending all of his free time at the library researching
Romanesque architecture. This new interest had been sparked by a recent six-month
stint in Germany to sharpen his language skills. But, what really happened (or
I should say also happened) is that Davies fell in love with Minden Cathedral,
one of Europe's most stunning works of Romanesque architecture.
realized that, in order to pursue the highways and byways of his intellectual
yearnings, he should spend every day in a library. The idea struck like lightning:
he could study to be a librarian. Without further ado, he enrolled in a librarianship
course at the Newcastle Polytechnic, and upon receiving his degree, landed a job
at the V&A Library in London (a division of the museum of the same name).
During this time, he was able to use and peruse the library to his heart's content,
a happy circumstance that gave birth to his first published work, Romanesque
Architecture: A Bibliography.
Carried on the Wings
At the age of 33, passion struck. Davies met
his future partner, an Ibicenco hairdresser who was vacationing in London, and,
a year later, he came to live on the White Island permanently. Since then, he
has continued in his characteristic line of writing and research, publishing in
2000 the best-selling photography anthology, Eivissa-Ibiza: One Hundred Years
of Light and Shade. He has also contributed to many local publications and
is currently preparing, among other projects, a translation of a Norwegian travel
log about Ibiza, The Road to San Vicente.
last note to set the record straight: although he is not the partying kind, Davies
has tested out the island's legendary nightlife on more than one occasion (two
to be exact), and enthusiastically upholds Ibiza's clubs as the best in the world.
"With a mere two visits I have satisfied my clubbing needs for life!"
he often quips.
is much more to say about Martin Davies, but I will bring my account to a close
for this time. My aim was merely to acquaint the readership with this fascinating
personality, as he will be taking over for me during the next five weeks. I leave
you, then, in the capable hands of this vigorous researcher for a refreshing change
of pace. Davies has decided to devote his articles to books (what else?) that
have been written about Ibiza during the course of the previous century. Enjoy!