Apprentice -- studying tinsmithery, Chongquing, China -- April 1983

Chongqing, 1983

September 29, 2006 | Comments (0)

Les Henokiens

Lemoine et Fils

In 1885, when Lemoine et fils, music publishers since 1772, published F.-A. Gevaert's Nouveau Traité d'Instrumentation (in which I found this inkstamp), they had been in business for over a century. How remarkable to find that, as Editions Henry Lemoine, the business remains alive and well and in the hands of the Lemoine family in the seventh generation.

I wonder how many family firms have enjoyed this kind of longevity? Perhaps a few dozen worldwide? Editions Henry Lemoine belongs to an exclusive association of long-lived family companies, members of which must fulfil four criteria: all are at least 200 years old, all are directed by descendants of the founder, the majority of their capital is in family hands, and their finances must be sound. The 38 members of this association call themselves Les Henokiens, a name inspired by the Old Testament patriarch Enoch (or Hénok), who was not merely long-lived but never died. Some are decidedly modern firms, in banking and finance, real estate development, and industry. Others are in more of a craft tradition, oriented to the carriage trade -- jewelers, gunsmiths, confectioners, vintners (one makes swords for induction ceremonies to the Académie Francaise).

I spent a fascinating evening looking at each of Les Henokiens. This kind of longevity, so unusual for a family business in the modern corporate environment, ought to be the object of some study. What kind of family traditions, business culture and practices are common to these superannuated firms? My interest here is not so much in business per se as in the transmission of values and traditions and practices perhaps not wholly in sync with the modern world.

September 14, 2006 | Comments (1)

that hover, wild and pale

Fragmentary Stars
      Léonie Adams [1899-1988]

So wide the wells of darkness sink,
These having their own light, that are lost with the light,
Appear immersed in mournfulness over the night,
Like things that in sleep will come to the mind's brink:
The bright Aldebaran, and seven that hover,
Seven wild and pale, clouding their brightness over,
And the flame that fell with summer, and the rose of stars returning,
Like tears piercing the sky;
Glittering without cause, for the piece of a legend,
Wept, I know not why.
O lovely and forgotten,
Gathered only of sleep,
All night upon the lids set burning,
Shaken from the lids at morning.

September 4, 2006 | Comments (0)