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Not Your Grandfather's Speech Anthology

Review of: Speeches of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Orations Deserving of a Wider Audience

384 pages (hardcover), published 2018 by Hutchinson/Penguin Random House

Has there ever been a speech anthology like this one?

I do not refer here to the distinct political slant of Speeches of Note. Of the 75 noteworthy addresses reproduced in Speeches of Note, many were delivered by activists of one type or another, as they sought to build support for particular causes at various times in history.

Nor do I mean the sheer variety of speakers who appear here. Speeches of Note’s cast includes artists and actors, scientists and philosophers, monarchs, elected officials—even Kermit the Frog. Many of the speeches reprinted here would likely not be otherwise obtainable by the average reader.

What I’m referring to is the book’s ambitious scale, and its impressive design and printing, which are of such high quality that it feels like a luxury good. In his introduction, Shaun Usher, the patient compiler behind Speeches of Note, calls his book “a lusciously produced roller-coaster ride.” He isn’t exaggerating; he may even be understating things.

Usher and his publishers at Hutchinson/Penguin Random House are to be congratulated on seeing this project through to completion. The outcome of their collaboration is a finished product that will be as useful and interesting to readers as it is lavishly illustrated.

Given the richness of its contents, Speeches of Note will for some readers likely become regular reference material—like the way one may habitually turn to a well-worn copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Other purchasers will proudly display this title as a coffee table book, paging through it after dinner or perhaps during a rainy day at home. Both types of buyers will appreciate Usher’s foresight in including a blue cloth bookmark as part of the book’s binding.

In short, this book represents one of those happy occasions that someone with a deep and sincere interest in speeches was fortunate enough to find a publisher willing to back his project with the appropriate resources. The result speaks for itself.

And may other publishers take careful note—beautiful words deserve to be presented beautifully.

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