Trivial pursuit

June 9, 2011

I've never before - in 40-odd years of writing books - asked for the right of reply to a review, but I feel I have to in the case of James Stevens Curl's extraordinary notice of The Battle of the Styles: Society, Culture and the Design of a New Foreign Office, 1855-1861 (Books, 2 June).

My book considers the debate that raged around the style of the new Foreign Office in the 1850s, setting that in its wider social and cultural context. Curl says nothing about this, on the grounds that errors in the early, architectural part of the book are bound to undermine confidence in the rest.

Those errors (in toto, apart from one that I dispute) are these: that I've missed the entry of one obscure architect in a contemporary dictionary; that I've mistakenly given the 18th-century Bavarian architect Balthasar Neumann a brother; and that I've left the "s" off Curl's second name.

In an email to me he says he finds that omission to be "grossly discourteous". I wish I had a pound for every time I've been cited as "Potter" without taking offence; and would be happy to forfeit a pound for any error in any of my books, if they were all as few and as trivial as these.

Bernard Porter, Stockholm

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