The last few days largely spent in delivering copies of ‘British Map Engravers’. But a good excuse to go and see some bookselling friends at the same time. John Randall (Books of Asia) with some interesting thoughts on the internet, websites, the manipulation of non-information on Google, etc. – and his extraordinary stock of some 70,000 books stored in warehouses on the south coast. It is something I have often thought – that the specialists in the book-trade tend, by and large, to do better in the long run than their more generalist counterparts. A matter of name and focus, I imagine.
A convivial lunch with some old book-trade friends – Brian Lake (Jarndyce) – the vice-president; Angus O’Neill (Omega Bookshop); Ken Fuller (Marchpane); Jolyon Hudson (Pickering & Chatto), and Tim Bryars of Cecil Court. All ABA stalwarts – and full of good cheer, highly improbable and wholly unrepeatable gossip, and a certain cautious optimism about the future. An optimism shared by Peter Ellis with whom I had a chat in the steet later in the day.
And this morning I dropped in on two past-presidents in Kensington – Robert Frew and Adrian Harrington. Stylish, impressively-stocked and energetically-run establishments both. Robert and I both puzzled that we don’t (by and large – there are some notable and honourable exceptions) see shops like this in other major UK cities – at least not any more. How large does a city have to be to support a top-end bookseller? And if it’s not a matter of size, what are the criteria? What is the real reason there are no ABA members in central Birmingham, Coventry, Derby, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, Sheffield and countless others? Have we simply given up too easily on the High Street shop? Or have we – as a trade – become a little too precious?