Lovely morning – the sun sparkling on the wintry downs as I puff up the hill from the station to the centre of Lewes.
Something of a treat to find an attractive country town with two proper bookshops right there on the High Street. First stop at the Bow Windows Book Shop to see how young Ric Latham and Jonathan Menezes are getting on after taking over the business and their first full year in charge.
They seem happy and cheerful – the shop neat and tidy, interesting books all around – the packing table in use – people wandering in offering them more stock. All seems well – and good luck to them.
Too few young booksellers prepared to take on a high-street shop – and, as we all know, it is shops that create the collectors of the future, not the narrow windows of bookfairs or the internet.
After a few purchases and some general chat I move up on the road to see Andrew and Yasmine Cumming (A. & Y. Cumming). Established in 1976 – and so solidly established too. An enviable depth and reserve of stock built up over the years. Trawl around the open shop and pick off some very keenly priced modern material – and then to the serious books not immediately visible. Can’t resist first editions of George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss and Thomas Hardy’s Hand of Ethelberta– the pile steadily grows.
Catch a glimpse of Ron Chapman (Tindley & Chapman) on what is evidently a regular buying trip. Add a copy of Karel Čapek‘s extraordinary satire War with the Newtsto the pile
– the first translation into English with its delightful 1937 dust-jacket. Turning into a successful day. Settle up – take some pictures.
Run into Ron Chapman again as we share a train onwards to Brighton. We discuss what we have bought and not bought – he’d resisted the Čapek on the grounds that he’d once seen an even better copy in the jacket. I’d not been able to resist it on the grounds I hadn’t.
So much of this is about memory and experience – no substitute for it. And that leads on to a discussion of how long we hold on to our books before putting them up on to the internet. Some considerable time in some cases, which takes us on to an interesting truth – that many of the best books that turn up don’t ever appear on the net. You need to get out and about. He comes to Brighton once a month.
I give him a head start by stopping for a sandwich as we arrive – but soon catch him up in John Loska’s shop in Duke Street (Colin Page Antiquarian Books) – a shop which had been talked up to me by a long-experienced colleague only the other day as one of the best places to buy in the whole country. And so it proves.
Yet again a depth and richness of stock underlining years of continuity and effort. The books piled high – something for everyone here. Additional store-rooms in the yard behind. Crates of fresh arrivals awaiting unpacking. A happy hour building another little pile of purchases. A very good day all round – good books, good company all day – and Anne joins me in Brighton for the evening to attend one of our oldest friend’s sixtieth birthday party.