The Beccles Bus



A few days away by the sea with family and friends.  Intended as a complete break rather than anything else – but scope for the odd excursion.  Investigation at the town bus-stop (and friendly assistance from those awaiting expectantly there) produced  the sparing but hopeful information that there might be an occasional bus to Beccles (although no-one appeared to have any direct experience of it).  But – hey presto, eventually one turned up.  A slow cross-country route down narrow lanes.  Just a handful of passengers joined en route – and not one of them young enough to have pay for a ticket.  Average age seemed to be about ninety-three.  Those that could, touched themselves on board with their electronic passes – while the driver cheerfully helped out those that didn’t know how or could no longer manage.

Besley's Books

Besleys Books

And at last we arrive in the very pleasant and slightly sleepy Suffolk market town of Beccles.  And the sun comes out.  Time enough for a late-ish breakfast and then I wander along to Besleys Books in Blyburgate.

Piers Besley

Piers Besley

Piers and Stephen Besley both on parade – and delighted to see me making good on a promise to get round the country.  A proper shop – four rooms of books – general antiquarian, gardening and natural history, illustrated books, the arts and a smattering of most other things besides.  Nothing overpriced. Swoop immediately on such a pretty set of James Sargant Storer’s Antiquarian Itinerary (1815-1818). Have a cup of coffee and a chat with

Stephen Besley

Stephen Besley

Stephen on his earlier career as a computer programmer – not such an out-of-the-way preparation for running a bookshop these days.  Also the economics of book-fairs.  Leave him to some customers and wander around from room to room – the pile grows.  Delighted with the former Ipswich Public Library copy of the first edition of Trollope’s The Duke’s Children (1880) – not a prepossessing copy, to be sure – but this was just how Ipswich read it, just how it was meant to be read, misbound section notwithstanding  – and it’s one of his best.  A Michael Arlen (unjustly neglected these days) in a fabulous twenties dust-jacket.  Just as happy when the parcel arrived a few days later.  Thank you both for an enjoyable hour.

Back to the pretty Old Market Place to find a bus back to the coast.  Perfect timing – they appear to be precisely the same passengers on the trip back (or perhaps some of them never got off).  Manage to link up with family and some very old friends for a jolly evening.  A splendid day.

About Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

Laurence Worms has owned and run Ash Rare Books since 1971. He represented the antiquarian book trade on the (British) National Book Committee from 1993 to 2002 and has been six times an elected member of the Council of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association. He was largely responsible for drafting the Association’s Code of Good Practice first introduced in 1997 (and its recent update), served as Honorary Secretary of the Association from 1998 to 2001 and as President from 2011 to 2013. He is a former member of the Council of the Bibliographical Society and continues to serve on the Council of the London Topographical Society. He writes and lectures on various aspects of the history of the book and map trades, and has lectured at the universities of Cambridge, London, Reading and Sheffield, as well as at the Bibliographical Society, the Royal Geographical Society, the Warburg Institute, the National Library of Scotland and at Gresham College and Stationers' Hall. Published work includes the compilation of fourteen ‘lives’ for the “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography”, a number of articles for “The Oxford Companion to the Book” and the chapter on early English maps and atlases for the fourth volume of “The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain”. Essays on the British map trade are also appearing in “The History of Cartography” published by the University of Chicago Press. His long-awaited “British Map Engravers”, co-written with Ashley Baynton-Williams, was published to critical acclaim in 2011. He also contributed the numerous biographical notes to Peter Barber’s hugely successful “London : A History in Maps”, co-published by the British Library and the London Topographical Society in 2012.
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