A painful entry into Ipswich the other day as the car slammed into a pothole in one of the building-site car-parks on the fringes of the town centre. Shriek of anguish from the president as his always suspect back went into spasm. Needed a sit-down, a cup of coffee and a healthy dose of pain-killers before heading on to the entirely splendid Claude Cox Old & Rare Books in Silent Street.
Very disappointed to miss Tony Cox who was elsewhere on Easter Saturday – my fault for not planning ahead properly, but this was after all primarily holiday rather than a buying trip. The First Lady left me to explore the multiple rooms of this ancient house while she went shopping for our Easter Sunday family lunch. The shop packed to the rafters with all manner of interesting things.
Lots of private press and art of the book material of course – typography, bibliography, printing history – this has long been the place to come to for that, and generous amounts of local history too, as well as a deeply impressive array of the publications of William Pickering.
But so much else besides. A first edition of Coriolanus takes my eye – not the Shakespeare version but the other one – that produced by James “Seasons” Thomson at the time of the internecine Jacobite rising. A great success in the eighteenth century and often welded together with scenes from Shakespeare in contemporary performance. Very happy to buy that – and, hey presto, what’s on the same shelf but a contemporary eye-witness account of the Jacobite rising by “An Impartial Hand”. That too is added to the pile. Anne has by now returned, wards off a local dog taking too keen an interest in our potential Sunday lunch – and adds a couple of books to the pile herself. A fruitful hour at very modest expense.
Still in considerable pain from the back, so the remainder of plans for the day are curtailed, but we do detour to Harwich as we head home for London. There we find Peter J. Hadley at Harwich Old Books in Market Street. A pleasant half-hour there – the mainly modern stock gleaming and in pristine condition all round. A purchase or two and an interesting conversation with Peter on the future of the trade, the difficulties we all face in this changing world.
An unusual thought from him on the cost of housing and the impact of young collectors necessarily living in considerably smaller accommodation than their parents were accustomed to – no room any more for the large old-fashioned collections – collecting will necessarily become more highly focussed – but he remains optimistic enough. Still a place for proper bookshops and for booksellers like him who do get out and about with energy looking for the material.
Enough for the day – I have to head home for a lie down.