Suburban (2)

Still tinged with disappointment at the very modest haul of books from the Midlands (although we did very much enjoy Birmingham itself), I set off to see what my native West London had to offer.  First stop was the Ealing Bookshop near South Ealing Station.  My father used to have an office just a few yards from here, so familiar terrain.

A pleasant and friendly small shop – strictly second-hand, rather than antiquarian, rare and fine – but a shop full of books you might want to own or read, the books all clean and very modestly priced.  I picked up a copy of Aubrey Burl’s Rings of Stone (1979) – a book which by chance had been highly recommended in another book I’ve just been reading – wonderfully evocative photographs by Edward Piper of fifty of Britain’s endless number of prehistoric stone circles.  First edition, hardback, dust-jacket – all for £3.99 – and this rather illustrates the problems of the second-hand book-market.  This is an interesting, well-written, attractive, well-made and well-illustrated book which anyone would have been happy to pay £20 or £30 for twenty years ago – it has to be worth that simply in terms of production:  there are still people asking that and more on the internet, but a lot asking a lot less – £5 the cheapest I found.  It would cost more than that to post.  There simply is no value any more in books at this end of the spectrum.

I also found a first edition of a newish novel by a favourite author that I’d somehow missed when it came out – almost as new and priced at a third of the published price.  Couple of other things I fancied reading.  Total expenditure £15.99 – can’t complain.  But still no books that I would be in any way hopeful of re-selling at a profit.

Foster's BookshopOn to a place where I know will find something:  Foster’s Bookshop on Chiswick High Road.  I’ve blogged about this shop before, almost exactly a year ago, but I make no apology.  I said then that this is “the sort of shop every high street should have – crammed with goodness, books you would like to own in every corner” – and so it is.  I can’t imagine the amount of effort that must go into making a suburban high street shop like this survive and prosper, when so many others have failed.  But it does.  No sign of Stephen Foster, but his brother was there – not Paul Foster, whom we all know and has a separate business – but a third brother in Peter Foster, whom I had not met before.

Peter Foster

Peter Foster

The shop slightly dislocated by a recent film-crew, but I quickly scooped up half a dozen good things.  There were many more which took my eye, but all of them too accurately, precisely, and fairly priced to leave scope for a little bit of profit for me – but these things are sometimes a matter of perception, winnowing and spotting a little bit extra to research.  I could see a little bit more to made on a signed and inscribed Ted Hughes – here it’s a matter of how significant the inscription is and there can be more than one opinion about that.  I could see a touch more to be made on a Raymond Chandler and possibly more still on a sparkling Somerville & Ross (it’s a book with a not widely known issue-point and it simply doesn’t turn up this bright).  Foster's InteriorWho knows what on an undated children’s book in a curious and lovely padded fabric binding unlike anything I’ve seen before, which also has one of the least politically correct illustrations I’ve seen in a very long while (I’m not even going to illustrate it).  Then there was a Confucius – the pre-war Lin Yutang translation in a sweet, sweet, binding (pink calf, with white morocco discs up the spine) – a couple of other things.  Well satisfied with my haul.  And there are plenty of books still there for you to go and buy and enjoy.

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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1 Response to Suburban (2)

  1. John says:

    All very well and good but was there any Blake there???

    Another great post — people will look back at your Safaris one day as one of the very few accounts of book scouting in our time. I hope you collect them into a book some day.


    I am unavailable at this time. Please call or text (415) 244-8256


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