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.
On 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.
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). Who 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.
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