There’s something about antique and second-hand bookshops that really appeal to me. I love the haphazard lines, the irregularity and the chance of finding a real gem of a book! I have filled what amounts to several bookshelves worth of books with acquisitions from such stores.
Yesterday, on my travels, I came across a second-hand bookshop in Keswick and began exploring their history section.
In amongst the usual finds of histories of the Victorians, both of the twentieth century’s World Wars and accounts of the English Civil War of the seventeenth century, I found an oversized illustrated biography of King Edward VII: Edward VII his Life and Times Vol. 1, published in 1910, the year of his death. It had been edited by Sir Richard Holmes librarian at Windsor Castle 1870 – 1906, so I can expect accuracy of factual data – maybe from the Court Circular, and a certain amount of bias as the author was an employee of the royal family. Priced at £5, it was as if it had my name written on it. It was heavy and I carried it around the shop like a baby on my hip.
Completely contrasting in size was an almost pocket-sized book I spotted when I reached the cash desk. In a box with other similar sized books, on its side, with only its spine on view, was The Loss of the Titanic by Lawrence Beesley. The author’s name immediately grabbed my attention, for I recognised it. He was a survivor of the Titanic disaster. This book was £20, but I was prepared to pay to have a survivor’s account of the sinking of the Titanic in my library.
I then visited the local Oxfam shop and bought Prison Letters of Countess Markievicz for £2.50. Countess Constance Markievicz was the first female MP elected to the House of Commons in London, however, as an Irish Republican, she refused to take her seat. She was eventually jailed for her part in the Easter Uprising of 1916.
I buy books from second-hand stores when I’m travelling as souvenirs of a place I’ve visited. I much prefer this than buying knick-knacks that look cheap and nasty and I don’t really need. However, I always need a new book for my collection!
Images author’s own.