Magazine article The Spectator

London's Secondhand Bookshops H A Y W O O D

Magazine article The Spectator

London's Secondhand Bookshops H A Y W O O D

Article excerpt


fter seeing the Dalai Lama receive an award at St Paul's Cathedral, I thought I'd look in at some secondhand bookshops around the British Museum on my walk home. They had all gone.

Gone the neat shop in Museum Street where I bought David Knowles's Great Historical Enterprises ; gone the untidy shop in Coptic Street where I first bought a Cresset Press edition of Hogg's Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner . Gone the smart end of the market, Frew Mackenzie (next to Cornelissen the artists' colourmen) where two big folios of the beastly Bishop Burnet's History of His Own Time , 1723, 1734, chipped at spine ends, was the equivalent of the bargain box. Gone Bondy Books, home of miniature books (less than 3in tall), on which the proprietor, Louis Bondy, had written a rather larger volume. Blame the online Abebooks for all this if you like, or blame us who use it.

Almost alone in those parts remains Jarndyce, at 46 Great Russell Street since 1986, run by the agreeable Janet Nassau and Brian Lake, whose interest in books with strange titles engendered his own Fish Who Answer the Telephone, and other Bizarre Books (such as The Common Teasle as a Carnivorous Plant , 1922;

Briefs Calmly Considered by 'A Layman' , 1826;

The Big Problem of Small Organs, 1966; The Romance of Leprosy, 1949; and so on). The speciality of Jarndyce is 19th-century books, but I once rejoiced to find there a copy of A Complete Vindication of the Mallard of All-Soul's College, 1751. …

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