Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bookhunting in London - Part 1, Jarndyce

As a shiny new bookseller, I imagined myself finding wonderful books in old, musty bookshops whilst in London. Why not, since I've been bookhunting all my life? The reality, though, was that I had limited funds, had heard that shipping a box home could be enormous, and my bags were already stuffed, with the airlines huffing about strict luggage rules. I had the addresses of several shops near Charing Cross Road, but couldn't decide whether or not I would spend one of my precious days shopping, considering the aforementioned limitations.

I happened to see a bookshop across from the British Museum, near my hotel. Since it was so close, I decided to stop in on my way back to the room. Jarndyce Booksellers specializes in 19th-century literature. I quickly decided the books were out of my price range, but it's a lovely shop. I could tell they've been in business a long time because of the condition of the books — no missing spines, no worn bindings here. Imagine how long it took to find and acquire them all!

I introduced myself, and the proprietress kindly loaded me up with catalogs. Their catalogs look like books themselves, and they print 5 or 6 a year! An interesting side note: Jarndyce gets most of their business through their catalogs and mailing list. Then they list books on the internet.

As much as I love books and being around them, especially old books, I felt a bit discouraged because such a great collection of antiques seems so far out of my league. My shop, Tannery Books, is a general used book shop with just a few antiques. Although I want to learn about antiquaria and grow that part of my business, I'm consoled by the fact that anybody can walk in my shop and find something affordable. And I decided to keep it that way.

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