Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bookhunting in London — Part 3, Charing Cross and Cecil Court (Updated)

With no other plans for the afternoon, I decided to look for Cecil Court and its many bookshops. My map took me down Charing Cross Road. Having just read 84, Charing Cross Road, I had to look for the address. Not all of the businesses were numbered, but as best I could figure out, the famous address now belongs to a Pizza Hut.

I took a picture of this interesting clock in case I get the chance to compare it with any images of the legendary bookshop.

UPDATE: I wish I'd known the name of the restaurant to look for, and that there's a brass plaque commemorating the bookstore site. It was apparently on another corner of this large Cambridge Circus intersection. Both Pizza Hut and "Med Kitchen" (the restaurant on the former site) use intersecting streets, not Charing Cross Road, in their addresses. I'm still a little confused, because the business next to Pizza Hut was 82 or 80 with numbers going down (and in the 90s across the street), and Google maps says the address 84 is in the middle of the intersection. Anyway, here's a great site with photos of Marks & Co. 

What I didn't realize was there were many other bookshops along Charing Cross Road, before I even got to Cecil Court. I went into the first one. The young man behind the counter never greeted me.

I found a couple of books full of photos from movies (1946 and 1953), with lots of famous stars when they were young. I bought them after touring the downstairs. I didn't bother to ask for a discount, because the man seemed so unfriendly and the prices were already very reasonable.

There was another bookstore right next door! We don't have any used bookstores in our town, much less antiquaria or even vintage (that is, before I opened my own shop in March). And here I seemed to be surrounded. I made myself just window shop, keeping in mind my already-full luggage and tight budget (see previous posts, part 1 and part 2). But at the next one, I just had to go in.

Henry Pordes Books had shelves filled with books up to the ceiling, and old and new books mixed together by subject. When I found a side room with a great selection of British and Irish history, I sat down on the floor for some serious searching. I ended up with a lovely illustrated history of old Edinburgh (research for my future novels).

So far, I'd entered three shops today, bought books at all three, and I hadn't even reached Cecil Court! When I did, I was stunned to find an entire street of bookshops.
Cecil Court
Unsworth's had been on my list before I set out, since they specialize in history. I was very tempted by one book — I've been looking for social history on 17th-century Ireland for two years — but I realized that it was only about the nobility, and tore myself away. It's not the bookseller's fault that his shop was farther down my street of temptation.

Oh, and guess what surprise awaited me at the other end of Cecil Court?

A Quaker meetinghouse.

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