Thursday, 25 September 2008

Bookstores Around the World - Spadina Road Books, in my own back yard. . .

While I try to support independent brick and mortar stores when buying new books, there' s nothing like the internet for finding rare and out of print books. Still, it's nice to occasionally browse a new (to me, that is) used bookstore. I had received an online catalogue via e-mail from Spadina Road Books and phoned them up to inquire about a book that intrigued me. Since I was in the area, I dropped by today during my lunch hour. They have a very nice fiction section and a whole bookcase devoted to books about publishing - many of them from the period of this blog's focus. I have a small collection of these and am always looking to add to it. The books have been well taken care of; protective covers envelope most of the dust jackets. I also love a bookseller with a sense of humour. Here's how the store describes a 1957 edition of George Moore's letters to Lady Cunard in very poor condition. I love the final selling line.

Ex-library copy. Boards and endpapers have extensive adhesive stains from where the dustjacket had been taped down. Library stamp on the copyright page, circulation card on rear free endpaper, circulation pocket on rear pastedown. The dustjacket has complementary adhesive stains along the flap edges, rear flap is mostly missing, dustjacket is rubbed and edgeworn and there is a location label on spine. In spite of the wear to the dustjacket and boards, the text is clean and intact, of course, since according to the date due slip, this book was never once taken out of the library. Worth owning as an exemplar of the librarian's destructive craft and the lack of interest on the part of the reading public.
Nope, wasn't tempted. But you can't blame them for trying. And it did give me the best laugh of the day.

Of course the sign of a good bookstore is when one goes in with the intention of picking up one specific book and comes out with five instead. My target book was a tiny collection of letters from the publisher Martin Secker to D. H. Lawrence from 1911-1929. But I also picked up Publishers on Publishing, a 1961 anthology edited by Gerald Gross; a reprint of John Middleton Murray's 1936 collection of essays on Shakespeare; a Modern Library edition of e.e. cumming's amazing WWI novel The Enormous Room; and The Lost Library: The Autobiography of a Culture by Walter Mehring which looks to be a fascinating read. From the jacket flap copy:

The Lost Library of the title is that body of books which bade fair, up to the fatal year of 1914, to stand as the bulwark of a permanent, ever-growing tradition of enlightenment and progress. . . Mr. Mehring has built the tragic history of Western culture upon a semi-narrative framework, as the refugee narrator reassembles the books of his father's library after receiving them in exile. . .as book after book is unpacked and re-examined, it seems as though the story of the last hundred years in Europe, as revealed in its literary history, were retelling itself.

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