Thoughts on lettering

In honour of a decade: number 3

This post is a tribute to the still remaining bookstores that offer the opportunity to browse and chance across gems of literature. I wrote this blog six years ago and it is even more relevant now.

Computer and books
Past and present

For example, only a few days ago I was in a local town, with 30 minutes up my sleeve. I see a couple walking down the pathway clutching some books. This is a Sunday and I think, Where did they come by those? It doesn’t take long for a recollection of a secondhand bookseller nearby to come to light; even less for me to make my way to the store.

It’s 2.30pm and the store is empty – aside from the owner talking with someone she knows. They continue talking while I browse – all sorts of stuff but mainly about a washing machine that’s on its last legs and the owner is wondering whether to buy another or get someone in to repair. A question of economics basically.

All this I’m hearing as I continue my search of the stacks. Nothing. Nothing. Then. I come across two books within a few feet of one another – They are: Portraits from Serbia and The Surgeon of Crowthorne. Why is this remarkable? The first because I’m researching a novel based on the events of 1999 – 2004; the second because I am about to see the movie based on the book, now titled The Madman and the Professor.¬†

This is why bookstores, secondhand ones, are so important. They throw up opportunities and chances denied the online stores, where everything is attainable with the click of a key.

Long live the book and long live the bookstore.


Thoughts on lettering

‘Paragraphs on Printing’ and the demise of the secondhand bookshop

Last week I chanced across a first edition of Rogers’s Paragraphs on Printing¬†at a secondhand bookstore in Sydney, Australia. paragraphs aThis was a wonderful discovery, though I was impressed at the size and range of books on printing, typography and bibliography at this shop.

I have had a Dover reprint of this book for many years so was familiar with the contents but the ‘real deal’ was a delight to hold and handle. As I took the book home with me I wondered how long it had remained in this store, how long had it been since it had seen sunlight on its covers. I reflected that I was liberating the book from its imprisonment, giving it a new lease. However, this particular store is not long for this place. It is closing, and all books there were at half the price that had been carefully inscribed in a 2B pencil on the flyleaf. (I’ll let you into a secret – the original price for Rogers was 100 Australian dollars.)

My delight at finding this volume was tempered later by the realisation that yet another secondhand bookshop is going, in this case the owner is taking the contents online. Now, I may be old-fashioned but browsing a bookshop, let alone one that sells a pot-pourri of books just ain’t the same online. I love the randomness of secondhand stores, the fact that despite the efforts of the staff to place their charges in some order you yet may stumble upon a curiosity, a treasure, something that you’d never find elsewhere in this ordered, well-mannered world.

paragraphs bLet us support our secondhand bookshops, let us open new ones, let us let others know our enthusiasms for this remnant of a milder time.