This week’s bookshop spot is a pretty stupendous one if I do say so myself! You probably wouldn’t associate chain bookshops with antiquarian titles, but this bookcase of joy has just appeared in one such store in my nearby city of Canterbury.
I sometimes wonder why, in this age where vintage pretty much everything has become fashionable and desirable, old things are so often considered to be inherently superior to new. I have a perfectly serviceable edition of “Pride and Prejudice” on my shelf at home, so why should I feel the need to purchase another copy to go alongside it simply by virtue of the fact that it’s seventy years older? Maybe it’s as straightforward as nostalgia; anything that leads us to reflect on a vanished era – even if it predates our own memories – can bring about a sense of wistful peace. Having a book in your hands provides an instant escape route into the world of imagination, a mental space that widens exponentially when you’re holding something a multitude of hands have held before you over the decades. I often think about who might have owned the book originally and how it’s come to be where it is now; there’s something particularly poignant about finding dedications written in archaic hand on the frontspiece.
Whatever the reason, our love affair with the past will probably exist as long as humans continue to live and breathe. My own love affair with this particular second hand book section will no doubt be fuelled by a series of more-frequent-than-is-sensible breathless encounters, as I struggle between the desire for book-buying gratification and the need to eat. I was incredibly restrained today and limited myself to one book: a relatively plain but undeniably elegant slipcase edition of Hardy’s “Wessex Tales”. Having got home with it and started wondering how it fitted in with my bookcase aesthetic I’m now sorely tempted to begin building my own antiquarian collection. Watch this space.