Friday, 24 June 2011

The not so glamorous life of a used book dealer

A post on Facebook by Jane from Jane Badger books set me thinking about the whole process of buying second hand books.

Jane recounted her experiences of buying ‘lovely new stock in a cold windy car park in Oxfordshire’ and I found myself nodding my head in agreement and thinking about the number of times I’ve done the same kind of thing.

I sometimes think we book sellers are completely mad making these kinds of arrangements but the thrill of not knowing what’s going to emerge from the boot of a car (trailer, horse box, motorbike pannier, barn, greenhouse!) makes it irresistible. Still after one or two ‘strange encounters of the bookish kind’ I decided it was probably better not to go alone so in recent times my long suffering husband has accompanied me on book buying trips.

I've lost count of the number of damp basements, drafty sheds and out of the way garages we’ve visited over the years but to counter that we’ve also met numerous kind and considerate people who have invited us into their homes and provided us with comfy chairs and cups of tea.  Last week saw us visiting one of these kind and considerate sellers, her home was a beautiful four story affair in the middle of a large city. She was waiting for us when we arrived and immediately offered us a drink (of the non alcoholic variety) and set about making us welcome. Once the introductions were over she invited us to take a look at the books on offer “I’m afraid it’s a bit of a climb” she said “as the books are in the attic” 

This is always a moment we dread, but this time it was going to be so much worse, not only a steep ascent into a dark and no doubt spider infested attic but four flights of stairs to climb  – and more importantly four flights of stairs and a ladder to get the books down. Oh joy of joys! So imagine our delight on finding a beautifully converted attic bedroom with amazing views across the city and books neatly arranged on shelves and in boxes. We spent a very enjoyable hour browsing and chatting and came home with some nice stock and good memories of a day well spent. 

Update July 2016; March House Books closed on my retirement in 2016, but I continue to blog here at March of Time Books.  Jane Badger is also a book blogger, and you will find her at Books mud and compost.

12 comments:

  1. What a great post! I feel like I was there with you. And I have to say this sort of reminds me of my grandparent's house. I once had the opportunity to go through all the books in their attic bedroom and I found some great ones. I'm glad it was a success trip for you.

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  2. barbaraannefisher25 June 2011 at 07:09

    I like the sound of your grandparent's house! My gran had very few books as she preferred magazines. I loved visiting as she always gave me a pile of magazines and a pair of scissors and I would spend the day scrapbooking.

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  3. Brilliant blog! I love buying second hand books - and it's reminded me to recycle some of my old ones too...

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  4. barbaraannefisher25 June 2011 at 19:10

    Thank you! Much more fun buying second-hand as you just never know what you might find.

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  5. I love buying second hand books. I just don't do it often enough. You have inspired me to go out and search for books.
    Isabella
    http://bookgardenreviews.blogspot.com/

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  6. barbaraannefisher1 July 2011 at 20:57

    Hello Isabella, I hope you find some wonderful things on your next second-hand-book buying trip. I think that's the nicest thing about it - you just never know what you might come home with.

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  7. I too always take husband along on book buying trips. He is very handy at lifting boxes! What amazes me, buying academic books, is the most modest unprepossessing house can have an unrivalled collection in someone's specialist area hiding inside. From the outside you'd never know the level of care, time and expertise spent building up a fascinating collection hidden within.

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  8. barbaraannefisher15 June 2012 at 18:48

    Hi Catherine, we’ve found the exact same thing. I guess it’s the same as not judging a book by the cover – the outside of someone’s home really has little relationship to what might be inside. Thanks so much for calling in and leaving a comment.

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  9. Loved your experience.... kudos to all the old book sellers and buyers!

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    1. Thank you Kokila, glad you enjoyed it. Barbara

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  10. OMG, this brings back memories from when I was a bookseller. So many adventures! And so many treasures found in the most unlikely places....Fortunately I was young then and always ready for the adventure. Now I prefer being a collector in the secondhand bookshops I still find (sadly disappearing).

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    1. Hello Colleen, I know exactly what you mean about treasures found in the most unlikely places. I like going into a shop with piles of books all over the place, most with a sprinkling of dust, which makes me think they've not been disturbed for a good long time. Most second hand bookshops used to be like that, these days they’ve all been sanitized.

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Barbara xx

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