Ex Libris Books. Book Chats. Rare Books. Rarer People. Books with Unusual Associations. Book Plates. Ephemera. Curiosa. AirBnB Lyme Regis. Booklovers B & B. Sanctuary Bookshop and some Lyme Regis Accommodation
Welcome to our new Book Chat site....click here.
Our latest discoveries.....
To make you think! Here's something on Baby Naming, Wystan Hugh Auden...and Spike Milligan on Epidemics!
And, for our weekly Bookshop Diary...please Click here. Updated: April 10th 2023.
And possibly, to chuckle over a joke with us....?
Want to learn the book trade? Why not run our bookshop for a day, a weekend, or even a week..? Click here.
Chats on Rare Books, Rarer People, Chancers, & Some General Book Related Topics.All the entries here were first written up as occasional "Book Chats" on our parent site www.lyme-regis.com. We now have them all available here as a sort of "archive" or "reference" collection. They are arranged either by Topic Pages (as can be seen by scrolling down the list on your screen in the left green panel, then Mouseover and Click), or, by the Month and Year they were first written up. Should any book be for sale then a link is provided back to our parent site. However, we would like to say this particular site is not primarily a commercial operation. Our hope is that it can be viewed and enjoyed by sharing with you the pleasure of unusual book discoveries, warning you of chancers, encouraging newcomers into the trade, and, not least, relating some of the remarkable stories books often have to tell. Book people can be pretty interesting as well..click through to: Book Chats on Customers!
Thank You Everyone..for your support!
Below, just two recent entries. The first entry below is still giving us particular and unexpected pleasure by being read in China! Despite the language barrier, we find there is a thirst for English Literature there also and in the form of the physical book. It has opened up a new Anglo-Chinese customer base for us.
"84 Charing Cross Road".
One reaps what one sows . Galatians. 6.7.
Marks & Co, the firm of book sellers, first located to London's Charing Cross Road in 1929, to Number 84 in fact.
In 1970 they closed their doors for the last time. And now?
Well, in May 2015 the premises reinvented itself as a McDonald's (see below).
All that remains? A discrete and rather tarnished brass plaque..seen above with Julia, the Manageress of our Sanctuary Bookshop in Lyme Regis.
But wait...discrete, yet well known in its day, Marks & Co enjoyed the patronage of public institutions, such as universities and The British Museum. Michael Foot former Leader of the Labour party obtained a Preservation Order. Actors Charlie Chaplin, David Niven and Jack Hawkins; The writer George Bernard Shaw; Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke; Sigmund Freud; occultist Aleister Crowley and descendants of the Duke of Wellington, were all among its customers......
All is definitely not what it seems.
In 1949, in the depths of postwar austerity, the firm took an ad in The Saturday Revue of Literature. A Helene Hanff, a New York book lover, autodidact, and aspiring writer aged 33, responded. Here below is her first letter to Marks & Co, shown left in the composite image, and dated October 5th 1949. Their correspondence ran till 1968. From such humble beginnings developed one of the great book stories of the 20th century.
Well, what goes around comes around; our bookshop is certainly not in London's Charing Cross Road, but, my word, it's not often one gets a letter like the one also shown below right!
This neatly handwritten request dropped through our shop letterbox in May 2016.
We say “not often” , but “never before” is more correct, and that in thirty-five years of book trading!
P.S. Note added in March 2020.
Our first parcel of paperbacks has long since arrived. But, it was held in Chinese destination Customs for five days "for examination".....(imagine the scene....)
"Ah-Ha" (thinks Customs offical).....
"These books by...... Beatrix Potter, Jane Austen, Helene Hanff...could they hold subversive thoughts..?"
"Who these women? Better phone boss...names not on data base" .
It would make the basis of a good Monty Python sketch!
(P.S. We are now up to Parcel 10 and UK-China booktrade is flourishing...).
Here is someone who is so taken, so enthused, by watching Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins in the 1984 film of the book 84 Charing Cross Road (just as we were), she puts pen to paper on impulse, and the rest, in our own small way, has now become history.
Also, in the depths of these small hours, one ponders....could we watch a film in Chinese? Locate a bookshop in a Chinese village? And then write to them in Chinese?
There is an element of youthful courage here, the call of the wild, and so it deserves its rich reward.
And here's another thing.....how marvellous to know these Book Chats are being read in central China….and how even more wonderful that Helene Hanff's delightful book of letters is still remembered there and admired down the arches of the years.
Helene Hanff...her life. Click here...
Stan the Man and Stornoway Slim
"Only those who wander far and wide find the straight path".
Last updated here including newly discovered photos: February 2020.
“She came into the bookshop where I sat in abstract thought, reviewing faded days.
I looked beyond my book, and met my childhood’s Mother, in another’s candid gaze…..”.
She was elderly, frail, apologetic. Two carrier bags of books…
“I have some books for you. I understand you buy books? My husband’s . He recently passed away”.
"It seems such a shame to throw them away. He was a good man…it’s rather lonely now…..”.
It had been a quiet day. A day for quiet enjoyment. Sympathy rose quietly like the tide. The books were bought…and for a fleeting moment she held my eyes….
“He often went off you know”.
Then, before we could catch her name or contact details, she turned and was gone. A life in two bags? What to do? Most bookdealers know the feeling. Respect? Sympathy?
Perhaps the kindest of all….what would we want done, if it was our life in two carrier bags…?
Two days later the books were sorted, collated, priced, and shelved…..all but one, and that one put aside.
They were mainly about the Roma, some Irish Gypsy lore…a few early dog-eared school textbooks…no signatures, but just pre-war at a guess…
The one held back…hardly a book. Twelve pages, stapled, cheap paper…
"Vagabond". Published in the New Forest, Burley, Ringwood, and printed by Brown & Son (Ringwood). Kathleen Phelan. 1962”.
Across the cover…(see above...)..
“For Bernard Watson with the author’s best wishes. Jim Phelan ’63!
“Jim Phelan his book. Here is the lore of the road. Bits and pieces written at a hundred halts…..the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic, from Galway Bay to the Alps, Sherwood Forest to Ilkley Moor, Maxwellton Braes to Banbury Cross.
The road goes to them all. And so do I…and so here is the road for you". Jim Phelan..
A search finds Jim Phelan author of no less than twenty-three titles, born 1895, dies 1966…tramp, activist, sometime prisoner………
We read: “Upon his release from prison in 1937, Phelan vowed never to live within four walls again and returned to the tramp life. Like most tramps, he had a preferred route; in his case, the northbound A1 in England. On this road, as it snaked its way from London to the York and back, he learnt the lore of the road from characters such as Lumpy Red Fox, Dicky Tom Cosgrove, Jimmy Scotland, Stan the Man and Stornoway Slim. He learned how to write the mysterious hieroglyphics that told fellow travellers whether a single house or entire village was friendly or hostile. He perfected the art of storytelling – a line of guff – to ensure that the passer-by or house holder would be as generous as possible. He would write his novels and essays in longhand and send the manuscript off to his publisher from the first post office he encountered as he commenced his day's "work".”.
So, Mrs Watson, Thank You for your husband Bernard’s books…the treasure of an unrecorded title by Jim Phelan, and learning of their friends Lumpy Red Fox, Dicky Tom Cosgrove, Jimmy Scotland, Stan the Man and Stornoway Slim….! We are sad we are not able to thank you personally, but maybe some kind reader will recognise the description and pass these kind thoughts on.....
So: No. Bernard Watson and Jim Phelan are certainly not forgotten. They have just gone off together one last time..........
"The Name's Phelan" (autobiography). Sidgwick & Jackson. 298 pages. 1948.
To read of Jim Phelan's Life and Times online..click here...
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