London Town

The last few days largely spent in delivering copies of ‘British Map Engravers’. But a good excuse to go and see some bookselling friends at the same time. John Randall (Books of Asia) with some interesting thoughts on the internet, websites, the manipulation of non-information on Google, etc. – and his extraordinary stock of some 70,000 books stored in warehouses on the south coast. It is something I have often thought – that the specialists in the book-trade tend, by and large, to do better in the long run than their more generalist counterparts. A matter of name and focus, I imagine.

A convivial lunch with some old book-trade friends – Brian Lake (Jarndyce) – the vice-president; Angus O’Neill (Omega Bookshop); Ken Fuller (Marchpane); Jolyon Hudson (Pickering & Chatto), and Tim Bryars of Cecil Court. All ABA stalwarts – and full of good cheer, highly improbable and wholly unrepeatable gossip, and a certain cautious optimism about the future. An optimism shared by Peter Ellis with whom I had a chat in the steet later in the day.

And this morning I dropped in on two past-presidents in Kensington – Robert Frew and Adrian Harrington. Stylish, impressively-stocked and energetically-run establishments both. Robert and I both puzzled that we don’t (by and large – there are some notable and honourable exceptions) see shops like this in other major UK cities – at least not any more. How large does a city have to be to support a top-end bookseller? And if it’s not a matter of size, what are the criteria? What is the real reason there are no ABA members in central Birmingham, Coventry, Derby, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, Sheffield and countless others? Have we simply given up too easily on the High Street shop? Or have we – as a trade – become a little too precious?

About Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

Laurence Worms has owned and run Ash Rare Books since 1971. He represented the antiquarian book trade on the (British) National Book Committee from 1993 to 2002 and has been six times an elected member of the Council of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association. He was largely responsible for drafting the Association’s Code of Good Practice introduced in 1997, served as Honorary Secretary of the Association from 1998 to 2001 and as President from 2011 to 2013. He is a former member of the Council of the Bibliographical Society and continues to serve on the Council of the London Topographical Society. He writes and lectures on various aspects of the history of the book and map trades, and has lectured at the universities of Cambridge, London, Reading and Sheffield, as well as at the Bibliographical Society, the Royal Geographical Society, the Warburg Institute and at Gresham College. He teaches annually at the London Rare Books School and also organises the monthly Book Collecting Seminars at Senate House, University of London. Published work includes the compilation of fourteen ‘lives’ for the “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography”, a number of articles for “The Oxford Companion to the Book” and the chapter on early English maps and atlases for the fourth volume of “The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain”. A major essay on the same subject also appeared in “The History of Cartography” published by the University of Chicago Press. His long-awaited “British Map Engravers, co-written with Ashley Baynton-Williams, was published to critical acclaim in 2011”. More recently, he contributed the numerous biographical notes to Peter Barber’s hugely successful “London : A History in Maps”, co-published by the British Library and the London Topographical Society in 2012.
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2 Responses to London Town

  1. Tony Cox says:

    Loving your blog Laurence.
    Please head East some time, Suffolk still has several good bookshops, including one (in Ipswich) with arguably one of the best Private Press, Fine Printing, Typography, Type, Book Arts & Suffolk Topography stocks in the world – though I say so myself!
    We also have lots of books at White House Farm, Kelsale, where there is ample space for you to stay a night or two and thereby take in the delights of Bob Jackson in Westleton, Robin Summers in Aldeburgh, Nigel Burwood (by appt.) in Thorpeness and Poor Richards & Treasure Chest in Felixstowe, not to mention our own modest branch at H.G. Crisp, High St. Saxmundham.
    All the best, Tony Cox, Claude Cox Old & Rare Books

    • ashrarebooks says:

      Thank you Tony, that is extremely kind of you. And glad you are enjoying it. We shall certainly be visiting the eastern seaboard – and that is one trip that Anne will certainly want to be involved in. She used to teach in Ipswich in those long-off days before we were married – and retains fond memories of those lovely Suffolk villages. I shall have to liaise with her on that – and of course wait until the cheque-book, currently in rehab, is well enough to travel.

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