Gathering of the Clans

Cooper Hay Rare Books

Cooper Hay Rare Books

My Glasgow hotel had a sort of Rennie Mackintosh theme – at least, that is, until you got to my room, which seemed to have disappeared down a wholly different avenue of Scottish art – think  Landseer in Monarch of the Glen mode given a makeover by Walt Disney.  The bedside light also had the darkest and most opaque lampshade I’ve ever encountered – I swear the room got darker when you switched it on.  Certainly couldn’t read by it.  The hotel also stood at the top of the steepest hill I’ve ever seen – a mountain goat would have baulked at it – far too forbidding for a portly president – I walked round the (very) long way.   So steep in fact that I couldn’t even bring myself to walk down it the next day.  But, hey – it was by far the cheapest British hotel (courtesy of Late Rooms) I’ve stayed in for over twenty years:  clean, comfortable and the breakfast wasn’t at all bad for a Scottish breakfast as interpreted by mittel-Europeans.   And the coffee (which admittedly didn’t arrive until about twenty minutes after the breakfast) was really rather good.  Not complaining.  Not complaining at all.

Inside Cooper Hay Rare Books

Inside Cooper Hay Rare Books

Just the thing to set me up for an early morning visit to Cooper Hay Rare Books in Bath Street.  I find Cooper grappling with Janette Ray’s adamantine rules about the only possible correct usage of the new ABA logo in relation to the posters for the forthcoming Edinburgh Book Fair (link to the right) in March.  Problem seems to readily solved.

Cooper Hay

Cooper Hay

Meanwhile I’m looking at the books.  The thing about Cooper’s stock  is that all the books are in such lovely condition – no matter what it is – an expensive book or a cheap one, it can be relied on to be just the perfect example of whatever it happens to be.  Purring with delight as I unpack his parcel just now – four charming and unusual nineteenth-century books for children, a beautifully bound copy of a Pickering edition of Bacon’s Essays, a John Buchan and a Lytton Strachey.  Very pleased to have them – and very happy with the prices paid.

Cooper's Dipping Powder

Cooper’s Dipping Powder

Cooper is another graduate of Smith’s of Glasgow – not sure whether he took over the antiquarian department from George Newlands, or George took over from him – but the official history of the firm apparently gets it wrong in any case.  And now we set off together to the station to meet up with Marianne (Mrs Cooper H.) and catch a train to Edinburgh for the main event of the day – lunch with the Scottish branch of the ABA.   Pick up our way through the Edinburgh tram excavations (how long has that been going on?) to Rutland Square and the Scottish Arts Club.

The Scottish Arts Club

The Scottish Arts Club

Open fires and a warm welcome – and what a good turn out – booksellers, spouses, partners, a few friends and even a couple of auctioneers.  Alex Fotheringham full of praise at the outcome of our ABA meeting with the British Library recently.  Puts in a good word about a young bookseller in the north.  Alan Grant (Grant & Shaw) is there.   My very dear friend Elizabeth Strong (McNaughtan’s Bookshop), one of our past presidents, is there.  And another past president – Senga Grant, now retired as a bookseller, but still likes to be kept in touch on ABA matters (although, she promises me, she wouldn’t dream of trying to tell the current elected Council how to go about its business).  Collector and scholar Dr Bill Zachs is there.  The Ian Watson half of the John Updike Rare Books partnership is there (Edward Nairn not quite up to it today, but then he has turned ninety) – I swiftly make an arrangement to go and see them the following morning.  David Brayford (Jay Books) is there.  Larry Hutchison, another stalwart of the Scottish trade is there.  And there – yet again – is that man George Newlands – the third time I’ve sat down with him in as many days. And Domhnall MacCormaig is there – I chat with him about Scottish independence, a good young bookseller on the Isle of Skye, and Domhnall’s own impending move to North Uist in the Outer Hebrides.  He suggests we should have an ABA Book fair there.  Challenging, I say – but we could call it the Book Fair at the Ends of the Earth.  I think I’ll get the ABA Office to carry out a feasibility study (just out of badness).

Bookshops in the West Port

Bookshops in the West Port

Pringle Booksellers

Pringle Booksellers

An excellent and convivial lunch, thank you all so much for a delightful time.  We all agree to see each other again in a few weeks’ time at the Edinburgh Fair – a joint enterprise which we put on in collaboration with the PBFA – and always the jolliest fair of the year.  Just enough daylight left for me to saunter down to the bookshops of the West Port in the Old Town.  Andrew Pringle’s away on holiday – shame to miss him (I’ll be back in March) – but I find Peter Bell still there after so many years.  He entertains me agreeably and pithily on the woes and pitfalls of the modern trade – but is clearly still enjoying himself very much.  Buy a few more books (another parcel just arrived and ready to open) – and then wander off to meet up with Elizabeth Strong, with whom I am staying.  The only things I know steeper than the hotel hill in Glasgow are the endless flights of stairs up to Elizabeth’s flat in the New Town.

Advertisements

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.
This entry was posted in ABA, Booksellers, Bookshops, Hotels and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Gathering of the Clans

  1. Steve Liddle says:

    Very envious of your visit to these great cities. If only we could do something to reinvent fairs in Glasgow. Mission impossible I suspect.
    The Arts Club is terrific – did you see the snooker room? I was privileged to watch Mr Grant demolish the Wisden King’s snooker efforts up there. Mind you, it was after a very ‘good’ lunch. Much better than working!
    Incidentally, Donald’s move to Uist has been ‘impending’ for even longer than the Edinburgh tram system.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s