Yards from the Centre of Twickenham

Yards from the Centre of Twickenham

A visit today to one of the most threatened of all species – something in fact not so far encountered on my travels – a genuine suburban bookshop.  Those of us who are themselves suburban will no doubt remember how many there used to be.  To Twickenham – familiar enough terrain for me, my school was within walking distance of the famous rugby stadium.  One of the school’s most charming customs (now I bring it to mind, probably its only one) was that the older boys were allowed the afternoon off each year to go to the ‘Varsity Match.

Nothing greatly changed in this historic part of that all but lost county of Middlesex – buses still heading for Hampton, Hammersmith, Hounslow and other haunts of my youth.  The most desecrated of counties of course, almost entirely erased beneath airports, motorways, trunk roads, reservoirs, railways and gasworks erected for the convenience of others (not much sympathy for nimbyism in these parts) – all but wholly urban now, but still with the resilience (for those who know where to look) to offer frequent glimpses of its once arcadian rurality.

Twickenham Green

Twickenham Green

Hard by Twickenham Green (yes, there are still village greens hereabouts), the cricket square looking inviting in the afternoon sunshine, is the shop of Anthony C. Hall.

Anthony Hall Exterior

Anthony C. Hall’s Bookshop

A shop he acquired over forty years ago (Anthony is certainly due a fifty-year badge) after training with his brother-in-law, Ronald Gray, of the once well-known Hammersmith Bookshop.  First taught Russian in National Service days in the RAF (going on to take a degree in it), behind the façade of a general suburban second-hand bookshop, Anthony is an out-and-out specialist in Russian & Eastern European studies.  The Cold War days of western institutional buying of large collections in this field have given place to a genuine and previously wholly inaccessible market within Russia itself – pre-revolutionary books and early émigré publications much in demand.

Anthony C. Hall

Anthony C. Hall

Anthony and his wife have very kindly offered to put up our first Russian intern under the ILAB scheme for visits from graduates of the Moscow State University of Printing Arts – and I can’t think of anywhere she might be offered a warmer or a better welcome.

I buy a book or two and we chat away about how much the rare book world has changed in our time.  He shows me a photograph – all hair and flares – of himself standing outside the shop back when we were young.  Usual themes when older booksellers get together – but we look to the future of the ABA as well – and I spy his packing table piled enviably high with the day’s outgoing parcels.  He, for one, seems to have adapted well and safely enough.   Bless you, sir, for an uncommonly interesting afternoon.

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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