A brief excursion northwards last week. In truth, much more of a mini-break than a serious book-hunting expedition – but we did hire a car and spend one day on the book trail. First stop was a warm welcome at the hilltop lair of Neil Summersgill high above the Ribble Valley, somewhere north-west of Blackburn. Fantastic views on a clear day, we were told – actually they were pretty good even in the half-mist. Neil is someone I’ve been buying books from fairly regularly at book-fairs over the last few years – one of those people who always seems to have something irresistible – and I’ve even managed to sell quite a number of them.
His stock at home (viewable strictly by appointment) didn’t in any way disappoint. The books in truly excellent condition – and very reasonably priced.
Lots of nineteenth-century literature, plenty of other things too – but nothing modern or dust-jacketed. A boxful of books soon picked out and assembled, which Neil will send on when he returns from his annual American road-trip.
And of course, when booksellers meet it’s not just a matter of buying and selling. There’s gossip too and anecdotes of past times. Unsurprisingly, we agreed on the iniquity and uselessness of the big banks – his family’s experiences long and bitter. It wasn’t always so: my first bank manager backed me to the hilt when I first set up for myself at the age of twenty-three, but then that was back in the blessed days before we ceded the world entirely to the interests of corrupt multinationals and all the crony-corporatism of globalist big business. It would, needless to say, never happen now.
A tasty sandwich in the local pub and then on to Richard Thornton about ten minutes away. I’ve bought a dozen or more books from Richard on the internet over the years (he’s been selling that way for twenty years now) – an E. M. Forster, a Ted Hughes, a couple of Philip Larkins, and a particularly nice Tom Stoppard, I seem to recall – but although he was based in London until five years ago, I don’t think we had ever met until now.
Another warm welcome and a very large stock to look at – some 15,000 books apparently (again viewable strictly by appointment) – mainly modern literature, but children’s books, sport and history too. Prices very reasonable indeed and another boxful to be sent on soon found. We briefly discussed another bookseller in the neighbourhood who had curiously told me on the telephone that he really didn’t want me to come and visit – a bit more chat – our book-buying almost done for the day and then on to a rather damp Clitheroe for a (purely medicinal) cream tea. A very satisfactory day out. Good books, good booksellers.