At the Bookshop 1822 and 2016

Retrieved from our old Bookride site – this not unamusing extract from an 1820s English/ French conversation manual.  It gives an interesting insight into a vanished world. It is followed by our modern version where the translation was slightly robotic, so apologies for that…

Note the concern with the appearance and quality of the books, the perennial problems with trying to get the binder to do what the bookseller and customer wants, and on time. The eagerness of the collector to be the first to be offered fresh stock from the shop has changed very little. Still with us are the problems of delay in postal sytems…  Also it is interesting that in the early nineteenth century women bookbuyers were thought likely to be attracted to ‘Large Paper Copies’ and vellum bound books. The customer’s knowledge of book lore and binding styles has changed somewhat.

1822    
Well ! you are a man of your word, as usual: and the books that you were to send me, when shall I have them?
Eh bien ! vous etes un homme de parole, comme a l’ordinaire: et ces livres que vous deviez m’emvoyer, quand viendront-ils?
You are under great obligations to your binder; he often furnishes you with an excuse.
Vous avez un relieur a qui vous avez de grardes obligations , car il vous sert souvent de manteau.
I protest that I sent them to him the same day you came to buy them.
Je vous proteste que je les ai fait porter chez lui le meme jour que vous etes venu les acheter.

Continue reading

IMG_0358

Anonymous book donor revealed

Found in a collection of ephemera this intriguing typed letter from the long vanished New York bookshop Tessaro's. The shop was in Maiden Lane which appears to have been a kind of bookseller's row. The address later housed a rare bookshop called Sabin's. Tessaro's was formerly called Rohde and Haskins who had dabbled in publishing at the dawn of the 20th century.

The letter deals with a request for the identity of the anonymous donor of a book from the recipient - a nurse (presumably) at The General Hospital at Fox Hills.  The shop decided ('we'll take a chance') to reveal the donor's identity. Significantly he was a soldier, as Fox Hills was a very large Army hospital dealing at that time with WW1 casualties. There the story ends. It would be nice to add 'and reader she married him.' The bookshop as go-between must be uncommon and in our cautious times it might not reveal the donor, or possibly send on the request to the donor for permission…

Dear Madam 
Acknowledging receipt of your note of 28th July we would say we do not know that the sender of the book desired it to be known who sent it, but we'll take a chance and say to you, in confidence, that it was mailed to you on the order of Lieut. G.C. Anderson.
Yours very truly,
TESSARO'S

Fox Hill Nursing Staff (1921) from
Advance Archive Photos (many thanks)
photo-1

Barron’s Textbook Exchange, Brooklyn 1941

Found on the front endpaper of an American book on Abraham Lincoln -- this bookplate label advertising a used bookstore. This store was the first business of the still extant and flourishing Barron's  textbook business and the owner started out mimeographing textbooks in the basement of the shop long into the night after the shop was closed. As Publisher's Weekly noted in 2011: 'In 1941, the after-hours mimeograph business became Barron's Publishing, and its first offering was the aptly named series Barron's Regents Exams and Answers...Seventy years later, the series is still going strong, albeit with some innovations—apps, e-books, and a subscription-based Web site—that could never have been imagined in 1941.'

He was still around and working in 2011 when he celebrated 70 years of business, which dates this label from the early 1940s. Of note is the broad range of business he was engaged in  - used books, stationery, art supplies, records both classical and modern, gym wear and even new books...this kind of enterprise is still needed to survive in the book trade.

photo-1

Heffers—a life in books

Everyone who has ever lived or studied at Cambridge knows Heffers. It’s the big cheese bookseller in the city and is an international brand too. Around 1996 the company, which then employed around 300 people, issued a brief history, which has been useful in compiling this profile.

The Heffer family originally came from Grantchester, celebrated by Rupert Brooke and now the home of well-known storyteller Jeffery Archer. In 1876 William Heffer opened up a stationery shop in Fitzroy Street, just east of the city centre, where his success with a sideline of hymn books, bibles and general school books, convinced him that he ought to focus more on bookselling. Further success resulting from 25% discounts for cash and an expansion into academic and general titles, made it possible for Heffers to relocate to the city centre in Petty Cury.

Heffer then became a printer—and books printed by the company from the early twentieth century until 1987, when a management buy-out created the Black Bear Press-- can often be found, especially locally. Following William’s death in 1928 the company, with its three distinct areas of operation, was steered forward by son Ernest, and grandson Reuben, who became an influential figure in University and city life. Further success, especially internationally, followed the appointment as General Manager in 1964 of Cambridge graduate John Welch, who had no experience of bookselling and was not even a family member.

Heffers remained in Petty Cury until the late 1960s, by which time the decision of the City Council to redevelop the street, and the continuing expansion of Heffers as a business, made it necessary for the company to relocate once again. This time the decision was made easier by the offer by Trinity College of premises in Trinity Street once occupied by a grocer. The site was redeveloped from scratch and today, the design of the shop that has been called ‘one of the first and largest custom-built bookshops in the country’ is admired internationally for its bold simplicity.

Doubtless over the decades many students have supplemented their grants by working the odd Saturday at Trinity Street, but few have gone on to achieve the success of children’s writer Pippa Goodhart, the prizewinning author of over ninety books. Having, like the founder, grown up in Grantchester, she got a Saturday job with Heffers at the age of 16, then after University and teacher-training, returned to the shop when she failed to find a post as an infant teacher. For five years she managed the Heffers children’s bookshop, but moved to Leicester to start a family. It was here that she began to write for children, never imagining that her work would end up being sold in the very bookshop she had managed years before. Her life has gone full circle now with a move back to Grantchester.

Recently retired Newsnight anchor Jeremy ‘Paxo’ Paxman is another Heffers habitué. He was spotted not long ago by one blogger who had to ‘stare him down when he was pretending not to know where the queue started. He got behind me’, adds the blogger.

gibroto-1

English Books in Paris

Found in a mid 1930s American detective thriller, tipped in at the front (for exchange purposes) this flier for  the Gibert Joseph (or Joseph Gibert) bookshop at 26 Boulevard St. Michel in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. It is still there at the same address with many books in languages other than French. The English language section is adequate but there are few rarities as there were in the past.

The curious thing in this ephemera is the notice 'Free Entrance' -- I can think of only one bookshop in the world that charges entry ($5) and that is run by a much arrested, deranged and violent bookseller in New Hampshire U.S.A. Possibly this is a mistranslation. The phone number has been changed by hand which might enable someone in the know to date it quite accurately. It looks like the 1950s. Until the advent of Shakespeare and Co.,  Gibert was the main source of used English books in Paris. Interestingly it also caters for the four other most wanted languages there, mostly because these are the nearest countries, although there has long been a large Russian community in Paris.