Beloved Bookshops

I came across this enchanting photo last week, and it’s stayed with me ever since.

Isn’t it just delightful?  Does it make you think about the browser?  Was she on a hunt for a good read, looking for that perfect gift, or just whiling away a few minutes before a rendezvous with a friend or lover? And the bookstore itself, with its rather impressive and well-lit frontage.  How big was the inside shop?  Who owned it, and what treasures of books could be found?  According to the photo source (The Persephone Post, April 3, 2017), the bookshop is in Sicilian Avenue, near Holborn tube, London, with the photo taken around 1926-1927.  Getty Images here advises that the photographer was H W Finchan and that it appeared in Wonderful London Volume II 1927.

So I did a bit of internet surfing, as you do, and came across another delightful image. This time, 120 years earlier, approximately 1803, another bookstore shopfront, another central London street, and curious window-shoppers.

The picture is what is called a trade card, used as a business advertisement for The Eccentric Book Warehouse, St Johns Street (for more on Trade Cards of Old London see here). I just love how they’ve portrayed the clean family-friendly street front, large shop door wide open, the back of the carriage framing the right-hand side of the image.  Can you just imagine being one of those young children, perhaps mother and father have promised the purchase of a book as a birthday treat, and your excitement of getting to choose a book of your very own.

Fast forward to 2017 and the pull of the bookstore front is still very strong.  Whenever we’re on travels far or near, at least one day or a few hours must be set aside for some good old-fashioned book browsing.  It’s actually one of my favourite things to do when overseas. More time is spent on a Google search for ‘top ten bookstores in so-and-so’ than on the accommodation options.  And there have been some wonderful adventures and discoveries at many bookstores. Shakespeare and Company - Paris, Daunt Books – London, Galeri Kayseri Bookshop – Istanbul, Armchair Books – Edinburgh; to name but a few.  And a trip to Wellington is never complete without a ‘quick look-see’ at Unity Books on Willis Street.  Closer to home, my favourite places to explore is BookMark in Devonport and Browsers in Hamilton.  Two wonderful second-hand bookshops that unfortunately I never manage to leave without a bag full of books to bring home.

Where are your favourite bookshops, and have you ever been tempted just by the shop front display?

Happy reading (and writing!) this Easter weekend.


  1. Very interesting reading about the Bookstores, shop fronts. My favorite book hunting is done in the Hospice, SPCA, etc for books. You can find some real gems there. Even if I come away with one book, I am very excited about it and often start reading it in the car! As well as the content, I love the look and scent of an old book as well as a new book.
    How is the reading going this weekend? Are you getting through your January pile?

    1. The problem with 'browsing' or 'window-shopping' at a bookstore, or rummaging through the great treasures to be had at the local hospice or Sally's, is the TBR pile never decreases ... thanks for your comment!


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