Like most second-hand bookshops we had various sidelines. We sold second-hand typewriters, for instance, and also stamps – used stamps, I mean. Stamp-collectors are a strange, silent, fish-like breed, of all ages, but only of the male sex; women, apparently, fail to see the peculiar charm of gumming bits of coloured paper into albums. We also sold sixpenny horoscopes compiled by somebody who claimed to have foretold the Japanese earthquake. They were in sealed envelopes and I never opened one of them myself, but the people who bought them often came back and told us how ‘true’ their horoscopes had been. (Doubtless any horoscope seems ‘true’ if it tells you that you are highly attractive to the opposite sex and your worst fault is generosity.)
George Orwell, ‘Bookshop Memories’
Perhaps various sidelines are more important to second-hand bookshops now than they ever were. When I can afford to and I have the opportunity, I attend the auction in Dumfries and pick up bits and pieces to sell in the shop. At the moment there is an oak Georgian bureau (£70), two pairs of Victorian crown green bowling balls (£25 per pair), seventeen jardinières and plant pots (various prices), a sturdy Victorian fire screen (£300), several prints and paintings and a mahogany table (£75), as well as an assortment of trinkets and costume jewellery that Anna has arranged into a corner of the shop that she has called ‘The Littlest Antique Store in the World’. Not my idea. These things, carefully chosen, can add atmosphere to the place by referencing the building’s history as a home prior to its incarnation as a shop – first as a draper’s in 1899, then later as a grocer’s in the 1950s, and since 1992 a bookshop. Add to that mix Sandy the tattooed pagan’s walking sticks and there is hopefully enough to keep the non-reading companions of bibliophiles occupied while their partners browse.
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