By Heather O’Donnell
I wish I were the kind of traveler who blogs fluently, breezily, in the moment, from foreign sidewalk cafés and park benches. Instead, I am one who, two weeks after she’s returned home, remembers that she intended to blog about her June book-scouting tour, and not just post the occasional photo to Facebook. Here are some belated highlights.
I started in London, where I met up with fellow booksellers (and far more committed bloggers) Brooke Palmieri of Sokol Books and Jonathan Kearns of Adrian Harrington. Bright young things, both. At least Brooke is young.
In the days before the London International Antiquarian Book Fair, I checked out Brooke’s fascinating exhibition, Renaissance to Relativity: Masterworks of Paint and Print, at The Gallery in Cork Street, and visited some of my favorite shops: Adrian and Peter Harrington, Natalie Galustian, Peter Ellis, and the other usual suspects in Cecil Court. Next: three days of browsing and buying at Olympia, where I saw these striking paper wraps on an otherwise dull eighteenth-century book. Witness the first installment of my projected hundred-part antiquarian paper wraps on Tumblr.
After London, my good friend and equally good driver, longtime Bristol bookseller Steve Liddle, spirited me through the stunning Northumberland countryside to Scotland. In Glasgow, we visited Cooper Hay’s perfect bookroom.
And now I have bookroom envy. So, probably, do you.
On our way back from Fife (Larry Hutchison) and Edinburgh (Grant & Shaw, McNaughtan’s Bookshop, and the incredible private collection of David and Rosemary Temperley), we stopped in Newcastle and North Shields to visit Anthony Smithson of Keel Row Bookshop, the force behind this September’s York Antiquarian Book Seminar, an intensive workshop for English booksellers conceived along the lines of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. I got to eat bubble & squeak, and hear the free jukebox at The Fair Trade Inn on the banks of the Tyne, both landmark firsts.
Then on to the libraries of Dublin: Edward Worth, Chester Beatty, Trinity College, Archbishop Marsh, all amazing in their own ways. I scored a private tour with Elizabethanne Boran, librarian of the Worth collection, an immaculately preserved eighteenth-century private library housed in Dr. Steevens’ Hospital since Dr. Worth’s death in 1733. I guided myself through the more central and popular Chester Beatty Library (a rare book library and art museum in one) and Trinity College LIbrary (after a simultaneous encounter with the Book of Kells and a million tourists). The beauty of Trinity’s Long Room is no secret, but here’s more evidence.
I ended the day with a visit to Archbishop Marsh’s Library, the oldest public library in Ireland, now under the inspired direction of keeper/bartender Jason McElligott. Here’s one of the bullet holes in the stacks, a shot fired on Easter 1916.
My preoccupation with Yeats and Joyce in college paid off handsomely on this last leg of the trip. “Grey eighteenth-century houses”! “You never cross O’Connell Bridge without seeing a white horse!” It was as though I’d once dreamed about Dublin and never quite shaken it off. Here’s the spire of St. George’s, around the corner from Leopold and Molly Bloom’s house in Ulysses. “The sound of the peal of the hour of the night by the chime of the bells in the church of Saint George”.
And here is Joyce himself, surveying St. Stephen’s Green. “Crossing Stephen’s, that is my green”:
At the urging of everyone who’s ever been there, I visited David Cunningham’s Cathach Books on Duke Street, only to find that the shop been rechristened Ulysses Rare Books on Bloomsday 2013, a few days earlier.
David kindly ducked into the basement to offer me one of the now-historic Cathach bookmarks.
Cool as these bookmarks are, the books I brought home are my favorite souvenirs — though if all goes well, I won’t be keeping them long.
(Posted on the website of Honey & Wax Booksellers. Presented here by permission of the author. Thank you very much.)
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