Photos top right and bottom left were in the guest bedroom before the new wardrobe was built; just some of the shelves now remain
I hope you won’t mind my mentioning books so soon after my two linked posts on the comics I loved as a child …
I have been collecting books – and also disposing of them, because space is finite – for over 40 years. When I married, 52 years ago, there wasn’t money to spare to buy books because in those days books were relatively more expensive than they are today and any money we had went on our mortgage, bills, and getting our home together.
I can remember when I first started to collect books as opposed to simply borrowing them from the library: our younger son was about two years old and I borrowed a book by Cornish writer, Derek Tangye. I wonder if anyone still reads his books today?
Anyway, I enjoyed this book so much (A Cat Affair) and, as the library didn’t have any other books by him, I began to search for them in 2nd hand bookshops in the area – no internet then. Eventually I found all the ones that had been published up to that point and, after that, even though funds were still tight, I bought each new book as it was published.
I also joined a book club. I don’t mean a reading club, but a club whereby you chose a different book to buy each month. I hadn’t realized then that these were cheaper versions – inferior paper, perhaps slightly smaller format – of what were often best sellers, but I still bought reference books, history books, even Alistair Cook’s America which I think must’ve been on everyone’s bookshelf in those days. I have since parted with it.
And so my collections grew, mainly 2nd hand copies but there were some writers whose books I pounced on the moment they were published: Joanna Trollope, Mary Wesley, Bernard Levin, to name but three.
In 1990 I happened upon an antiquarian/secondhand bookshop in a small Dartmoor town and each week I would drive my mother and myself there for a browse. There was even a lovely cafe next door – an added incentive! The books were always in good condition and, what was even more enticing, the prices were excellent, too. The shop had books on three floors, I was in book heaven. They were also very well organized, so that you knew exactly where you might find what you were seeking.
Over the months not only did my collection grow rapidly, but my mother and I became friends with the owners and so, when they went on holiday each year, they asked if I’d like to help out in their shop? Would I? What do you think! I helped out for the next dozen or so years.
And that is where I had my eyes opened to all kinds of books – pocket books, writers from the 1930s and 1940s – such as Richard Church and Cecil Roberts – of whom I’d never heard, beautiful leather-bound books, first editions, illustrated books – and thus I began to fill my shelves.
I had long ceased buying book club editions – for a start, helping out in the bookshop (sadly no longer there; my friends retired some years ago and since then it has closed down) taught me that book club editions weren’t acceptable to most book collectors who wanted the original editions (if not always first editions.)
As the volume of books in our house grew, my husband made bookcases in each of the rooms: hardback fiction in the bed sitting room upstairs, paperback fiction in the dining room, all other books in the sitting room, study and guest bedroom. The only room without bookshelves is our bedroom, but there are usually piles of books on the bedside chests of drawers.
Here is a corner of the study – this table is now piled high with books and you might also note the large amount of magazines on the bottom shelf. This is only part of the magazine collection which, sadly, will have to go one of these days. As I say, space is finite. (There is another wall of books, but to see one is sufficient I think!)
This is where I write
Here are the paperbacks in the dining room. Husband made these shelves so that we’d also have a space for our stereo – yes, it’s ancient, but it does the job – and the speakers, and our LPs as well as CDs. This is a ‘breakfront’ style of bookcase – the two end sections are stepped back and this allows the door to the dining room (on the left) to be opened properly, and it is matched at the other side, next to the window.
In the guest bedroom there were once wall-to-wall bookshelves but in 2015 we decided we needed to turn what had become a workroom back into a bedroom and so husband re-configured the shelves to include a wardrobe (which he built, including making six drawers) in the central part, and keep the remaining bookshelves at each side.
In the bed sitting room, there are bookshelves under the eaves …
Please don’t ask me if I’ve read them all! This always strikes me as a question which non-book collectors ask. Yes, such people might read, but they don’t wish to keep the books they read; they’re happy to read them on an e-reader, or borrow them from the library, or seek out a ‘reading’ copy which they will then pass on. I can appreciate this, especially if they hadn’t much space or do not have any attachment to books as objects, but the whole point of having a collection is that not only are you never short of reading material, but also you don’t have to read them at the time of buying: you can keep them and enjoy them at any time in the future. This mightn’t be for several months or even many years. That is the point of having your own library.
A collection such as this hasn’t happened overnight. It has taken many years and I’ve parted with perhaps as many books as you see here, too. And now they’re due for a spring clean and another ‘weed’! I’ve not shown the piles of books under the tables, in corners, on the lamp tables …