I do love a good rummage in  second-hand bookshops. You just never know what you might find, and you can lose yourself for hours. After all, with only tenuous categorisation and no catalogue, you simply have to look at every tome on every shelf, in case you miss the one.

What exactly is the one? Well, it depends. It tends to be different for each of us; for some it might be a 1st edition of a classic, for others a rare reference work or a signed copy.

For me, it’s always language related. Dictionaries, style guides, grammars, histories, cultural studies, and novels too. The photo above shows just some of my spoils from backroom dust hunting – because the language section is always at the deepest, darkest corner of the bookshop!

Amongst them are an old Larousse, a Roget’s, a French phonetics guide and several Zola novels. But among my favourites has to be Dent’s Modern Language Series Translation from and into French, published in 1925. The inside folio proclaims:

A Guide to French unseen translation and composition ; Suitable as a preparation for the first public examination.

On a more irreverant note, my other favourite is Dictionnaire des injures québécoises, Dulude & Trait (1996). Perhaps most interesting are the comparisons between the French and Québécois usage of certain phrases! But I also like this book because of the handwritten note inside the cover;

Cher Paul, je te souhaite une joyeux fête et, maudit, m’abuse pas de ce livre!

I don’t know that I will ever have to cause to refer to this particular find, but I like having it nonetheless. I can’t go more than a few months between bookshop forages; my favourite local haunts are Polmorla Books in Wadebridge and Books By the Sea in Bude. Whenever I’m travelling I have to poke my head in any second hand shop I see, but my favourite bookshop abroad has to be Shakespeare & Co. in Paris. I have never seen so many books piled in such a myriad of different rooms. I was sad to read that the shop’s founder, George Whitman, died in December last year. He once spilled a cup of coffee on me while I was browsing the piles of books on the stairs!

What has been your best bookshop haul?

PS. I have to thank Judy & Dagmar Jenner for giving away $100 of Google Adwords, which I won their competition for this week. I’ll be putting that to good use very soon!

Hidden gems in dusty alcoves
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