Here is the (long overdue) conclusion to the tour of London’s antiquarian bookshops! (You can read Part I here).
As a refresher, I have posted the entire tour below. This post will rank the remaining five shops for antiquarian and medieval content.
View (Ten of) London’s Antiquarian Bookstores: A Brief Review and Walking Tour in a larger map
6. Quinto Bookshop, 72 Charing Cross Road
Located among the hubbub of Charing Cross road in London’s busy West End, Quinto Bookshop has been selling books since 1855. The shop has two floors: the top floor features antiquarian books—including books on art and military subjects—and the bottom floor houses modern books and editions at bargain prices. While I did not find many books on medieval studies, I was impressed by their collection of antiquarian books on travel, which includes two glass cases and an entire wall. Quinto Bookshop also completely overhauls its stock on the first Tuesday of every month. I recommend going earlier in the month before the books are picked over by other bibliophiles.
7. Any Amount of Books, 56 Charing Cross Road
Any Amount of Books is located a few doors down from Quinto Bookshop on Charing Cross Road. It also has two floors, and, similar to Quinto, the top floor contains antiquarian books and the bottom floor contains paperbacks and modern texts. The small, narrow aisles become congested quickly, so the shop proves difficult to browse on a busy day. One wall shelved early twentieth-century books, but none were of a medieval flavour. I did find a few medieval titles in the basement, however, including an edition of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The shop had more expensive rare books behind the counter, but I was unable to browse their titles. They have just acquired a large collection of detective fiction, which may be of interest to Victorianists. As the site states, the owners are planning to roll out the collection throughout the year: “The Donald Rudd collection of detective fiction, unbelievably broad collection of mysteries, thrillers, whodunits from Victorian Lady Detectives through Golden Age ‘cosies’ to the hardest of hard-boiled noirs.”1 Any Amount of Books also apparently has over 19000 texts in total, but their outdated website and lack of search or index renders it difficult to know their stock. To all Victorianists and Modernists: definitely check out this shop if you are in London!
We now come to the main cluster of antiquarian bookshops in London: Cecil Court (which is so famous it even has its own website)!
Just about every shop on this little pedestrian lane is, in fact, a bookshop. While I browsed quite a few shops, including a shop that sells first-edition signed books and a shop that focuses on music, I will highlight three that may be worth exploring:
8. Pinda Bryars Books, Cecil Court
Located ‘at the sign of the unicorn,’ Pinda Bryars Books is a gem for antiquarian bookhunters. Their collection is quite varied, including books from early printing to modern fashion. The shop is a quaint room, with books lining both walls. I found a glass case of early incunabula at the back of the shop, though most of their early selection was of German and Greek texts. Notably, the unicorns on the sign are a historical marker: Ernest Oldmeadow ran the Unicorn Press in the same building during the nineteenth century.
9. David Drummond, Cecil Court
This shop is possibly the most unique place on the entire list. It does not have any medieval books whatsoever, but it is nevertheless a really interesting place to explore. ‘David Drummond, Pleasures of Times Past’ specializes in all kinds of antiquarian ephemeral material, especially performing arts material from the late Victorian and early twentieth century. I enjoyed browsing the boxes of Victorian postcards, photographs, posters, programs, periodicals, pamphlets, playlets, masks, and other oddities. They also had a wonderful selection of art, cinema, and pre-1945 children’s books. This is a true shop of curiosities!
10. Marchpane, Cecil Court
This is the go-to shop for any collectors of children’s literature. Located directly across from David Drummond in Cecil Court, Marchpane is a tiny nook that is jam-packed with children’s books. Although I did not find any early medievalism books for children (e.g. The Boys King Arthur), I marveled at their impressive collection, including an extremely rare edition of a 1940 Tom Thumb chapbook (a very small illustrated book, no bigger than the palm of your hand). Marchpane’s real passion is Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but they also carry early Winnie-the-Pooh texts and prints, Peter Pan editions, and other books of interest.
London boasts a large number of independent and second-hand bookstores, so my tour is by no means exhaustive. Folks looking for more shops may want to check out this comprehensive map of bookshops in London. Happy book-hunting!
- quoted from their website. [↩]