Friday, December 02, 2005

Not Daunted by Squidginess

If we can invoke all the bookshops in the world and hold them up to test for squidginess then let me slip in my favourite, Daunts, on Marylebone High Street, London, specialising in travel books.

In the main room, books are arranged not by author or publisher or type, but by geographical region: Low Countries, Oceania, The Balkans, Central Europe. Travel guides jostle cookbooks wrestle maps cavort with novels nudge photography collections elbow phrasebooks for shelf space.

Other more general works are laid out temptingly on the tables screaming to be picked up and poured over. The windows are of stained glass, there's a second tier of books along a wooden balcony and a skylight runs the length of the gallery, so that the shop appears nothing less than a chapel of books. Amen. Amen.

There are no sofas, no in-store-coffee-corner, but down the road is Patisserie Valerie. Books can be devoured with grilled goast cheese crostini and red pepper salad in a room decorated with chandeliers, gilt mirrors and pale green and yellow murals of flowery bowers and dhows sailing between mythical islands. And I can never resist a fruit-laden tart from the window display of cakes and gateaux and marzipan animals.

I also nurse with joy the knowledge that in the C18th, this shop belonged to a bookseller called Davies. Samuel Johnson, compiler of the first comprehensive English dictionary, met Boswell (who became his friend and later biographer) on this very spot in May 1763.

The past happens in the same spaces as the present in London and the dust of history settles on your clothes.

I will be back there in a couple of weeks. I may even brave the cold to explore some of the other London bookshops listed here.


Anonymous said...

Sharon, I am hoping for a visit to London now just to visit this bookshop, it sounds so lovely. Thanks for the tip.

Anonymous said...

Don't you just love English names ? :) Daunt, Short, Long, Darling.. but then again, in the database I had access to at one of my earlier jobs, there were tons of people called "Shit". And a doctor called "Panicker." :)

Kak Teh said...

sharon, in a couple of weeks? Do call and will buy you tea.

savante said...

There's a panicker here in Malacca too. THink it's quite a common name.

A London bookshops. Sigh! I miss them.


Anonymous said...

But for doctors, imagine :

"My name is Dr. Panicker."

"please, please tell me that's not a nickname."


bibliobibuli said...

kak teh - tea for sure!

savante, anon - i know of a dentist here called Ow.

bibliobibuli said...

anaisah - yes, would love to meet you ... drop me an e-mail with your number