Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Charing Cross Road, Bloomsbury Rd & Cecil Court-trawling London's bookshops

Well today was my idea of heaven. After a continental breakfast at our hotel ( a former Gentleman's Club, think Fawlty Towers with Eastern European staff. When I asked for teatowels for our kitchen I was told: "I don't think we have those") we parted ways with Mum and Dad who headed off to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. We had carefully plotted our travels, but had a false start when we reached Books for Cooks to find it closed on a Monday.

The bonus was that as we took a wander up Portobello Road (with a stop along the way for cupcakes at Hummingbird Bakery)

we found an Oxfam Bookshop with a beautiful 1930s copy of Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management in a glass case. It wasn't cheap - but given one of my aims for this trip was to pick up a copy, I wasn't going to turn it down. By the end of the day I had 4!!

Next stop was the Bloomsbury bookshops, an eclectic mix of antiquarian booksellers like Jarndyce on Great Russell St where I picked up an 1891 "Manual of Domestic Economy; with Hints on Medicine and Surgery" ; and indepent publisher Souvenir Press for a couple of obscure titles on Arabian Cooking and herbal remedies. Nice finds but not yet the treasures I was hoping for.

We detoured to Covent Garden Market where we had been promised an antique market. There was lots of silverware and crockery, but no books or kitchenalia so we had lunch at the very tasteful chain Battersea Pie Shop.

David had a seafood pie with mashed potato and I had a pastie with mash and gravy. Gorgeous concept that I think would go well in Australia if someone had the presence of mind to copy it!

Now fortified against the cold wind and equipped with a copy of Book Lover's London purchased from Jarndyce, we headed for Cecil Court, a tiny back lane behind the theatres on Charing Cross Road jam-packed with specialist booksellers:

David Drummond sells only books and ephemera on theatre and magic and has some beautiful playbills and early programs in his tiny, crammed-full shop;

Marchpane with exquisite children's books, and I was awestruck by an entire bookshelf of Alice in Wonderland in every edition, language and format you could imagine.

Of interest in other Cecil Court traders were several Elizabeth David first editions and a first edition of the Savoy Cocktail Book which had pride of place in the window of an uncharacterictically sparse space with only a couple of hundred books and a focus on the exotic, trendy and risque.

Prices in Cecil Court were high (350 pounds for the Savoy), but it was lovely to browse.

Onwards we marched around the corner to the heart of what remains of the original Charing Cross bookshop district. Henry Prode's produced a circa 1890 Mrs Beeton's (that's 2) and Elizabeth David hardcovers.
There were many more beautiful antiquarian cookbooks and facsimiles of classics like the Williamsburg cookbook, but I had a couple more shops to visit.
One of these was Quinto's with a small but exciting shelf of cookbooks including 2 (count them two!) lovely Mrs Beeton's from the early 20th century (that's 4), Here I also found an Indian cookbook of the British Raj, and several books on domestic ecnonmy: 1892 Household Wrinkles by Mrs DeSallis and 1883 Cookery and Housekeeping by Mrs Henry Reeve Culinary Jottings.

We called it a day with approximately 20 kgs of books and negotiated 2 tube rides before stopping in at our 'local ' for a well-deserved pint.

Now I have what I came for!


Neville said...

I trust that you will be freighting all those beautiful books home and not lugging them around Europe??!!

Anonymous said...

I have a One Shilling Mrs Beetonn's Cookery Book New & Enlarged Edition 1892...would you be interested? If so email me at