Monday, January 21, 2008

'The Most Fascinating Bookshop in the World'

More from Andrew Lycett's biography of Arthur Conan Doyle:

As far as his reading was concerned, he did not lack for material at home. But he also had access to a city renowned for its booksellers, and this was an opportunity impossible to ignore. Every morning, on his way to lectures, he passed what he called 'the most fascinating bookshop in the world'—undoubtedly James Thin on South Bridge. This caused problems because, at lunchtimes, he usually had thruppence for a sandwich and a glass of beer. But once a week he would forgo his meal and spend his money on something more cerebral from Thin's second-hand tub. He found himself devouring eighteenth century authors such as Addison and Swift. He also picked up a tattered copy of Macaulay's Essays, which became his favourite book, both for its subject matter (a series of vivid studies of historical figures) and for its style, which he would seek to emulate: 'The short, vivid sentences, the broad sweep of allusion, the exact detail, they all throw a glamour around the subject and should make the least studious of readers desire to go futher.'

The James Thin on South Bridge is gone now, bought out by another chain a couple of years ago I believe. But I purchased many books there myself on various trips to Edinburgh right through to the end of the 1990s. Is it possible that the store I visited in the 1990s is the very same one that Conan Doyle was so enamoured of more than a century before? I feel a strong sense of kinship with anyone who would forgo lunch in order to buy books (of course I'd rather have lunch and books, but forced to opt for one or the other, the choice is clear!). But to have shopped in the same bookstore as well strikes me as a very cool albeit random connection.

1 comment:

Matthew Tiffany said...

Doyle was quite the guy. Looking forward to more posts about him... and pulling my "Complete Sherlock Holmes" off the shelf tonight -