The other day I took the bus into the city and decided I would do some Christmas shopping. I tend to categorise my Christmas shopping i.e. My friend’s family, Mr. Penguin, people who work in the service industry such as the postman who walks up my steep driveway with cartons of wine or books, our veterinarians, hairdresser.
I picked up a couple of things and decided I needed to walk. I try to do two miles a day. That at least gets me started. Well it was sunny, the temperatures were in the high 20’s C (that’s 80s to you guys who don’t do metric) and there were several book shops I had not been in lately. I thought that I would stick with the second hand bookshops today. I had gotten a call from Richard at Cracked and Spineless book shop to get in there to see all the early Penguin books he brought in. Well that’s a good way to get me out of the house. I rocked up and sure enough there was a box of them. Sadly there was only one I didn’t have and one first published to replace a reprint I had.
I snatched them up, much to Richard’s dismay I hadn’t taken more. I saw a stack of Viragos lying on the floor and much to my dismay they were all sold to a woman I hope moves to an island in the South Pacific and forgets to pick them up in the excitement of it all.
Never mind, I walked the three blocks up to the Red Cross book shop. This is truly one of the best and cheapest book shops in the Southern Hemisphere. Volunteers run the place, they have clear instructions to never throw Penguin books into the recycle bins and I went to see what was lined up on their shelf.
All at once Kevein appeared. Kevin is a very skinny bookish character in a hat, walks everywhere, has a beard and hoards books. (Think Dickens) Every time he sees me he comes running up and starts talking about books in his collection. Fiction follows this man. A lot of what he says it is made up. Though I don’t doubt he knows his stuff. He spends a great deal of time telling me about all the Penguins he has. You would think he had more Penguins than what Bristol University has in the archives. I know he hoards books. People who have been in his house say you cannot walk through it. One little path, like something one might see walking through the woods in Walden.
There could even be small animals living in his forest of books but I try not to think of it.
He tells me about series of Penguins I have never heard of. They do not exist. One day I decided to start talking about a made up series of Penguin books. Time to get creative. I described the covers,( a kind of retro stripe with the colours used in the poetry series). I told him what the series number is- the R series through to 63 when they stopped publishing them due to changes in the company. 1950’s was the year- and waited for his response.
Sure enough he has a back room full of them. See what I mean? What is the saying? You can’t bullshit a bullshitter?
So I am walking around the shop and he told me to not bother with the “Collectable shelves”. I ignored him. He followed me to them and showed me a couple of Boys Adventure day books he found from the late 1800’s (I see those all the time at the tip shop). As he is jabbering at me I looked across the top shelf and lo and behold I see 6 old Penguin musical scores shoved into a corner. You can’t really see their spines. Penguin collectors can actually smell old penguins. There is a sixth sense of sorts.
When Karen (apenguinaweek) and I went to England several years ago she found a pile of these music scores and quickly preserved them in her collection. It was a funny experience as the two of us would wander around a shop, find things to collect and coyly pay for the items and then share them when we were again outdoors. But as I was crashing her trip I had a rule in my head if we both saw something we loved she had first crack at it. After all books are only books. I knew I would find some later on and I did. Yesterday I found seven of them. As I pulled them off the shelf with their beautiful covers (think early Penguin Poet’s series) all of a sudden Kevin’s mouth just went all quiet. There really are divine moments when one collects something. Smirk is not the word I would use to rub it in but oh boy, it was difficult.
Besides the music scores I also found an old Penguin Special and a Thomas Hardy poetry book (D53). I happily took my books to the counter where I was charged 50 cents per book. Bargain. So today I am showing them to you. Know these books are now safe and sound and won’t be going into landfill anytime soon.
Celebrations were in order.