Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The shop was full of bays formed by bookshelves protruding at right angles from the walls. The first bay was well-lighted and tidy; but the others, as they receded into the gloomy backward of the shop, were darker and darker, and untidier and untidier.

The effect was of mysterious and vast populations of books imprisoned forever in everlasting shade, chained, deprived of air and sun and movement, hopeless, resigned and martyrised.

At the back of the rather spacious and sombre shop came a small room, with a doorway, but no door, into the shop. This was the proprietor's den. Seated at his desk therein he could see through a sort of irregular lane of books to the bright oblong of the main entrance, which was seldom closed.

There were more books to the cubic foot in the private room even than in the shop. They rose in tiers to the ceiling and they lay in mounds on the floor; they also covered most of the flat desk and all the window-sill; some were perched on the silent grandfather's clock, the sole piece of furniture except the desk, a safe, and two chairs, and a stepladder for reaching the higher shelves.

Riceyman Steps, by Arnold Bennett, Grosset and Dunlap 1923

Top photo of Shakespeare & Company, the bookstore-to-end-all-bookstores, located in the Left Bank, Paris, France