Saturday, 3 December 2005

Bennett & Kerr Books

Today I went on an adventure, all the way out to Steventon in rural Oxfordshire. Hurrah. The reason for this incredible voyage into the heart of darkness is that a rather excellent bookseller is there and invited me out to have a gander around their books. Think Famous Five meets Ambridge meets American Gothic (without the pitchfork). The village itself is just beautiful, full of lovely early architecture, a lot of Tudor timber-framed buildings and parsonages and the like. There's a very unusual causeway (a type of raised footpath) that runs through one part of the village too. The directions to this bookshop included things like 'cross the railway line', 'down the lane', 'walk through the farmyard', which is intended to give you an impression of what it's like to literally stand in the middle of a field looking for the entrance to the farmyard! Picking my way through the chickens I eventually made it to the shop. The obstacle course isn't normally an issue since customers all purchase online. Very cleverly, Andrew asked me out to browse because he knew I'd be a danger once I got started. And I also met Edmund and did my very good impersonation of slightly crazy and obsessed bibliophile.

The stock is absolutely wonderful. It's a mix of remaindered texts and secondhand books, some from the libraries of various saints and scholars. For example their latest printed catalogue lists some books from the library of the late Marjorie Reeves. There were so many I wanted desperately but couldn't allow myself. A highlight that comes to mind (sadly spoken for) is Malcolm Parkes, English Cursive Bookhands 1250-1500, priced at a very competitive £48. I also saw a copy of Hoccleve: Facsimile of the Autograph Verse Manuscripts, for what I think was £50, which is good value. But you'll also find other bargains at lower prices. They've got an excellent stock of material on Chaucer, Langland and Beowulf. They've got lots of general medieval history, as well as a considerable Renaissance stock too. If you're after something, send an email and they'll do their best to sort you out.
I myself picked up a copy of Norton-Smith's Geoffrey Chaucer (London, 1974); Chaucer's Dream Poetry: Sources & Analogues, ed. Windeatt (Cambridge, 1982); and a kind of (serious) folly, Barbara Nolan, Chaucer and the Tradition of the 'Roman Antique' (Cambridge, 1992). Needless to say that none of these books is the book that I actually went out to Steventon to collect! That was Coulson & Roy, Incipitarium Ovidianum: A Finding Guide for Texts Related to the Study of Ovid in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Turnhout, 2000). I had actually ordered this in Blackwell's and it had arrived and was awaiting collection when I saw Bennett & Kerr's copy for exactly half the new price! This justified blowing a fortune in my warped mind. But I am actually using these books at the moment so they're not being used to steady a wobbly table.

When I win the National Lottery I am calling to Bennett & Kerr Books for some serious shopping, just as I'm on my way down to London to Harvey Nichols for some very very serious shopping. Suits you sir, very nice. I could write a better thesis dressed in Prada. I just know it.


Chris Cséfalvay said...

Wow! This sounds like a nice bookshop... too much of a pity I just got home and won't be back up till early January. How far is the trip? Can you risk it by bike? Their collection makes it really really seem like it's worth a visit!

Miglior acque said...

I don't think you could do it on a bike from here, to be quite honest. It's 40 mins on the bus, the number 35 from St Aldates. Make sure the bus goes to Steventon, which is after Abingdon. Give them a ring or send them an email first just to make sure that they will be there. (And tell them I sent you...I'll angle for a discount next time!). It's worth travelling the distance for and I'll certainly do it again. No doubt.

Chris Csefalvay said...

Okay, I'll give it a try when I'm back.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to hunt down a copy of Procopius' Anecdota (the Secret History), but the Univ Library doesn't have it, I can't request it because I'm not a classicist, and can't find it anywhere. Mwh. This kind of stuff really ought to be digitised.

Miglior acque said...

You can join the History Faculty library and borrow their copy. The loan won't be as long, but it's something.

én/Chris Cséfalvay said...

Good idea... :)


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