Every so often I will find the name of a long-gone secondhand bookshop stamped on the yellowing flyleaf page of an old paperback. These were a very particular kind of used book store. Far removed from the antiquarian establishments where the price is deftly written in a soft pencil stroke on the top right hand corner of the flyleaf, or who may also choose to smartly cover a rare and desirable dust jacket in a protective acid free plastic cover.
These were the shops who defied the laws of the high brow collector set. They'd splat indelible ink right across the face of the first page, so the name and often the address of the shop was defiantly emblazoned within. It was very clear to the customer, and the proprietor, that every book stored within the four walls of the shop is well and truly branded, just like a herd of cattle. The shop stamp also removed any hint of anonymity about the book's provenance - it may have passed through several or a dozen hands but for one time at least, we know something about its shelf-life history.
The major selling point was that the book is exchangeable at half price - so often accompanying the ink stamp is the price clearly written in irremovable ballpoint. The exchange factor also meant that often these books could often be rather well-worn by the time they'd end up in your hands!
I have vivid memories of so many of these kinds of bookshops which were once common place throughout the nation. The 'Popular Book Centre' was perhaps the most-well known of them all as they were a kind of chain with many branches scattered throughout London (and perhaps further afield). Famously too, these places catered for a range of tastes that could not be satisfied by the more 'traditional' type of secondhand bookshop. Where else in the world could you source American super hero comics, X-rated adult zines, pulp fiction, car maintenance manuals, biographies, the classics, Mills & Book romance novels or ancient sheet music and pop magazines all under one roof?
So now I'm on a new quest - to put together a collection of these book shop stamps as I come across them. Your examples much appreciated too...
|This PBC was just a few doors away from the Hope & Anchor Pub, An opticians shop is on the site now.|
|Where were M&D based? Post the Half Price era. Note that the customer got just under a third of the price back|
|A rather sparse looking stamp, but enough information to show the name and the (abbreviated) street. Most likely a stall in what was then the world famous Petticoat Lane market.|
|Undoubtedly a prime example of a shop catering for the massive British package tourism trade that transformed the Costa del Sol region of Spain from the 1960s. And guess what - it looks like Julian's is still going strong...|
|For 10p, Thunderbirds are Go at POPULAR BK. CENTRE. Why not use an unsightly thick black felt tip pen to really knock down the collectible grade of your recent purchase?|
|Finally, here's one hailing from the US. I recall spending about half a day in this place. Late 80s I reckon. What a treasure trove of amazing books, and so sad to learn that it has now 'TOO' bitten the dust...|