Two Shakespeare’s First Folios in One Trip!

Did we go to England looking for them? No, but we happened on both on our travels. One copy is at the British Museum, known to be one of only four surviving folios that contain the engraving of Shakespeare in the first state, and the second at Firsts, London’s Rare Book Fair. These books were just two of the highlights of our recent two-week visit to England. How can you beat that? Well, let’s see…

We began our journey in Woking (yes, the Woking of War of the World fame). Please see the picture to check out the town’s pride for the H. G. Wells’ and his work. Wells lived in Woking while he was writing the novel and while biking around town imagined destroying it. My sister-in-law, a huge racing fan, was more impressed that it is the home to the McLaren Group, who are responsible for McLaren Formula One racing, but you reader, can decide which side you are on.

From there it was off to Farway, Devon, in Southwestern England, a town around 3 miles from the English Channel. We had the pleasure of staying with Andy and Angela Richards (Cold Tonnage Books), at “Poundwater,” a lovely cottage surrounded by a sheep farm. We are pleased to report that each village we visited boasted a used bookshop.

From there it was off to Bath, sometime home of Jane Austen (a tour guide told us that she hated the city!), Charles Dickens and Mary Shelley. Time well spent with an interesting day touring the Roman bath.

As our second week began we were on to London for the main events. After arriving we were off and running. On our way to the British museum we stopped and had a welcome visit at Jarndyce Books across the street from the museum. Dinner that evening was with colleagues enamored with the “French 75” cocktail, named after the WW I French field gun. The next day we trained to Royal Tunbridge Wells, about 45 minutes south of London, and spent a lovely day with Adrian Harrington and Jon Gilbert. After an almost four-hour lunch and a few bottles of wine we left assured that British collectors were indeed in good hands!

Of course, to be fair we also needed to also visit the firm of Peter Harrington in Kensington, after a side trip to Cecil Court. We had been there over 30 years ago, and were pleased to see that the street still boasts around 10 used bookshops handling a variety of printed work.

Thursday was the start of book fairs-three to be exact. Beginning with the PBFA fair at the IBIS Earl’s Court hotel. This was a well-attended event with a wide variety of printed material. Our U.S. colleagues were well represented, appearing to do well with purchases.

On Friday the main fair, London’s Firsts, opened in Battersea Park. It is an attractive venue with spacious aisles. A very nice opening ribbon cutting ceremony by actor Stephen Fry. I made the rounds of booksellers and my purchases accumulated. I returned Saturday, just to see if I had missed anything!

Finally, on Sunday, almost (but not quite!), out of book-buying energy, we attended a smaller fair at the Royal National Hotel, a relatively short walk from our hotel. Not as many dealers as the PBFA event (some of the same dealers exhibited), but we saw some new faces and we were happy with our purchases. Then on to the nearby British Library which no book enthusiast should miss.

After fairs relaxation

Book collectors are what Susan likes to call “constant learners,” in that they are interested in a wide variety of fascinating topics. Back home we have been reflecting on our travels and what we remember most is the wonderful, colorful, insightful, and fun conversations we had with book dealers and fellow visitors at both the book fairs and in the English countryside.

We hope that you will enjoy the array of books we brought home and are currently busy cataloguing. Look for a Constant Contact soon announcing our newest additions to our list of book offerings.

John & Susan Knott

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