Thinking this looks like fun.....we asked him gently “How Special?
“Well..quite special, if you don’t mind”.
“Ah…well you probably need to have a browse through these”…and so we set him up with our library steps at the rear of the shop (a view not too dissimilar to Carl Spitzweg's famous 1852 image above....!).
About five minutes later, we got a plaintive call for help.
There he was, balanced precariously by the top shelf, and looking rather forlorn.
“What’s Up?" we said.
There was a long silence, and then…
“Well…to be honest, I’ve quite forgotten what I got up here for…!”
We finally got him down and settled with some early copies of Men Only and Mayfair. All a bit tame really by today’s standards, but what sticks in our memory is the way the human psyche never gives in. Any geriatric nurse will tell you the same (those of you who have read and absorbed Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs** will know what we mean….).
Another thought that comes to mind is how much better the French are at this sort of publication (See, for example our Special Collections at www.lyme-regis.com). They seem to understand and respect the reader’s psyche much better, and the watercolour artwork is so much more beautiful…..
Then there is the delightful area of humerous Bookplates (ex-libris erotici)***…one could go on and on…..
So, we thought we might round this off by giving a few leads to what has given us much pleasure over the years….
Think of them as offering Senior Moments, or even Book Chat Consolations..!
1. Libby Jones. “How to Undress in Front of Your Husband”. 1967. Tandem. 80pp. (Ah well..dream on.....).
2. pp 106 - 111 in R A Baker (edits): "A Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gown". 1963. Prentice-Hall. (Who said Engineering couldn't be fun!).
3. Joseph Needham’s ten page “Postscript” in Jolan Chang’s “The Tao of Love and Sex”. 1977. Wildwood.
4. John Norman. “Imaginative Sex”. 1974. Daw Books.
5. Pauline Reage. “Story of O”. 1965. Grove Press.
*[Those of you old enough to remember the Sixties…or have ever had an antiquarian bookstore, will know that "Do you have anything special?" is code for under-the-counter-books. Books that in my youth in the Fifties or Sixties would be wrapped up in brown paper and hidden under the school desk! It all seems a bit tame now, with everything instantly available on the Internet; a little sad really, as there was an element of adventure and mischievousness as adolescent schoolkids that somehow made the whole thing completely innocent, as well as fun!].
**Abraham Maslow “The Farther Reaches of Human Nature”. Viking. 1971.
***“Ex Libris Erotici”. R Palazzi. 1982. Savelli Editori. (Granted, a little hard to find title, but filled with the most delightful artwork by Franz von Bayros, Alberto Martini, Felicien Rops, etc, etc).
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It was winter, a few years ago, and near closing time. She was elderly, frail, apologetic…but determined.
“Can you tell me where your red books are please?”
“Well Ma’am…we have a shelf of Large Print books here…or would it be audio books..? Would you have an author in mind..?”
“No. No. “Red” books, red..deep deep red please….”
“Books in red jackets..!"
“Yes…I’ve been looking for so long”.
“Well ...perhaps our best selection of red books would be in hardback fiction or biography…there…or over here ma’am…!”
“Thank You young man…”
…and with that she drew out a small swatch of what looked like red velvet or possibly red corduroy cloth…
Ten minutes later we had a sale and a delighted customer.
“This will do perfectly”
The book was to go under her bedside lamp…but…it had to exactly match her lampshade cloth..!
“You could even read the book ma’am…by the light of the lamp..”
“Ah yes young man…”
And with that she disappeared into the night.