Friday, 17 December 2010


Rooke Books

Yesterday I completed my Christmas shopping so as a treat, I thought I’d go to Rooke Books to have a gander.

I was shocked and appalled when I found that it had changed into some craft shop. I actually had to do a double take when I saw instead of a beautiful display of crumbling covers there were some cushions and ribbons in the window. Let’s just say I was not amused.

I pressed my face up to the window and peered in. There was no-one in there, luckily, if there were I would have demanded why the hell had the bookshop disappeared. There was a half eaten baguette on the half completed countertop but no sign of people.
Let me tell you about Rooke Books. It was a delightful store, spanning four floors with friendly staff and old windy staircases that looks like they came straight from my grandparent’s old house. A bell jangled gaily over your head, and immediately in front of you, a book case full to the brim of old books, often with ‘recommended this week’ and other such handwritten, friendly signs. Down the windy staircase and you came upon history, America, war and religion. Several of the volumes were held together with elastic bands because the spines have deteriorated so much. At my fingertips lay words over a hundred years old, read by so many, loved by so many. Up the next flight of stairs your attention is caught by the huge white egg chair in the corner of the room, perfect for poor bored boyfriends of bibliofreaks or restless children.
On a round table in the centre some books, including Hornblower and the Atropos. This floor was dedicated to literary criticism and fiction. I drooled over a copy of Andrew Lang’s Red Book of Animal Stories but it was about £25 so maybe a little too much into my student purse. Up another flight of stairs (all characteristically uneven and generally amazing) and you are greeted with some modern flock wall paper, and hanging ‘bubble’ chairs, which make your voice go funny and swing around noisily if you’re too eager. On this floor they had travel, art, sport, science. All in all, it was an amazing shop.

I lamented the loss of such a fantastic shop. All those books, all that knowledge. But the shop was open merely last week – what the hell had happened?

So with an angry determination I strode into Bayntuns and took a customary look around the second-hand section in the basement (which is just equally as amazing, brought various Christmas presents there) and then began my investigatory work. I asked Jeremy Peters, the manager of the shop and bindery, what was going on. He said to me that he had only been there last week and there wasn’t any sign of the shop disappearing. Nothing. Not even a notice in the now-craft-shop window about it moving. He told me that booksellers usually talk to one another quite often but Rooke Books had kept quiet. He told me he had the strong suspicion that not even the staff knew that it was going to happen. I told him it was such a shame, and then talked to him about bookbinding, (just because I really want to work in Bayntuns) and the other shops that have closed down recently, which I will go on to now.

Whitemans Bookshop

Just around the corner from Bayntuns another bookshop is now empty. I only went in there a couple of times, the first time a few weeks ago, but I regret not going there more often. They had a lot of posters and other free literature on the counter (there was a poster of the Harry Potter series, I should have asked if I could nab it) and a whole variety of books, but mainly travel, and trains. So many books about trains, it was crazy. I found a 100 year old book for a Christmas present there and my brother found several editions of a marine-archaeology journal. The shelves were disorganised and mainly empty, it seemed like the management had just given up. I think a little digging would have produced even more delightful volumes for a cheap price. Alas, I only discovered it on the verge of it’s termination.

The Bath Book Exchange

This shop has been closed a while now but you can still walk by it and see tons of books stacked within it’s dark interior. I gleaned from  Jeremy Peters that ‘an old boy and his wife’ used to run the bookstore. When she died, he kept it going, and it kept him going. I must have been in there only once. The bookshop was really a mish-mash of  new books and old books, genres squashed together. It was just one small room. You were greeted by a great bell over the door and the smiling figure of the bent over ‘old boy’. ‘The only thing I have against him,’ Jeremy said, ‘is that he shouldn’t have painted the shop front that nasty colour.’ (Although Gerge Bayntun, however posh it is, is missing the 'orge' in the name on the front of the building) I wish I had gone there more often, there were probably several delights to be found.

So alas, there is now only two second hand bookshops in Bath, excluding all the charity shops, nd the great paperbacks shop in the guildhall. they don't have the crumbly books, that great, 'old' museum smell. The best charity shop for books is the one near the Yellow Shop, they have a vast collection of nearly everything, but nothing compares to the amazing atmosphere in a good old bookshop.

The shops have disappeared. So where are the books? Have they been confined to a rubbish heap? (When I worked as a volunteer at Dorothy House Care books had to be sent off to another country somewhere in Asia to be recylcled, here, they just throw them in the rubbish heap) I worry about the fate of those books.

EDIT: I emailed Rooke Books and here's thier reply:

Thank you for your e-mail. The shop closed down last week. 
It was quite sudden and happened very quickly. 
We hope to open another shop in the future when the economic
climate is more amiable. 
Some of the books should make their way onto our website, 
which is updated regularly with new stock. 
I am sorry that you did not have the opportunity to have 
a browse before the shop closed. 
I hope you have a nice Christmas and New Year.
Best wishes, 
For Rooke Books
I'm sorry Milly, but this is not satisfactory. 

1 comment:

  1. This makes me wish I visited more bookshops and second hand bookshops.