Thursday, 2 June 2011

Dartmouth - Harbour Books, Compass Books

  The River Dart is peppered on either side of its running waters by slices of castles. A rounded tower, an old castle wall, a medieval pontoon, tucked into intimate little niches on the riverbank. It’s been absolutely beautiful so far on our trip and this day was to no different – everything was gorgeous blue. The little castles tucked among emerald trees are miniature Grey Havens, or Caribbean coves – the caves and caves torn into the rocks as if they have come straight from a fantasy novel. I would love to live in Dartmouth – it’s absolutely fascinating.

Harbour Books

I was disappointed with Harbour Books. It is a bright shop, with a variety of subjects, all new books, as well as stationary items. The shop used to be owned by none other than Christopher Robin Milne. Apparently my parents were there years ago, and there was over the door with his name. Obviously, Milne was quite famous because of his father’s works and although my parents saw the shop they didn’t want to annoy Milne along with other Pooh fans. 

The shop now has barely a sign that it was owned by one of the most prominent names in children’s literature. A poster in the window, that’s it, and one book case. It’s a shame, as my parents say it was ‘a proper old bookshop’ and I suspect it would have been wonderful. I was also disappointed because the shelves, especially up stairs, seemed rather sparse and untidy. To its credit, though, it’s the kind of shop that tries not to have the same two books together, and the staff are friendly. 

Agatha Christie is another famous writer to grace Dartmouth’s pretty streets. She stayed there for a time, right before her mysterious disappearance. Of course, we know that the Doctor solved that mystery. Harbour Books lacked character, but has potential for it. It seems as if Dartmouth has seen so many famous minds but nothing has been made of it, which is a real shame. 


Compass Books

Compass Books was a delightful surprise – we had decided to walk back along the key from Dartmouth Castle, and we literally stumbled upon this great little shop. The owner was soaking up the evening sun, leaning against the door frame, but promised that she would come running if I asked for any help. The bookshop was small, but well stocked – second hand bookshop this time. The counter top is absolutely crowded with books.  

     The first thing I noticed when I walked into the shop was that there were Paperblanks for sale. I love Paperblanks, but saved my saliva for them after I had drooled over the other books. 

     I suppose it is expected of all these harbour towns to have bookshops that have a large selection of nautical books, and Compass Books was no exception. It had a wide and interesting selection of books that my mother cooed over, though most of them were several years out of date. 


I was particularly impressed by the books on the narrow shelves just beyond the Paperblanks. They were an assortment of books about literature, poetry and writing. I was sorely tempted to get a particular book but I can’t remember what it was about, but it was £10 and I didn’t have any cash. I should have asked mum to get it for me as an early birthday present. 

     I could have spent hours looking at all the interesting books there.

'Time for my evening drink.’ The owner said as we perused the shelves. Just a step to the pub opposite, she came back with her drink. To be fair, it was closing time, but was happy for us to browse and to chat to us.


 In the backroom, books included fiction and children’s. Sad to say there wasn’t many old children’s books, but to my delight there were some good old CS Forrester. I only ever find Hornblower in coastal tones. I probably could have brought the entire series on my mini cruise. 

Now it was time to dribble over the Paperblanks. I used to write my diaries in A5 ring binder notebooks but then I discovered Paperblanks, and they are absolutely wonderful to write in. I feel myself changing the way I write when I write in them, because they are such gorgeous notebooks, they seem to good for any childish rambles. Compass Books had a couple of new lines in – and I literally salivated. They were so, so beautiful. I think I will definitely have to get the Baroque Ventaglio and the Safavid BindingArt. Currently I’m writing in the Jade Old Leather journal, and my next one is a Romantic Sensibilities one, which I re-covered because I already have two of them, and I didn’t particularly like the colour – bit bogey-ish. We talked to the owner and she is also passionate about the beautiful notebooks, and we stood there for ages talking about them. 

     The lady was super friendly, and the shop really echoed her passions. Although she admitted running a bookshop was hard work, she told us it was also incredibly rewarding. She is involed in five different businesses and this have leaked through into Compass Books, also selling fenders and ropes. 

     Compass Books was a charming discovery which certainly made my day. It is clear that real care has been taken, and it had a fabulous atmosphere, and an innovative charm that made it something special. Plus, this blog has let me ramble on about Paperblanks, which as you may have guessed, I absolutely love.

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