The Quinto Bookshop

The Quinto Bookshop (in Charing Cross Road) is an evil place. It is run by an fiendish mastermind, whose determination is to ruin people like me, his customers, who enjoy interesting and obscure books.

Here is how his plan works:

  • The basement of the shop is given over entirely to non-rare secondhand books (the main floor is rare books and is of no interest to anyone). These books are priced from about £1 upwards, but usually in the £3-£5 bracket.
  • Every month, they close down the basement down entirely.
  • While the basement is closed, they remove the stock and replace it with an entirely different stock.
  • They then re-open the basement.

The consequence of this is that every time I go in there, unlike most secondhand shops where books hang around for years, I find an entire new selection of books that have to be looked through and bought. This not only takes time, but ends up with me buying rather a lot of books.

Sometimes, it’s true, the selection is fairly dull. It all depends on what they’ve recently bought in. Often, it’s clear large amounts of the books have come from the same source, since there’s a certain theme to their content. The last two times I’ve been there, I’ve bought nothing. Today, however, I bought ten books (which is really bad because I’m running out of space in my flat).

They were (and you’ll notice a theme here):

  • Selected Poems, Heinrich Heine (German with English translation)
  • Early Greek Science: Thales to Aristotle
  • Greek Science After Aristotle
  • Early Greece: Bronze & Archaic Ages
  • From Solon to Socrates, Victor Ehrenberg (something of a classic)
  • The Provinces of the Roman Empire, Theodore Mommsen (yeah, the bloke who once won a Nobel Prize / greatest Classicist ever)
  • Plutarch’s Lives – Complete, 3 vols (I don’t think Penguin actually do the whole set, and they only do them in series – not parallel)
  • Myths, Dreams and Mysteries, Mircea Eliade.

The last two items cost me in total £3 (I had been assuming the Plutarch was £2/vol – but no). Hmm, not  a single novel either!


8 thoughts on “The Quinto Bookshop

  1. What do they do with the basement-load that gets shipped out, I wonder? Do they go further down the second-hand foodchain somehow?

  2. They are indeed bastards. I have willingly given them several of my hard-earned pounds – WILLINGLY! It is an evil place and must be torched by a mob.

  3. LH: I have wondered about the rejected stock. I like to think there are other bookshops where these book are sent to see if an owner can be found for them. But I fear the truth may be more horrific than that. (Amazon, perhaps?).

  4. CN: This is the essential evil of capitalism: forcing people through advertising and design to buy things they actually want, and then giving people a sense of delight and satisfaction to actually use and possess these things.

  5. Yes. Although now that I think of it, several of the books I bought there turned out to be severe disappointments; Daisy Miller, A Sentimental Journey and A Dead Man in Deptford spring to mind. Still, at least I can claim to be that much better-read for having finished them. Perhaps that is when capitalism plays its most devious trick: when it is able to boost your spurious self-esteem and avert your gaze from the absurd folly of human life.

    Books are surprisingly expensive here in Buenos Aires. I had been led to believe that they were cheap as chips, but it is not the case. A battered old paperback copy of The Portrait of a Lady (which I’m enjoying far more than I did tedious old Daisy Miller) cost me 25 pesos, which is over £3.00, this despite its front cover (an unattractive, poorly designed thing) being secured only faded brown sellotape, its ink being smudgy, and the text being full of typos. Perhaps Amazon would have been better…

    How is Mommsen? In view of the controversy surrounding this year’s allegedly obscure and insignificant Nobel laureate, I’d be interested to read your views on a previous obscure and insignificant winner. His grandson Ernst Theodor was a very distinguished medieval historian; there’s a chapter on him in a good book called Inventing the Middle Ages by Norman F. Cantor.

  6. Well, considering libraries are apparently burning stock to cut costs, there seem to be more gruesome fates then the Amazon Marketplace.

    I am quite disheartened by Captain Ned’s assessment of Daisy Miller: I bought it recently (my reading of James has been patchy) and was looking forward to it. Oh well.

  7. I love that bookshop! When we first moved down here some 22 years ago, spending a day browsing through all the bookshops in Charing Cross Road was an unmitigated pleasure, but too many of those shops have disappeared these days. But one can only be grateful for those still left behind. I must say, though, that I tend to be a bit wary of walking down into basements of bookshops, ever since I walked down into the basement of what seemed to be a perfectly decent bookshop just up the road from Quinto, and finding myself in the weird and wonderful world of hardcore porn…

  8. Mommsen: I have this notion about Mommsen, without having read any but well aware of the shadow he casts, that he “invented” the modern study of history: that is, being a Victorian, and contrary to Victorianism, he did not see history as merely the collation of information, but as the trading-off of biased sources to approximate as much as one could the truth. He was a lawyer by vocation. Big on prosopography.

    Daisy Miller: I read it once, but forget it entirely. Often we buy books that are disappointing, but I’d be loathe to put it down to the particular shop.

    Books and porn: It is strange they’d disguised porn shops as bookshops – I suppose it is all to do with a certain bohemianism. I think the clue is if the word “Books” is in fluorescent lighting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s