A Bibliophile’s Escape in London #15 min read
I went to London at the weekend and as I’m sure most people know, London is one of those cities in which all the best parts tend to be hidden. I always love discovering little bookshops or anything with a relation to literature so here I have listed three places I would recommend to any bibliophile who is planning to visit London.
Marchpane’s, Peter Ellis Booksellers, and Goldsboro Books
Cecil Court, London, WC2N 4HE
The first place I am going to talk about is Cecil Court which is located just a short walk from Leicester Square tube station. In the last 3 months I have visited London 3 times and I went here every time. There’s something extremely calm about it despite it being only a few hundred meters from Trafalgar Square, and it’s definitely a book lover’s heaven. All the shops down Cecil Court are equally charming but I’ve picked out a few of my favourites. Firstly I would recommend Marchpane’s Children’s Books where you can find hoards of children’s classics as well as first editions, signed copies and loads of old merchandise from children’s TV shows and book franchises. They specialise in Lewis Carroll so they have plenty of copies of Alice in Wonderland as well as wonderful illustrations of favourite characters from Alice’s world. They also have wonderful editions of Harry Potter as well as a an actual Dalek, so really, there’s something for everyone. Next I would recommend Peter Ellis Bookseller. Here you can find shelves and shelves of first editions as well as literary classics such as Shakespeare and modern authors such as Jonathan Safran Foer. Another shop similar to Peter Ellis is Goldboro Books; as it says on their website their mission is to “provide the finest signed quality books in the world” and true to this statement their little shop is full of them. They have plenty of first editions and signed copies of some literary classics and it was a pleasure to browse the shelves and marvel at the beautiful editions.
So all in all I would definitely recommend checking out this little street. There’s definitely something for all book lovers and whether you’re going to buy or browse all the booksellers give you a warm welcome.
203-206 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1V 9LE
Next is a little bit of an obvious one, but I find that London always has particularly alluring Waterstone’s. The ones I visited at the weekend were in Trafalgar Square and also in Piccadilly. Now I’m not going to go on about what’s in a Waterstone’s because even the most timid reader would be aware of this.
But I think theLondon branches alway have a different feel to them. They are the créme de la créme of their branches. They already had some festive decorations up which I found delightful (even if it was a little early) and the open-plan design of the store, plus its 5 floors, made for a place I could happy spend hours in. I also visited Hatchard’s Booksellers in Piccadilly. This was an independent bookstore and is actually the oldest bookseller in the UK. It is known for attracting high-profile authors and holds three royal warrants so it definitely has a sophisticated feel. Hatchard’s was actually bought out by Pentos which was then acquired by Waterstone’s, so the bookshelves have a similar feel to Waterstone’s, but the shop in Piccadilly has more of a cosy feel than the Waterstone’s so there’s definitely a reason to visit both.
Harry Potter: A History of Magic
96 Euston Rd, London, NW1 2DB
Finally this weekend I went to see the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition at the British Library. I booked this all the way back in April so I’ve been excited about it for a while! I’ve also never been to the British Library so I was excited about going there too. I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures of the exhibition, which is understandable, and to be honest it was quite dark in there anyway. Everything was laid out in 10 different rooms, the first for “The Journey” of the books, the last for “Past, Present and Future” and the rest each for a different Hogwarts’ subject: Potions, Alchemy, Herbology, Charms, Divination, Defence Against the Dark Arts and Care of Magical Creatures. The displays were a mix of information about the books and also the history of magic in our own world and how that influenced the Harry Potter stories. At the end of the exhibition they also had a display of loads of the books in different languages and with different cover art which just reminded everyone what an impact the Harry Potter books had, not just on readers, but on the children’s publishing industry as a whole. The most exciting part of the whole exhibition for me was being able to read annotated notes from J.K Rowling and there’s even a deleted scene from one of the books! Plus each room was dotted with illustrations from Jim Kay as well as J.K Rowling herself. This was a nice surprise as I never knew she was such a good illustrator. All in all the exhibition definitely made me want to add the History of Magic book to my Christmas list, as well as read all seven books again… obviously.
So there’s my bibliophile’s escape in London. I’d love to hear of other bookish places in the city if anyone knows any! And hopefully you’ll have a chance to visit some of these gems.