Thursday, 27 July 2017

Walking into Webberley's.

I paid a visit to the city centre of my old home town recently and was a little upset at finding that my favourite bookshop had closed. It had been big as bookshops go – a five story, 102-year-old building taking up a corner where two roads intersected. The ground floor housed the books, and they sold artists’ requisites on the first floor. I bought my portfolio case there when I was a photographer.

When I lived in the city I used to frequent it regularly, often not to buy books but merely to browse them. And to study the old monochrome photographs of people like Dickens and Arnold Bennett hanging on the walls, and smell the old wood from which the old wooden stairway was carved, and breathe in the scent of the printing ink seeping down from the second floor where they had a printing press, and hear the silence of people wrapt in their own browsing of the classic, the comic, and the way far out. Walking into Webberley’s offered a kind of aesthetic charm which was wholly absent from the branches of two national bookstore chains in other parts of the centre.

But the age of the traditional bookshop seems to be dwindling to a close. Now is the age of the e-reader and internet shopping, and those Aladdin’s Caves of quiet delight are tumbling and coming to dust. And the city centre is all the sadder for it.

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