There's a long-established and old-fashioned bookshop in Southport, Lancashire, called Broadhurst's - new books downstairs, old books above, and they wrap your purchase in brown paper and string before you leave. The really high-value stuff is in a room that resembles Sherlock Holmes' study, with a velvet rope across the doorway, while on the same landing is a room filled with more modestly-priced first editions.
there a couple of weeks ago, and though I wasn't specifically searching
for it, in the latter room my eye was caught by a copy of the Ward Lock
version of Meet the Tiger. This was the novel in which Leslie Charteris introduced Simon Templar, alias The Saint, to the world. Charteris was in his 20s when he wrote it, and later in his career he'd declare himself so dissatisfied with the book that he withdrew it from sale. It was a second (1929) edition rather than a
first, but a rather nice one. I read the opening page; yep, regardless
of his later disclaimers, the Charteris voice was there and the
character read as recognisable and fully-formed.
It wasn't exactly cheap, but it wasn't Vanderbilt money either. I like
books that have aged gracefully, and I'd rather have something
affordable and a bit shabby than mint and untouchable. After I came
away, it played on my mind so I did some internet research and
established that a) the second-edition price was probably a fair one,
and b) I could put aside any thoughts of a first edition. So I went back
this Saturday and visited again, read a couple more pages, left the
shop and walked around a bit to prolong the moment, then caved in and
bought the book. For the wrapping they have a purpose-made 1920s table
with the brown paper being pulled down from a roller and the string from
So now here's my problem. I've brought it home and I can't bring myself
to undo the parcel. A brown paper package, that's tied up with string. It's sitting on the shelf in the open, an ornament
But I will open it. Real soon now.