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patience to wade through much verbiage
conies across many a quaint and curious
bit of literature, many a gem in a worth-
less setting.

A little, fat, rough-leather bound



AN OLD BOOK SHOP. 89

volume, entitled " Took's Pantheon,
1713, is good value for 2d. Here one
may learn about mythology, be intro-
duced to the gods and goddesses celestial,
from Jupiter and Juno to Bacchus and
Venus, or terrestrial, from Saturn and
Vulcan to Ceres, and Pan with his pipes.
Here one may meet with the nine muses,
with nymphs and fauns, with satyrs,
fates and furies ; may travel through
regions Elysium and drink of the Waters
of Lethe.

Volumes of sermons find a quiet rest-
ing-place in the twopenny box. The
ponderous Blair was a mighty writer of
sermons, and patronised the Ayrshire
ploughman by subscribing for a copy of
his poems ; and now the volume pub-
lished by the poet is worth double its
weight in gold, while the sermons of his
patron lie unread in the twopenny box.
Such works as " Hervey's Meditations
amongst the Tombs," " Boston's Fourfold
State," or "Zimmerman on Solitude" must
in their day have had a large circulation,
if one may judge from the number of
copies constantly turning up.

Now and again, amidst the multitudes
of antiquated school books and religious
works, one comes across a treasure. How-
ever sharp-eyed and careful a bookseller
may be, he at times drops into the two-
penny box books which should be placed
on the top shelf. One may chance to



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come across many an out-of-the-way book,
thrown aside as valueless because of its
shabby exterior. An early volume of
poetry, some scarce American pamphlet,
or a first edition, it may be, of a Defoe
or a Bunyan may turn up quite un-
expectedly.

Not long ago, when looking over a
bundle of books I had bought at a sale, I
was on the point of throwing an old
leather-bound volume, entitled "A Hind
Let Loose, 1770," into the twopenny box,
when, looking on the fly-leaf, I saw the
name ''Mungo Park" written on it.
Above this name was inscribed "Mr
Thos. Anderson, surgeon, Selkirk, April
1, 1780." This Mr Anderson was Mungo
Park's father-in-law.

A friend of mine, in a prosperous posi-
tion in lifo, spends his spare time in
foraging in the most unlikely nooks and
corners for uncommon little books. Hid
in a volume of common pamphlets he
discovered a copy of the first collection
of verses published by the Ettrick Shep-
herd. It is entitled " Poems in the Low-
land Dialect of Scotland, by James Hogg,"
and is exceedingly rare. Small unique
books and pamphlets, usually overlooked
by the orthodox collector, are his de-
siderata, and he knows that it is by dip-
ping daily in the outside boxes he will be
able to indulge his hobby. He one day
fished out of a penny collection a copy of



AN OLD BOOK SHOP. 91

"The Pentland Rising," one of R. L.
Stevenson's earliest productions.

There is a curious quaintnesa and anti-
quity about every volume in his library.
One takes up a copy of "The Pilgrim's
Progress," 1787, illustrated with the
ugliest of picturos that wood engraver
could produce, and badly printed on cheap
paper, and compares it with an exquisite
copy of "Homer's Iliad," Paris, 1584, at
which early date, printer, paper maker,
and binder are shown at their best. Here
are some lovely little early French and
Italian volumes, with book plates inside
the covers. The titles of some of my
friend's books are worthy of note : —
"Pills to Purge Melancholy," "A Tooth-
pick to Tickle" Fancy," " The Secret His-
tory of Q. Elizaboth and E. of Essex, by a
Person of Quality ; Cologne : printed for
Will with the Wisp at the Sign of the
Moon in tho Ecliptick ; " "The'Compleat
Mendicant or Unhappy Beggar," " Killing
no Murder," "Reformation no Enemie,"
"The Scots Scouts' Discoveries, by their
London Intelligencer."

Tho pleasure of hunting for these out-
of-the-way book rarities is alluring and
hopeful, tho joy of finding a treasure is
satisfying, and the delight of possession
is sweet and lasting.



XII.

ECCENTRIC CUSTOMERS.

Literature lifts her devotees above the
sordid hum-drum of every day life ; the
littlenesses, the jealousies and petty
weaknesses of humanity seem to vanish
in the presence of books. The souls of
the ancients, the spirits of the wise, of
the good and great of every age and
every land are ever present in their glori-
ous immortality within the gracious
covers of the works which fill the shelves
of a library.

In a lesser degree an old book shop
represents a great library. The shop is
but the medium for the wider distribu-
tion of the treasures of literature, but
its contents are constantly changing.
The shelves are vitalised daily with fresh
volumes, and the old shop is glorified with
life and variety.

The people who are drawn by their
love for learning to patronise a book shop
should be people of a superior type. It
is not needful that they be wealthy or be
poor, be famous or unknown, for there is

98



HITS FROM AN OLD BOOK SHOI\ 1)3

a delightful sense of social equality within
the precincts of an old book shop which
can be found nowhere else. The little
barriers of class and creed disappear in
the presence of immortality. Quietly
and silently but irresistibly the books
exert their influence over men's minds.

In an old book shop books are to be
found which appeal to every class of
mind. The butcher's boy asking for
"Jack Harkaway," is followed by a
sedate lady in search of a volume of the
"Rev. Dr Kittlelug's Sermons." The
medical student wishing to purchase
" The Anatomy of the Frog," has to
stand aside until Mary Ann is served
with a sixpenny dream book.

What an interesting medley of cus-
tomers are drawn to a book shop. The
callow youth entering his little circle of
society enquires blushing] y for a " Manual
of Etiquette." The young lady who serves
in the lace department of Messrs Sharp &
Shoddy, has joined a dancing class, and
wishes to purchase the latest "Ball-room
Guide." A very modest gentleman, too
bashful to " pop the question," is anxiously
enquiring for " The Lovers' Letter Writer."
The publican's barman, eager to rise in
his profession, is looking out for a book
on brewing, and stands side by side with
an ardent teetotaller on the hunt for
temperance literature.

Outside some book shops, in front of



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the windows, are placed stalls on which
the cheaper books are displayed. These
stalls are a means of perpetual pleasure
to many. A white-haired old gentleman
may be seen, deeply interested and quite
oblivious of the passing world, reading
some ancient classic side by side with a
literary fishwife. A grocer's boy with
his basket elbows his way in front of a
worthy magistrate, while a working man
draws the attention of a bank agent to a
prize he has just purchased for threepence.

Everyone, be he (or she) rich or poor,
young or old, who looks at the books
leaves them with a yearning backward
glance as if one would fain stay longer.
No one who opens a book and reads even
one sentence goes from it without benefit.
Those who enter the old book shop and
purchase its treasures receive back value
for their money a thousand-fold. The
man who hungers and thirsts after right-
eousness can have no better guide how to
satisfy his craving than in divinely in-
spired writings. The ambitious youth
wishing to make his way in the world
finds inspiration in the study of the lives
of the great men of the past. The young
lady who desires to be a good housewife
is almost sure of success if she has
mastered the contents of " Mrs Grundy's
Household Guide " or " Meg Dods'
Cookery."

A wicked little boy one day took an



AN OLD BOOK SHOP. 95

irresistible fancy for a volume exposed
for sale on the outside stall ; he annexed
it without payment, and retiring to a
common stair entry ho carefully scraped
off the price ticket. With a most inno-
cent expression ho afterwards walked into
the shop and sold my own book to me for
twopence.

A lady ono bright afternoon came to
the counter and laying down half a dozen
brown paper parcels, an umbrella and a
flower pot, asked to see some nice tales
for boys. I showed her " Lamb's Tales,"
"Wilson's Border Tales," and "Scott's
Tales of a Grandfather," but she refused
them all and walked away quite happy
with a copy of Ouida's " Moths," thinking
it was a work on natural history. An-
other lady asked me if "The Heavenly
Twins " would be a nice prize for her
bible-class, and if " The Sorrows of Satan "
would do as a present for her minister.

One day when business was dull a
pleasant-faced young gentleman asked to
see some Bibles. I began by showing him
the most expensive editions. Teachers'
Bibles, Pew Bibles, Padded Bibles, Limp
Leather Bibles, Smallest Bibles in the
World, were soon spread out before him
in tempting array. He examined them
carefully, discussed the styles of binding,
the typo and the prices, leading me to
think he would make a wholesale pur-
chase. However, he never signified com-



96 BITS FROM AN OLD BOOK SHOP.

plete approval of any one book, nor hinted
that he would buy it, so at last in despair
I played my trump card in the Bible line,
and showed him our wonderful cheapest
Bible of the century offered at so-many-
pence-halfpenny, complete with maps and
psalms. The gentleman said it was indeed
a wonderful bargain, thanked me, and say-
ing good morning, walked away.

Looking on the display of unpurchased
Bibles I tried to be angry but couldn't.
Many a time since this same young man
has visited the old book shop. He never
buys, but always asks for Bibles, and talks
about Bibles. One cannot snub him, he
has such a nice smile and gentle voice.
When he fails to get a look at the Bibles
inside the shop, he stands by the hour
examining them in the window.

A lady came to the shop a few days
ago, leading by her side a little girl of
three years. After she had purchased a
sixpenny novel, I gave the child a picture
book, and asked the good lady if she had
any more little ones. "Just wait a
minute," she answered, and going to the
door she soon returned wheeling a mail
cart in which there were two infants,
and following her were four other children
of assorted ages. "There are seven of
them," she said, and as I gave each a two-
penny picture book, and said something
about " We are seven," I saw the happy
father smiling approval at the shop door.



XIII.

SUCCESSFUL BOOKS.

The most notorious books are not always
the best ; some attain phenomenal suc-
cess, while others more worthy of fame
remain unsold and unread. No one can
account for this peculiar phase in the
world of books, or give reasons why
certain works of no great merit should
suddenly sell by thousands, and be read
and talked about by everyone. Many
instances of the volatile life and early
death of literary productions occur to my
memory.

A little book, " The Gates Ajar," sold
at one time like the proverbial penny pie.
Everybody asked everybody else if they
had read " The Gates Ajar." Publishing
firms vied with each other in bringing out
cheap editions. Ambitious authors issued
works of a similar class — "The Gates
Closed," "Heaven for Everybody,"
"Sequel to the Gates Ajar," "An Anti-
dote to the Gates Ajar."

Many readers of this generation may
never have heard of this book or of the



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controversy which was waged over the
peculiar views it contained. The author,
Miss Phelps, described a very literal and
very earthly heaven, in which pianofortes
and other instruments of pleasure (or
torment) were to be found. If the book
were to be re-written we have no doubt
but what golf, ping-pong, and motoring
would be amongst the attractions of the
heavenly state.

"The Battle of Dorking," originally
published in Blackwood's "Maga," was
re-issued in pamphlet form at sixpence,
and had an immense sale. It was a realis-
tic description of an imaginary German
invasion of Britain, culminating in the
famous battle. This pamphlet was the
first of a host of imitators, "The Siege of
London " being the best of the lot.

"The Fight at Dame Europa's School "
was a clever political pamphlet dealing
with the Franco-German War. "John
Bull," a big, fat, good-natured, rather
stupid schoolboy figured as the hero of
this and other squibs issued at that time.

"When Queen Victoria was declared
Empress of India, "The Blot on the
Queen's Head" was published as a pro-
test against Disraeli's ambitious policy.

The late Edward Jenkins, for some
time M.P. for Dundee, was the author of
"Ginx's Baby," which had a phenomen-
ally large sale.

When Habberton's little book describ-



AN OLD BOOK SHOP. 99

ing the doings and sayings of those extra-
ordinary children, "Helen's Babies," came
to us from America, the printers could
not produce copies quick enough to meet
the public demand. The precocious
Budge's saying, "I want to see the
wheels go wound," was quite as popular
then as Wee Macgreegor's " Whit wey 1 "
is to-day.

It is seldom that a book of poetry
attains immediate popularity. A little
volume, now forgotten, entitled " Mrs
Jerningham's Journal," written in rhyme,
was, on its publication, as popular as a
sensational novel. Mrs Jerningham was
a bright young girl, married to a very
ordinary, commonplace, sedate, quiet hus-
band, John Jerningham. Before her
marriage she was so happy that she used
" to wake with laughing in the night."

She did not appreciate John, and John
did not understand her volatile nature, and
they were both miserable. After many
varied experiences, she found out what a
gem of a husband she possessed, and they
became the happiest of married couples.

" Aldersyde," a pleasantly-written story
by a Leith young lady, Miss Annie Swan,
had the good fortune to be read by Mr
Gladstone, who was at the time in the
zenith of his power. He wrote an ap-
preciatory letter to the publisher, and
"Aldersyde" became the book which
everyone read.

2 E



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Eight hundred thousand copies of "East
Lynne," by Mrs Henry Wood, have been
sold. It was originally published in three
volumes, price 31s 6d. Afterwards in
one volume at 6s. It next appeared in a
two shilling edition, and now it is re-
duced to 6d. The sixpenny edition is
usually the last stage of the life of a
popular novel; some novels do not find
rest even here, but are published in an
abridged form at a penny.

In the fifties Dr Guthrie issued several
volumes of sermons, which had an im-
mense sale, the most popular of which
was "The Gospel in Ezekiel," 1856.
Copies of this book may be picked up on
book stalls for 6d.

"The Memoirs and Sermons of Dr
Murray M'Cheyne" are still popular. It
is a good and healthy sign to see a book
of this type selling, and still being issued
in new and popular editions.

Nearly twenty-five years ago the liter-
ary world went wild over the appearance
of a new star in the firmament of fiction.
The unknown author of the "Cheveley
Novels " was hailed as a successor to Sir
Walter Scott, or as the wearer of the
mantle of Charles Dickens. The first of
the series, "The Modern Minister," was
issued in thirteen shilling parts, illus-
trated after the style of Dickens' famous
novels. There was a great demand for
the first few numbers. "Saul Weir"



AN OLD BOOK SHOP. 101

was the second novel, but the sale became
so limited that the issue of the " Cheve-
ley Novels " came to a premature and un-
explained close. The author's name has
never been disclosed, and a fickle public
have ceased to interest themselves in these
two anonymous productions. So much
for literary fame and ambition.

The Kev. Charles M. Sheldon, an
American clergyman, is the author of a
series of religious novels, the most notable
of which was " In His Steps : or, What
would Jesus do ? " The sale of this book
was for the first few months by hundreds
of thousands. The work not being copy-
right, editions at all prices from a penny
were issued by various publishers. The
book was referred to from many pulpits,
and sermons were preached on "What
would Jesus do ? " Then, quite suddenly,
and for no explainable reason, the demand
for the book ceased ; large quantities of
stock in the hands of publishers remained
unsold, and were cleared out for next to
nothing.

A story of American life, "David
Harum," by E. N. Westcott, has been
issued at sixpence. This book has at-
tained the phenomenal circulation of eight
hundred and twenty-five thousand copies.

A series of clever sketches of Scottish
working-class life were published in The
Evening Times (Glasgow), and met with
no special public notice. They were



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collected and published in a small paper-
covered volume in November 1902, at
the modest price of one shilling, under
the title of "Wee Macgreegor." The
author at first had some difficulty in
finding a publisher; for a while the sale
of the book hung fire. Then one morn-
ing Mr J. J. Bell awoke to find himself
famous, and his creation "Wee Mac-
greegor" the most-spoken-of book in Scot-
land. Nearly two hundred thousand
copies were sold in six months, represent-
ing a profit to author and publisher of at
least £3000.

It is interesting to know that the net
cost of producing a little book similar to
" Wee Macgreegor" in size, type, number
of pages, and quality of paper, in large
quantities, comes to three halfpence per
copy. The book being sold to the public
at Is net, leaves 10£d profit on every
copy to be divided between author, pub-
lisher, wholesale agent, and bookseller.

At social meetings and parties "Wee
Macgreegor " is the favourite recitation ;
and Wee Macgreegor's quaint sayings are
on every tongue. One can scarcely pass
along the street without hearing some
reference to Wee Macgreegor, his Aunt
Purdie, or his "Paw" and "Maw." In
the stationers' shops are displayed Wee
Macgreegor post cards, and the sweetie
shops do a roaring trade in Wee Mac-
greegor "taiblet."



AN OLD BOOK SHOP. 103

The children we know and love in books
are precious to us ; right gladly all lovers
of true literature will welcome Wee Mac-
greegor into the realm where live Little
Lord Fauntleroy, Alice, Budge, Topsy
Little Nell, Oliver Twist, Bootle's Baby,
and other immortal favourites.

"The Unspeakable Scot," by T. W. H.
Crosland, 1902, has been what is called
the latest hit in the literary world. We
believe the author has made a profit of
over £1000 by the production. The un-
speakable impertinences of the book have
made people talk about it, but writing of
this type is not "literature." The "Scot"
who reads it enjoys the whole thing as a
huge joke, or, if he is too dense to see the
humour, he goes about breathing ven-
geance against the author.

A pleasant contrast to the cynical
vapourings of the author of " The Un-
speakable Scot " are two charming stories
by Miss Alice Hegan Rice, a young Ameri-
can writer, entitled " Mrs Wiggs of the
Cabbage Patch " and " Lovey Mary."

Though the author was unknown, the
immediate popularity of her first books
shows that genius of certain types gains
prompt appreciation from the public.

Over three million copies of Mrs Henry
Wood's novels have been sold. This is
looked on as an extraordinary number.

When we consider that there are over
four million souls in London alone, and



104 BITS FROM AN OLD BOOK SHOP.

that the population of the British Isles is
forty millions, a sale of three million
books is nothing to boast of.

Up to the end of the eighteenth cen-
tury the proportion of book readers to
the population must have been very
small. Owing to the spread of education
book buyers have enormously increased,
One would hope that the love of books
and desire for knowledge would still
further permeate every class.

Hand in hand with the advance in the
appreciation of literature, the highest and
best developments of humanity and human
welfare are sure to go



XIV.

A PENNY A NIGHT.

In looking over a bundle of old books
one may now and again come across an
odd volume of an extinct three-volume
novel. There is usually pasted on the
outside board of such a book a yellow
label bearing the name of some bookseller,
and inside the cover is a notice to the
effect that novels are lent out for "One
penny a night." Circulating libraries were
the chief support for over a century of
three-volume novels. These new novels
were published at a guinea-and-a-half, a
price prohibitory to most purchasers, but
it paid the circulating libraries to pur-
chase copies at trade price and lend them
out. As the stock of three-volume novels
increased in the large London libraries,
the surplus copies were sold off cheap to
the smaller men, and thus it came to pass
that in nearly every little town there
grew up a lending library whose shelves
were laden with these " three-deckers."

The number of three-volume novels has
been legion, but one might count with

105



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one's fingers the number of those which
have survived for half-a-century. The
very authors' names are forgotten ; as for
the books themselves, where are they 1

The one-volume six shilling novel has
superseded the guinea-and-a-half work of
fiction. The immense sale of Hall Caine's
"The Christian" and of Marie Corelli's
and Crockett's novels at six shillings,
complete in one volume, gave the death-
blow to the three-volume imposture. This
was a great boon to the owners of small
circulating libraries. Formerly they could
not afford to add the latest novels to their
shelves, but it pays them to purchase the
best new six shilling books and lend them
out at a penny a night.

One may wonder how it could possibly
pay a librarian to lend the newest books
at a penny a night, and the older ones at
twopence per Aveek, but practical experi-
ence has proven that this can be done with
profit, even in a city where free public
libraries exist. The man who keeps a
small circulating library does not depend
on that alone for his business. He usually
has the library in the back shop, the front
portion being devoted to the sale of books,
stationery, and fancy goods.

Fifteen years ago "a penny a night"
or "twopence a week" lending library
was started in a provincial city. Two
thousand volumes were purchased at an
average cost of Is Gd. Every year since,



AN OLD BOOK SHOP. 107

over 500 volumes have been added, and
now the library contains 5000 volumes.
For the first two years the receipts just
paid for the expenditure on books and
printing, but since then the gross profits
have been more than half of the receipts.

The profit from a small library would,
of course, never of itself pay any shop-
keeper, but as an addition to his ordinary
business the yearly sum is no doubt very
welcome. When one is able by practical
experience to show how it is possible to
lend to readers the very newest novels at
such low rates, and when one remembers
that many of the very best classical works
of fiction can be purchased outright for
sixpence, one asks the question : " Is
there any need for free public libraries 1 "

As an advocate for the very widest
possible distribution of books, I am in
favour of public libraries. Their exist-
ence is in the long run a benefit to the
bookseller. A man may get his taste for
books originally at a public library, and
afterwards purchase a library for himself.
The more books the better, the easier
access to books the better. One would
draw the line, however, at lending novels
free at the expense of the taxpayer.
Reading novels is to many just as much
a pleasure and recreation as going to a
theatre is to others. It is illogical to tax
one class of the community to give amuse-
ment to another class. It is, I suppose,



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better to read novels than to read nothing,
but the pity of it is that exclusive novel
reading seems to destroy the victim's taste
for any other class of literature.

One would never for a moment think
of comparing the slaves of, say, the drink
habit, to the habitual devourer of fiction.
There are, however, many who from day
to day and year to year devote all their
spare time to reading novels. They have
got so accustomed to having their brains
excited by the romantic doings of the
heroes and heroines and the wicked plots
of the wicked people of romance that life
becomes insipid and deadly dull if they
have not a new novel to read. They
truly live a sort of dual life ; the real
life may be sombre and commonplace,
but the dream life, the life of their books,
is ever moving and exciting. I have


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