Secondhand Rows 

Join Stephen (Blackheath) and Scott (Glebe), our secondhand managers, every month here as they takes a closer look at a couple of titles from their shelves.

February 2020

Gleebooks Bookshop - Monday, February 03, 2020


Mehmet Güntekin, proprietor of Istanbul’s Muhsin Kitap bookshop, methodically unpacked and examined the contents of six neatly tied yellow plastic bags arranged in a shallow crescent around his knees. ‘It is the best part of the job’, he told me, ‘...not knowing what one will find’. An earlier discovery—a French first edition of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot—had caught my eye in the shop window amid an exotic clutter of leather-bound classics, potboilers, old maps, photographs, movie posters and other ephemera. ‘I can’t sell it online’, Mehmet lamented, ‘...the major websites won’t accept Turkish bank accounts.’ Priced at 5000tl (about A$1300) even online Mehmet’s Beckett would not be a quick seller but he had plenty of other treasures to tempt passers-by heading uphill to Taksim Square or to the massive and controversial waterfront developments below. The quality and range of Mehmet’s stock was impressive reflecting Turkey’s rich literary culture and a keen curatorial eye.

I had seen this passion for books in every city and town I visited in Turkey—from referential museum-goers shuffling from one calligraphic marvel to the next, to the throngs browsing bookstalls at train and bus stations for the latest releases (from Attwood to Žižek). As a bookseller perhaps the most heartening experience of my holiday was chancing upon a multi-story mall in Ankara occupied exclusively by bookshops packed with students from a nearby university—oh, that that should happen again in Glebe! The excitement of these Ankara students was palpable and, like Mehmet awaiting his next great discovery at Muhsin Kitap, further testimony to the power and value of books and of Turkey’s ongoing love-affair with them. Scott  


William Russell - Special Correspondent of The Times  William Russell, Max Hastings (Introduction), Roger Hudson (Editor) and Denys Baker (Illustrator)  Folio Society, London. 1996. Second Printing. Gilt and black pictorial boards. Top edge tinted brown. xxvii, 426pp., b/w illus., maps, index. Fine Copy in lightly scuffed Slipcase. $35

William Howard Russell (1820–1907), was the first modern war correspondent. In fact, he almost single-handedly invented the art. Russell covered numerous major conflicts: from The Crimean War (1853–56) where his graphic descriptions of the misery and incompetence of the British campaign against Russia roused outrage and led to military and civil reforms, particularly in the care of war casualties to The Indian Rebellion (1857); The American Civil War (1861-65); The Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and The Zulu War (1879). His writings inspired the work of Florence Nightingale. Russell was once described as: ‘a vulgar low Irishman, sings a good song, drinks anyone’s brandy and water and smokes as many cigars as a Jolly Good Fellow. He is just the sort of chap to get information, particularly out of youngsters.’ His descriptions of individuals involved in the various conflicts were also memorable. In March 1861, Russell was invited to The White House to meet President Abraham Lincoln: ‘A tall, lanky, lean man with an irregular gait, long pendulous arms, hands of extraordinary proportion. From a great black mass of hair rose the strange, quaint face and head covered with its thatch of wild hair. The impression produced by his flapping and wide ears may be removed by the appearance of kindness and sagacity of his face…The eyes dark, full, deeply set are penetrating, full of an expression of tenderness…’

Adventure Stories from 'The Strand' Geraldine Beare (Compiler)  The Folio Society, London. 1995. First Edition. Green cloth with black and gilt lettering to front, black lettering to gilt panels on spine. Illustrated on front cover. Top edge tinted green. xix, 329pp., b/w illustrations. Introduction by Tim Heald. Illustrations by David Eccles. Slightly sun faded spine in a lightly scuffed Gold Slipcase. Near Fine. $25

If you enjoy—as I do—stories such as Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines and Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, then you will enjoy this short story collection culled from The Strand monthly magazine (1891–1950) very much. This collection includes stories by Kipling, Conan Doyle, HG Wells, Richmal Crompton, Sinclair Lewis & Graham Greene Edgar Wallace. In The Adventure of the Snowing Globe an impulse Christmas present purchase sees the buyer transported to a land of dragons and princesses. The Purple Terror finds the deadly nature used in revenge against colonial oppressors. Code No. 2 sees the breaking of a nefarious code cunningly hidden within a single room. Within these tales of derring-do, there are numerous spies, thieves, explorers, soldiers & rogues. Several self-sufficient female protagonists feature, and they were all different from one another, but all interesting and talented and courageous in their various ways.

Trackback Link
Post has no trackbacks.