OK, so we know the coolest bookstore not just in Oxford but on the planet is the Albion Beatnik. But for some strange reason I intend to overturn before I die, it’s not yet the most famous. That title goes to Blackwell’s.
I’ve chosen now to write about Blackwell’s for a very simple reason – they are currently running a “best Oxford novel” poll on their blog. I’m not sure what the prize is, but I have a feeling there will be a window display, and I rather like the idea of print-on-demand copies of The Company of Fellows being in a window display nestling alongside its more respectable cousins. So it’d be SUPER-DUPER-FAB if you went and voted (vote “other” and type “The Company of Fellows” by Dan Holloway” in the box).
Anyway, back to Blackwell’s. There are four things I’d really like to say in order to give my usual personal twist on all things Oxford.
One, you will see above a picture of part of the Norrington Room, located in the basement. Nothing can really do justice to the scale of the room in pictures. You have to visit. As a student, I spent hours at a time in these Dante-esque circles of temptation, the lowest levels of which housed theology and philosophy books. At the height of my Bible-collecting mania (I had 23 different editions) most of my collection came from here.
Two, one of the first things we did as students was pick up a Blackwell’s card. This gave us £300 of credit. That usually lasted a day. And as soon as I’d cadged enough from the bank to pay it off, it’d somehow miraculously be full again.
Three, the first book I bought in Oxford was a copy of Nancy Mitford’s The Sun King. I bought it whilst up for interview in 1988 and it came from the secondhand department on the top floor.
Four, Blakcwell’s will buy many books back. There was a time when I couldn’t afford the bus fare to work. The only way of digging myself from the hole was to sell many of my Oxford Classic Collection editions of Virgil, Plato and the like.