Thursday, 10 November 2016

Step back in time

Who remembers the good old days? Weren't they great? Those days when everything was simpler and life was good?

Okay, so I don't remember those days but thanks to this week's bookshop I certainly enjoyed a glimpse of the past and how different life once was.

George Bayntun occupies a large building just a few steps from Bath Spa railway station. Despite this excellent location, I can't help wonder how many people wander past without even realising the bookshop is there. The building is understated and smart and while it fits into the historic surroundings of Bath it's completely overlooked by the brash brightness of a modern high street. I consider this to be a good thing.

I arrived at this bookseller and bookbinder a little after 2pm, when it had re-opened after lunch. I rang the doorbell and waited to be allowed in.

A friendly bookseller in jeans came to the door. The normality of their hello served as reassurance in a moment of nerves, helping me to remember all are welcome in a bookshop – even one was imposing as this.

George Bayntun is a combination of antiquarian and secondhand bookseller, bookbinder and even a print gallery. It's unlike anywhere I've ever been before.

The ground floor offers beautifully filled shelves and glass cabinets of books almost as expensive as my car but so stunningly bound I found myself contemplating offering a swap. Exploring the cabinets was an incredible experience and definitely worth my earlier brief flutter of nerves – these incredible surroundings really should be experienced by all book lovers.

Moving upstairs we find more books to make my bank manager's eyes water but still so wonderfully displayed (think personal library in a traditional old-fashioned home) that the idea I might be out of place never occurred to me – because I wasn't. Although the high prices mean it would be perfectly understandable if you instead choose to head straight to the basement.

This is where the regular secondhand bookshop is found: the bookshelves are functional and the books more averagely priced. A map at the entrance explains where the sections are and browsers are left to their own devices, allowing plenty of space to review the mix of old and new hardbacks. In such a classic bookshop it seemed only appropriate to choose a classic I've long meant to read: The Coral Island by R M Ballantyne.

At this point I'd like to give you more information on the history of this wonderful bookshop and all it offers, but that's all available on the website and nothing beats personal experience.

George Bayntun is a stunning bookshop from another time and somewhere I feel lucky to have experienced. If you get the chance, you should visit too.


George Bayntun
Manvers Street,
Bath, BA1 1JW
Tel: 01225 466000
@GeorgeBayntun

2 comments:

  1. Wow, that sounds amazing! I've visited Bath a few times in recent years without ever being aware of this treasure house, but definitely will put that right next time.

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    1. The delightfully-understated front means I'm not surprised you've missed this bookshop so I am pleased to be able to set that right. I'm sure you'll enjoy the experience.

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