Your bookshops #3 Lewes bookshop crawl

Serial blogger Ruth (her words, not mine) has kindly shared her recent bookshopping trip. She writes: "I wrote this little review of Lewes for you... I had the presence of mind to take a shot of Bow Windows, but not A & Y Cumming." Yes, it'd be great to see what the other bookshops look like, but I'll just have to make sure I visit the town myself soon instead...

175 High Street, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 1YE. Tel: 01273 480780
84 High Street, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 1XN. Tel: 01273 472319
The Needlemakers, West Street, Lewes, BN7 2NZ. Tel: 01273 479418
Posted: 7th September, 2015

As a resident of Tunbridge Wells, I’m blessed with two fine bookshops en route to work, Hall’s Bookshop and Oxfam Bookshop, where I’m such a regular visitor, that they must sometimes fear I’ve moved in. However, it is fun to play away occasionally, and it was in the spirit of adventure, that I decided to explore the book purchasing potential of nearby Lewes.

I was determined to wring every last drop of pleasure from the end of the summer holidays and as a consequence probably spent far more than I intended – though you could quite well argue that every penny spent on books is an investment.

After checking out the town’s well stocked Waterstones and antique shops, I headed for A & Y Cumming Antiquarian Books. It’s a very handsome shop and the first thing I noticed was the marvellous window display of Collins New Naturalist hardbacks, with their gorgeously illustrated dust jackets. There was also a trolley of cheaper paperbacks outside, priced at only a few pounds, and it was from here that I made my selection of Sylvia Plath’s Letters Home.

Inside, the bookseller was welcoming, but carried on pricing books, leaving me free to browse the wonderful stock without feeling pressured. There is something for all tastes and pockets here: from low price Penguin paperbacks and modern literature, to Folio Society titles and leather bound antiquarian tomes. They also had some ephemera, old art exhibition catalogues and other oddities, which were very reasonably priced and rather intriguing.

After making my purchase, I crossed over to Bow Windows Bookshop, which caters for the more serious collector and stocks many signed copies and first editions. Again, the member of staff was unobtrusive and I felt quite comfortable browsing books I couldn’t actually afford to buy! While I was there, the bookseller dealt with an enquiry about Jane Austen, from and American tourist, and I was very impressed, not only with his knowledge, but also his willingness to share his expertise.

Bow Windows have an interesting travel section and I couldn’t leave without treating myself to an anthology of writing by polar explorers, which I have never come across before – Antarctica, edited by Charles Neider. 

These are only two of the books I bought that day, as Lewes has an abundance of charity shops selling cheap paperbacks, as well as the historic Needlemakers. This lovely old building houses a secondhand bookshop replete with Ladybird books, as well as Skylark, a tiny shop which stocks beautifully produced Peirene translations of contemporary European literature (I bought The Blue Room by Hanne ├śrstavik).

If, like me, you live within a stone’s throw of Lewes, then you should consider yourself very fortunate. If you don’t, then consider Lewes as a possible day out, with plenty of interesting book buying opportunities.

Thank you to Ruth for joining in the bookshopping fun, and also for gently putting me to shame for not having made the same journey to Lewes – yet. If readers would like to find out more about Ruth's serial blogging, visit I Can Never.

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