Acquisitions and Imprints

When you buy used books – if you buy used books – do you shop by imprint?

Earlier today, as I rifled through a ‘3 for £1’ table in a local charity shop, I was very aware that I did.

I brought home one or two books simply on the strength of the name and the logo on the spine.


Working from the bottom up:

The Assassin’s Cloak isn’t for me, it’s for the man of the house, who doesn’t read fiction, who loves volumes of letters and diaries. I once hesitated over a rather overpriced hardback copy in another charity shop, lost it and regretted it, so when I saw this copy I pounced.

I remember seeing titles by The Women’s Press alongside Virago Modern Classics in the Silver Moon Bookshop in the early eighties.  If I’d known then what I know now, if I hadn’t been a poor student, I’d have bought stacks of them. I’d never heard of Early Spring, or of Tove Ditlevsen, but, as the cover told me that the book was the story of the childhood of one of Denmark’s best loved writers, as I had faith in the publisher, I picked the book up.

The Pandora Press has faded into obscurity, and when I saw the name I recognised it but I couldn’t place it. A little research told me that Pandora published the writings of Victorian women on the 1980s; so I’m pleased to add one of its books to my collections, and even more pleased that I have added four short stories by Elizabeth Gaskell:

The Three Eras of Libbie Marsh
Lizzie Leigh
The Well of Pen-Morfa
The Manchester Marriage

There’s what looks like a very good introduction too, but I want to save it for the right moment.

I haven’t read Graham Greene for years and I thought that No Man’s Land – published by The Hesperus Press and containing two shorter works, published in between The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair (which I love)  – might be a good place to start again.

I have a copy of Cindie by Jean Devanny, but it was an Australian Virago Modern Classic and I’ve had a very good run of those, because I’ve had  because it’s not one I see very often, I thought I should bring it home. I’m hoping to draw someone on this year’s Virago Secret Santa who doesn’t have a copy, but, if I draw someone who does, I know enough Virago lovers to be confident of finding this book a good new home.

I love Tauchnitz Editions! I love that a German publisher published a wonderful range of novels in English over the course of a century, and so I always pick up their books when I spot them.

Here are some of their authors:

Daphne Du Maurier
Thomas Hardy
Hugh Walpole
Elizabeth Taylor
Anthony Trollope
Somerset Maugham
Margery Sharp …. my copy of ‘Four Gardens’ is a Tauchnitz Edition ….

I know nothing about Lord Belhaven, I now nothing about The Eagle and The Sun, except that it is set in ancient Rome, and I’m not sure it will be my kind of book, but I had to give it a chance.

I think my £2 was very well spent!

13 responses

  1. All those lovelies for £2 is just wonderful Jane! I read the Greene fairly recently and really liked it. And I tend to go for imprints too – in fact, I often look down spines at publishers rather than authors in the hope of discovering something interesting!

  2. Definitely browse by scanning the spines for publishers as a way to speed up the search when my husband is tagging along. Well done to you on your new books; that Virago looks pristine!

  3. Wow £2 very well spent indeed. I do scan bookshop shelves looking for certain imprints first and paying attention to what the titles are second. Must admit I have never heard of Tauchnitz though.

  4. There are those spines that make one’s heart skip a (happy – if that’s possible cardiac-speaking?) beat, especially ones rarely seen in Australia secondhand: the dove-grey of Persephone, in particular, or – more specialized – the matching greens and reds of the Loeb Classical Library.

  5. It’s rare that I can get into the kind of place which gives me the luxury of buying by imprint. Around here, the options are pretty limited. I would like to read more Virago so everywhere I go I am looking for the green spines but seldom find them.

  6. Fleur, I absolutely shop by imprint. Or, let’s say that my eye is drawn to imprints. I don’t buy every book from Virago/Persephone/GreyLadies, etc. But I will always snatch them up for a closer look.

    I happen to be a second-hand book dealer, so this kind of browsing comes naturally. I’ve learned to keep an eye out for certain publishers who have a higher resale value, or who hold their value for longer. Does that make sense?

    Cheere! Lisa aka Booktruffler

  7. My eye is definitely drawn by certain publisher’s logos on a spine or house style. Penguin modern classics are ones I buy without question if the condition is good enough, amongst others. I haven’t heard of half the publishers above, but you undoubtedly got a bargain haul!

  8. I’m jealous! Treasure of the best kind. And yes certain publishers can almost always be relied on.
    When I was last in Sydney on a lovely long stay from the UK a friend and I used to go hunting and gathering to charity shops further out than where I was staying. I didn’t need to go to new bookshops at all, I bought (then returned) carrier bags full of wonderful and mostly Australian literature. In 5 months I only bought two new books. The novel wasn’t my favourite though it’s been winning prizes since. I traded it for a free coffee and a slightly cheaper but brand new bird book in Port Douglas. That guide is waiting for me on my next visit. While I didn’t much help the economy I did return most of what I read so those books’ll still be in circulation. The best authors I’ve since bought in UK, some even second hand as many aren’t available here or are very expensive. (I did the same thing with clothes too when the weather turned chillier than I’d packed for.)
    Charity shops and second hand book shops are always worth looking in. My husband and I had a day out in a famous historic town where everywhere museum like, including the main churches, was closed or locked up. The parts that gave the town its name were painted and polished, to the extent they were plastic looking, and in unnaturally tidy surroundings. Only book exploring cheered us up. We went into 5 different second hand shops and bought at least one from each. Our train journey home was unforgettable, such enjoyable reading!
    I bought The Assassin’s Cloak new for my husband! I believe it too has gone to Oxfam.

  9. Well, I would certainly have been buying books from the imprints that I remember from The Silver Moon. Whenever I went down to London to go to the theatre I would always end up there as well. I wonder if we were ever in at the same time? 🙂

  10. Lovely result to your shopping! We don’t have the wonderful charity shops like you do so I am happy if I can just find something that looks interesting. I do have my eyes peeled for Viragos and Penguins though.

  11. I do, of course! Going back a bit, I’ll always give Jonathan Cape books from the 1930s a look, and anything from Boots Library of The Book Society book club.

    I have the Tove Ditlevsen, as part of loving Scandinavian writing and childhood memoir, but have yet to read it.

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