Friday 24 June 2016

THE DEALER AND THE ADDICT by Elizabeth Chadwick

I'm not quite sure how I came to be on their list of users, but however they found me, they ended up targeting me, and I am now a hopeless addict.  The moment one of their occasional catalogs drops through my letterbox, I'm there, filled with anxious anticipation at the fix to come and knowing that I shall have to consume it as fast as I can because to reap the ultimate reward I have to do the deal before anyone else gets to it  - and there are many of us out there.

So who are these nefarious people encouraging and feeding my habit?

They are specialist second hand and antiquarian book dealers Bennet & Kerr Books who operate out of a warehouse at the end of a farmyard in the Oxfordshire village of Steventon.
Edmund Bennet and Andrew Kerr, the business owners have known each other for five decades and in September will have been in business for 34 years.  Their company began in their houses with a stock of inherited books and two manual typewriters,  but success required expansion.  Having outgrown the garage built to hold more of their collection, they acquired the warehouse at Steventon in 1992 which currently houses a stock of around 7,000 books.

Members of the Association of Antiquarian Booksellers and The Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association (members must adhere to a code of professional conduct), they often handle specialist collections from the estates of established historians.  Norman Davis for example, Kathleen Major, Norman Scarfe, Derek Brewer, Margaret Aston, Barbara Reynolds.

Bennet & Kerr are a delight to do business with - which also helps to fuel my addiction.  My queries and orders are dealt with promptly and efficiently.  They know me when I phone through my order - I'm not sure whether it is Mr Bennet or Mr. Kerr who answers, but he is always knowledgeable and charming.  The books generally take about a week to arrive and are packed with meticulous care.  There's a layer of tissue, then newspaper, then card, and bubble wrap, and all neatly executed. The books are valued as the precious objects they are, no matter their condition and their price.  A book costing £5 will receive the same meticulous attention as one costings thousands.  I would recommend Bennett and Kerr to anyone interested in the broad spread of the Middle Ages.  However, if you go looking then beware, because you will become an addict too.  You have been warned!

You can click on the picture to enlarge. 

Regarding the books themselves, here is a selection of what I have acquired from them  - by no means the whole.  They might have a warehouse for their existing stocks, but I wonder how many warehouses worth they have sold to their addicts customers!

One of my more recent purchases is this one - a history of the Temple Church published in 1907. (see star mark in the above catalogue). I was touched to see this dedication on the flyleaf from its original purchaser to his wife.  I haven't been able to decipher the entirety, but the sentiments are clear.

'To my darling wife with the first of our extra profits at...? Joiner Street perhaps?

A few more of my eclectic purchases (the tip of the iceberg)  from Bennett and Kerr.  I've posed them on one of my bookshelves.

Another part of the addiction is that one never knows quite what one is going to find when browsing the catalogue.  For example I came across a one of its kind bound university thesis from 1971 on the history of hats complete with sketches and photographs made by the author.  It perhaps only has a limited use in my medieval research - although a use nevertheless, but it give me warmth and joy to have this work on my shelf that is clearly someone's passion as well as their study towards a degree. 

For anyone who wishes to feed their addiction, here is Bennet & Kerr's website. Bennett & Kerr


Unknown said...

How I empathize with you, Elizabeth. The finding of that special book which happens to be exactly what you need on some obscure but vital subject, is one of life's real joys.

Unknown said...

Oh how easy it would be to become an addict, cost of shipping would add to cost internationally. I think my addiction to recent books is filling the house sufficiently.

Sue Bursztynski said...

There used to be a wonderful secondhand shop in one of Melbourne's lanes which sold not only regular secondhand paperbacks but such joys as Victorian era books of poetry, works of Shakespeare and a copy of the Aeneid which had been a school prize in 1879, a velvet-covered Romeo and Juliet you could fit in your hand... I miss it terribly!

Mary Hoffman said...

We are already addicts! And always go to their post-Christmas sale with coffee, mulled wine, mince pies and other nibbles.