Vellum Antiquarian Bookshop, Suttonford: an anachronism in the world of Abebooks and Amazon. It bravely holds out against being degraded to a discovery centre, or toddler cafe society hub.
The musty volumes and clutter of unopened boxes of hardbacks, from bereaved families, await inspection and pricing, yet the ambience inspires excitement for the bibliophile seeking the unexpected treasure of a first edition.
Years ago I heard first-hand from an old lady who recounted her septuagenarian affair with an antiquarian bookseller from the opposite end of the country who had been delivering some tome or other to her doorstep-nothing to do with Vellum-since he had been passing through her county, in a manner of speaking.
It had been a coup de foudre and I could only imagine the circumstances. Perhaps I should have resisted the fantasy. Anyway, here is the poem:
Your skin is like vellum, he vouchsafed,
or perhaps the palest parchment I’ve seen.
He ran his fingers down his lover’s spine,
having carefully removed her jacket
to lay her down, guilt-edged, on soft covers.
He made her feel like a first edition;
her pages of passion newly uncut.
His foreward did not seem an abridgement:
he had such stimulating addenda.
She had never seen such a frontispiece!
Their binding felt quite bibliolatrous.
She found his dedication was novel
and thought of publishing the proofs abroad.
I really love your type, he had whispered
as he pressed her to him, but don’t let’s rush
into print. That could be a folio.
From now on you’ll be my vademecum.
You’re no commonplace. Give me your title.
Ann Thology, she blurbed. First impressions
of your voice made me think of Cole Porter.
To his shagreen, she was an erratum.
His wife smelt linseed in their rear gatefold
and knew it spoke volumes as a prologue,
so she took out her established canon
and fired a broadside into his flyleaf:
she wasn’t about to be remaindered
just because she was no longer a plate.
After all, he was no Atlas himself.
As for that cheap, secondhand omnibus-
she would ensure there would be no sequel.