Hello everyone and welcome to a very special post on my blog. I’m here to today to talk about the Bluestocking Bookshop Tours, organised by the lovely Lauren, “a classically trained librarian with an extroverted twist.” I was lucky enough to be part of one of her “Special Saturday” tours, we met at 11:00 and the tour lasted for about two and a half hours, visiting five bookshops along the way and having a wonderful time.
Lauren says on her website www.bluestockingbooks.co.uk that:
“there is no shushing here, we are more liable to lead in the laughter.”
Let me assure you, this is definitely the case. Lauren was warm and friendly, very interested in all her clients (where they came from, what they did for work) and most importantly of course, what they liked to read! I instantly felt comfortable with her and the rest of the group and was bowled over by the variety of bookshops we visited and the wealth of information we were given both by her and the fantastic booksellers we encountered.
Part of the joy of the Bluestocking Bookshop Tours is that you don’t really know where you’re going so I’m not going to tell you everywhere we went so as not to spoil the surprise. However, I’d like to focus on two shops in particular that really made my day special.
The first shop was in London’s amazing Cecil Court (note to reader: if you haven’t been here before, you really must!).
Tim Bryars, owner of Bryars & Bryars bookshop
The owner, Tim Bryars has a particular interest in maps and collectable, antiquarian books and this really comes across when you enter his shop. It had the most wonderful smell of old books and some of the treasures he was kind enough to show us were truly gorgeous and very precious, especially the books/pamphlets that had dedications or messages in them that you’re never going to find anywhere else. He also showed us one of his favourite items, the first London Underground map, published in 1933 and on sale for a cool £2500.
I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this – the words ring so true!
These are some of the antiquarian books that Tim has in his shop, including a tome written in Greek from the 1500’s.
After another few amazing bookshops we headed to our last stop for the day, Maison Assouline which I couldn’t resist but tell you about as both the interior of it and the collection they hold absolutely astounded me. The company was created to be a “luxury brand on culture….to supply everything for a contemporary library.” This includes scented candles, bags that look like books to the casual observer, beautiful prints and the most gorgeous (and largest!) books that I have ever seen, the most expensive topping the scale at about £3000. It’s a bit specialist in subject, tending to focus on fashion, design, art architecture and travel but the books are so stunning I think any book lover would be impressed, no matter where your interests tend to lie.
Our group was lucky enough to be given a tour of the private room upstairs which not only housed some beautiful books but some gorgeous objects too and I have to say, we were all a bit lost for words at how stunning the setting was.
Mmmmmm…..massive books by a fireplace. I must be in bookworm heaven!
Our guide also told us some very interesting stories about some of the objects in the room, particularly a legend about these two vases from Sicily. I won’t spoil it for anyone who goes but it involves murder and some very “green fingers.” Say no more!
I had such a fantastic time on the Bluestocking Bookshop tour and I would recommend it to anyone who might be interested. It’s an absolute bargain at £10 per person and you get to visit such a variety of bookshops with insider knowledge that you wouldn’t normally get on an ordinary tour that I really believe it’s worth every penny. The beauty of these tours is that Lauren gives you about 15-20 minutes inside each bookshop to browse, explore and buy books at your own pace and I managed to find several very tempting things.
There are three separate tours currently available on Lauren’s website, these are Magic, Medicine and Esoteria, Shoreditch Creative and Comics: Journey into Adventure. These tours normally start at 2PM and finish at 430PM, visit 4-6 bookshops, involves perhaps 30-40 minutes of walking and sightseeing and will always start and end near an underground station, purely for convenience.
I’d like to thank Lauren so much for inviting me on one of her tours and heartily recommend that if you’re in London, near London or planning to visit London in the near future, you go ahead and book one of her tours. She’s a fantastic tour guide and it was a delightfully bookish experience perfect for any bibliophile!
Visit Lauren on her website HERE.