Sunday, 20 December 2009

Thesaurus Memories

The last of the second hand book shops, Thesaurus, has finally gone.

I remember when it started out, as a few rooms near Sand Street Car Park. I used to go in on a Saturday morning to browse the books, and chat to Simon Crowcroft, who was working there on and off at weekends. It then moved to much larger premises in Burrard Street, and had at one time three floors of books to browse. Paradise!

It was not the only bookshop at the time. I remember there was also Hilgrove Books, which had local books mostly downstairs, and some good second hand books upstairs, and I used to chat to Mr Pipon who was running that one. When Hilgrove closed, I managed to get a half price copy of Balleine's Biographical Dictionary, and the Cartulaire of Jersey. Most of the books left then were taken on to fill extra space at Thesaurus.

Then there was the SPCK in Waterloo Street, which had its own back stairs up to the standard dusty room where gold could be found in out of print copies of books I sought, such as G.K. Chesterton or C.P. Snow.

And finally, in St James Street was the second hand bookshop run by the Jersey Democratic Movement, where Norman Le Brocq would sometimes be behind the counter, but more often Stella Perkins, whom I used to chat to quite a lot about the state of Jersey back then.

Sadly, it did not last. The SPCK closed, after a brief revival as Waterloo Books. Hilgrove Books went. The JDM bookshop closed down. And after the death of Kevin Creaton, Thesaurus downsized to a single room, then moved to slightly smaller premises over the road before becoming largely a card shop.

I suppose that in these days of the internet, when out of date books can be found on Amazon or eBay, there was bound to be pressure on second hand book sellers. Those that survive in England often are linked as Amazon Marketplace sellers or eBay shops, so that the powerful search engines of those sites find their stock with ease, and they have in fact a wider market than before.

Also in Jersey, the rise in popularity of car boot sales and charity shops did a lot to take away custom from a fixed shop, with rent to pay. But - apart from the Guide Dog's for the Blind booksale - I have not found the vast range of choice that I once found in the second hand bookshop, from the popular paperback to Chesterton's "Ballad of the White Horse", or older authors like Robert Heinlein, Michael Moorcock, John Brunner etc. What one finds is mostly the most recent books sold, the bestsellers like the Da Vinci Code (all over the place), the Romance novels, recent cookery, travel, gardening books. All second hand, but usually nothing really old.

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