A Life With Books

a guest post by Peter Shaw of Aberdeen Books and Crafts

All my life I have been besotted by, enchanted by, enthralled by books. As a small child, I well
remember the thrilling smell of fresh ink, the texture, the excitement of any new book I was given
for a Christmas or birthday present. For me, books are a means of understanding a person’s mind, a
way of communicating with them. A bookshop or a library is a magical place, a place where one can
travel through time and space and ideas. How else is it possible to read the thoughts of someone
who has passed on ? I have written books, collected books, bound books for a living, and sold books
for a living.

These days, I am semi-retired with a small secondhand book shop (Aberdeen Books and Crafts)in a
small, rural town in the Karoo desert, in South Africa, and an online book shop at Secondhand Books Online.

It was not always the case that I had the luxury of surrounding myself with my books. I have at
different times been a British army officer, an accountant, a financial director, a financier, an
entrepreneur with a substantial IT business. These were busy occupations which left me little time
for my books, not to mention other factors such as young and demanding families and unsupportive
wives who objected to their house being viewed as a repository for old and dusty books. But –
the fascination with books never left me. When my IT business crashed (remember the Year 2000
scare?), and my wife kicked me out and divorced me, a wonderful opportunity presented itself.

Scrutinizing the classified ads columns in the local paper one day, I found an ad from someone who
wished to sell his bookbinding business in order to emigrate to Israel. By scraping together all my
somewhat depleted finances, I found I was just about able to raise the necessary cash. The seller
agreed to stay on for a period to train me, and introduce me to customers and of course the staff.
For me, it was the answer to a maiden’s prayer.

Then one morning at the workshop the phone rang, presenting me with another wonderful
opportunity. It was an elderly lady whose bachelor son, an avid collector of books, had died recently
and she was at a loss to know what to do with all his books. Well, I did! The tiny house must have
contained at least ten thousand books, all in splendid condition. There were books everywhere,
piled up on tables and beds, all over the floors, under sinks – literally everywhere. So I bought the
lot. It took me four people and a large removal van to clear the house.

To cut a long story short, I moved the bookbinding business to the rear of some new premises,
and opened a new bookshop at the front. Since then, I have acquired more deceased estates, and
eagerly scoured jumble sales and secondhand stores for books.

So my story has a happy ending, with me remarried to a very supportive lady, and living a blissful life
in the African veldt surrounded by my beloved books.

Who could ask for more?

1 thought on “A Life With Books”

  1. Peter, Good posting. I’m certain many who visit this site will commiserate with your book-a-holism. Sounds like opportunity was banging on your door and you simply opened it but I’m certain that between the lines there was much hard work, tough decisions, ups and downs and heartache and joy.

    I remember years ago meeting an older gentleman, a German bookbinder, who was ready to retire and looking for someone to take over his small business. I missed the boat by not jumping on it and devoting some time to hanging about his shop as he worked. As a result I’ve had to learn bookbinding from a book as opposed to learning from the hand of an expert. The few old books I have rebound have suffered a bit in final appearance as a result. They stand up well to handling but they have slight defects that bug me.

    Keep jumping on the boats as they pass by. – Paul –

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