Maggs Bros, Bedford Square, London, 6th October 2022Ed Maggs and his staff very kindly hosted the third of our launches for Fifty Forgotten Books. Maggs Bros is one of the oldest and most prestigious bookshops in London, and also the most welcoming. (Rosalie and I both saw Ed Maggs last in Haworth for the handover of the tiny Charlotte Bronte Book of Ryhmes—a really magical occasion.) The Maggs stock is beautifully curated and eclectic, and wandering into their shop is like entering Ed’s front room or private office.
It was good to see a number of old friends, customers and family for the evening. As part of my talk I read the chapter from Fifty Forgotten Books on Roland Topor’s The Tenant, a book that has always been close to my heart. As with my intention in York to read a few pages relating to The Grimoire Bookshop, at the last minute fate stepped in to alter the story—this time in a positive manner.
My chapter on The Tenant ends:
I have never seen the first edition of the English
translation of The Tenant in any bookshop. They only seem to
exist online, where they are horribly expensive. When Millipede Press published a limited-edition hardback edition in 2006 I received a copy
as a gift from the publisher, and have kept it, but I couldn’t part with my
Bantam paperback with stills from the film reproduced on the cover. I have
since written an Introduction to the Valancourt Press edition, which means I
have three copies. If I ever find a first edition that I could afford, that
would mean I’d have four. It remains an ambition!
Just before the evening event at Maggs Bros, Rosalie and I happened to be walking past Jarndyce Books in Museum Street and there, in the centre of their window display, was a copy of the first British edition of The Tenant. Of course I had to buy it, although it ruined the last line of the reading!
The Maggs evening went very well, even though I disparaged Frederick Rolfe’s prose, which provoked some heckling, not least from Ed Maggs himself.
A highlight of the evening for me was Ed sharing a letter from a small Machen archive that dates from the author’s Amersham years. In it, Machen explained to a correspondent how to get to Amersham, and explores the difference between "Saturdays only" and "Saturdays excepted":
“this is, probably, a metaphysical statement . . . the Tables, you observe, get what Coleridge called “the Idea” rather than the fact . . . So again, certain buses start from “the Crescent, Amersham”. There is no Crescent in Amersham, nor anything like a Crescent - that is in the phenomemal world. But I make no doubt that there is a super-sensible or noumenal Crescent. A solemn thought.”
Fifty Forgotten Books can still be ordered here: https://www.andotherstories.org/fifty-forgotten-books/