The Bookshop Q&A: Quinto & Francis Edwards

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Quinto & Francis Edwards Bookshop
Quinto & Francis Edwards Bookshop

Name
Quinto & Francis Edwards Bookshop

Location
72 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0BB

What sort of books to do you sell?
Secondhand and antiquarian books on all subjects. The best thing about our stock is that it’s constantly changing: we completely re-stock one floor of the shop every month, replacing anything that hasn’t sold with newly acquired books. These ‘changeovers’ are a bit of a Charing Cross Road institution, an event on many book collectors’ calendars. We usually get a queue of customers outside the shop waiting to get in when we re-open after a re-stock, and there’s always a scrum of people trying to get their hands on the good stuff. It’s quite a sight.

How long have you been open?
Francis Edwards Booksellers opened in 1855 on Marylebone High Street in London. The company moved to Charing Cross Road in the 1980s, joining forces with Quinto Bookshop, and taking over a premises which had already housed a secondhand booksellers since 1906. The company recently moved location further up the street to the new shop at number 72.

Describe a typical customer
Many of our customers are avid book collectors and enthusiasts who come to us for rare editions of collectible books. We also cater for secondhand enthusiasts looking for bargain Penguin paperbacks, students, and tourists who come to sample the historic bookshops on Charing Cross Road.

What is your favourite book in the shop?
We currently have a beautiful book called Arithmetic. It’s a huge handwritten book from 1824 produced by a student as a record of a book-keeping course he’d done, written in lovely copperplate handwriting and full of colour illustrations and diagrams in ink of everything from geometry to landscaping. I’d love to own it, but unfortunately it’s £2,000 and our wages don’t quite stretch to that. I also love the random scruffier secondhand stuff we get in though – more affordable and you can uncover some real gems.

What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading something called Fairfield Folk by Frances Brown, a history of the British fairground told through the ‘says’, the tales, of a traveller family. We had a collection of fairground and circus related books in recently, and I love the subject.

How did you get into bookselling?
I used to work in TV, but decided I’d had enough of the stress and that a bookshop would be more fun. So I volunteered in an Oxfam bookshop, did a stint at Waterstone’s, and started at Quinto about four years ago, where I went on to become manager.

What are you looking forward to in 2011?
I’m having a baby in April, so I’ve been collecting piles of secondhand children’s books, which I can’t wait to start reading to him or her. I think I’m going to enjoy them more than the baby.

Why should people buy books from independent shops?
A secondhand shop especially is somewhere you can make a discovery, find a book that you didn’t even know you wanted before you went in. Internet bookselling can’t deliver the pleasure of browsing a bookshelf and pulling off something that catches your eye, and the stock in the big chain stores can be so dictated by sales that there’s not much difference between them. Unless we support our independent bookshops by buying from them, the unique shopping experience they offer will disappear.

For more information, visit quintobookshop.co.uk.

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