There is nothing quite like the exquisite perfume and feel of a real live book, notes our Super Sleuth: Spotlight Stories Melbourne based author Janet Walker
If the book is rare then turning a page (ever so gently) and reading text from a by-gone age is a uniquely pleasurable experience, which is why I’m delighted to announce the opening of the Douglas Stewart Fine Books at 720 High Street, Armadale, a Melbourne inner city suburb.
A bonus for collectors and anyone who wants to start a collection, the owner of the shop, Douglas Stewart, specializes in rare first editions and encourages browsing among the books, prints, early photographs and ephemera on offer.
I visited with Douglas in his quietly elegant shop; luminous glass display cases, polished wood bookshelves lined with elderly and not so elderly books, most in mint condition, all begging to be read and enjoyed.
Despite his youthful appearance, Douglas Stewart, a member of the Association of Antiquarian Booksellers, has been in the book trade for twenty years.
During our conversation he told me the story behind his dream to open a bookshop in the High Street at Armadale.
Schoolboy Douglas rode the High Street tram, getting off at op-shops to search out and buy Penguin classics… after reading them, it was back on the tram to resell the books to High Street’s second hand bookshops, sometimes he made a profit… seriously cool for the pocket money department.
Aged thirteen, he was employed by Melbourne dealers in antiques, books and prints, Spencer Scott Sandilands; wonderful training for a boy whose career choice would be rare books retailing.
Continuing to sell books during and after university, the High Street bookshop Douglas dreamed of has now become a reality.
Amazingly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about all things bookish, Douglas explained that it’s not necessary to mortgage the house to start a collection.
Sure, there are rare books in his shop which are worth many thousands of dollars but there are also very affordable old books that would be ideal for a new collector; Douglas showed me an appealingly illustrated 19th century book on Australian wildlife – the price: a modest $150.00.
Douglas Stewart and his staff buy and sell books to both Australian and international collectors and also sell book collections on consignment.
Currently they are offering on consignment the Geoffrey Cains Collection of Australian Literature.
When I browsed the collection it was surprising to learn how many relatively recent Australian authors’ first editions (particularly if they have been signed by the author) are now worth many times their original value.
Douglas commented that while books may increase in value, like all precious commodities, books go in and out of fashion and a reputable bookseller does not give investment advice – beware the book retailer who promises a fabulous return on a book’s purchase price; run, don’t walk to the door.
Books are, though, an investment; an investment that may or may not give a financial return but will certainly return hours of pleasure as they are read singly or with family and passed from generation to generation; a treasured compendium of happy times.
You could find something special for your bookshelf.
DOUGLAS STEWART FINE BOOKS
720 High Street, Armadale
Contact + 61 (0) 3 9066 0200
Email [email protected]
Click here www.douglasstewart.com.au to view the collection
Janet Walker, Super Sleuth: Spotlight Stories, The Culture Concept Circle 2013