Thursday 15 October 2020

Hay-on-Wye "Town of Books"



During the summer I made the annual pilgrimage to Hay-on-Wye, a delightful little town on the Welsh/English border. Hay-on-Wye has developed a worldwide reputation as the "Town of Books" ever since Richard Booth opened his first second-hand bookshop in 1962. The town holds a renowned Literary Festival every year (but not this year).



The town quickly became one of the largest centres for second-hand and antiquarian book sellers in the world and the 2005-2006 directory listed 31 book shops in the town with others nearby. 


However, in line with the general decline in second-hand bookshops, the latest directory for 2019-2020 lists only 20 shops in the town, and some of these are now closed. Richard Booth's bookshop is the largest in the town and in 2010 claimed to hold 500,000 books. Hay Cinema Bookshop, in the old converted cinema, carries a stock of around 200,000 books. 

Hay-on-Wye bookshop directories for 2005-2006 and 2019-2020

I have heard tales of some wonderful chess book finds in Hay-on-Wye in years gone by but nowadays decent old chessbooks seem to be much more elusive. However, I made three purchases which made the trip worthwhile.

The Chess-Board Companion by William Lewis, London 1838.

This little book is the first edition of Lewis's Companion which was published in several later editions or thousands. The book is in lovely condition for its age with a very good tight binding and all edges still have the bright gilding.  Priced at £50, I knocked the dealer down to £40.


The Chess Players' Compendium, fourth edition by William Cook, London 1907. 

This book was previously in the library of the Bristol and Clifton Chess Club in the author's home town. The binding has been re-backed and the covers are marked, but this cost just £10 from a market stall in the town (market day is Thursday).


I already had the first edition of 1902 and a fifth edition published by David Mckay in America in 1910.

First edition, 1902 and fifth edition, 1910 of Cook's Compendium


One Hundred Chess Maxims by C. D. Locock, Leeds 1930. £5


A lovely clean example of this seemingly scarce booklet which gives basic hints to beginners.


A second "Revised and Enlarged" edition was published in 1935, although it has fewer pages than the first edition.

                                            © Michael Clapham 2020


No comments:

Post a Comment