Friday, October 4, 2013

Favorite Autographed Books: The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morely

Almost all book lovers I know have a wonderful secret hoard of autographed books, so this fall we are featuring a series of guest blogs about those books and the stories behind them. 

I'm going to start off the series with one of my favorites - The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley, first published in 1919. It's also a perfect book to get everyone in the mood for Halloween and for reading. 

Here's how the book starts:

Chapter I

The Haunted Bookshop

If you are ever in Brooklyn, that borough of superb sunsets and magnificent vistas of husband-propelled baby-carriages, it is to be hoped you may chance upon a quiet by-street where there is a very remarkable bookshop.
This bookshop, which does business under the unusual name "Parnassus at Home," is housed in one of the comfortable old brown-stone dwellings which have been the joy of several generations of plumbers and cockroaches. The owner of the business has been at pains to remodel the house to make it a more suitable shrine for his trade, which deals entirely in second-hand volumes. There is no second-hand bookshop in the world more worthy of respect.
It was about six o'clock of a cold November evening, with gusts of rain splattering upon the pavement, when a young man proceeded uncertainly along Gissing Street, stopping now and then to look at shop windows as though doubtful of his way. At the warm and shining face of a French rotisserie he halted to compare the number enamelled on the transom with a memorandum in his hand. Then he pushed on for a few minutes, at last reaching the address he sought. Over the entrance his eye was caught by the sign:


He stumbled down the three steps that led into the dwelling of the muses, lowered his overcoat collar, and looked about.
It was very different from such bookstores as he had been accustomed to patronize. Two stories of the old house had been thrown into one: the lower space was divided into little alcoves; above, a gallery ran round the wall, which carried books to the ceiling. The air was heavy with the delightful fragrance of mellowed paper and leather surcharged with a strong bouquet of tobacco. In front of him he found a large placard in a frame:

     THIS SHOP IS HAUNTED by the ghosts
     Of all great literature, in hosts;

     We sell no fakes or trashes.
     Lovers of books are welcome here,
     No clerks will babble in your ear,

     Please smoke--but don't drop ashes!
     Browse as long as you like.
     Prices of all books plainly marked.
     If you want to ask questions, you'll find the 
     proprietor where the tobacco smoke is thickest.
     We pay cash for books.
     We have what you want, though you may not know 
     you want it.

     Malnutrition of the reading faculty is a serious 

     Let us prescribe for you.

     By R. & H. MIFFLIN,

Now tell me you don't want to read this book. Well you can online via Project Gutenberg because it's so old, it's in the public domain. You can read it right now if you like. FYI - this isn't a paranormal book, the ghosts are the literary kind and that isn't a spoiler.

My mom discovered this copy already signed and gave it to me for Christmas more than twenty years ago. She doesn't remember where she found it, but it hardly matters. It remains one of my favorite presents ever.