‘I don’t care for second-hand books,’ said Johannes Speyer one evening, brushing a greenfly from his beard.
‘Why?’ said I. ‘You like your books fresh, untrammelled, orderly?’
‘Absolutely not,’ he snapped. ‘I like my books to have lived not a little, but a lot. A second-hand book is far too fresh for my liking. To have only passed through a reader or two: how very dull! The perfect book has passed through the hand of many readers. The perfect book has been through the wars. It has been bought and sold a dozen times, left on a park bench, blown by the wind, hidden under a floorboard, sent in a parcel across the sea, lost down the side of a bed, given as a present to someone who’d rather have had something else, put out with the garbage, rescued, read, re-read, re-rescued and sold again for less than a quarter of its deserved price. The perfect book is not a second-hand book. It is a twenty-second-hand book’.
I grinned. ‘If I should ever open a bookstore,’ I said, ‘I will call it the Twenty-Second-Hand Bookstore’.
I have never opened a bookstore.