Charing Cross Road is one of my favourite places in London, because it’s dotted with every kind of bookshop you can imagine selling new and secondhand books, art books, antique and rare books and every kind of classic. The shops are varied, each with its own speciality and its own atmosphere and I love them all (including Any Amount of Books). The road is also surrounded by bustling places like Leicester Square, Soho and China Town.
If we imagine Charing Cross Road as the popular, beautiful, class-president kid, then Cecil Court is its quiet, brainy and arty younger sibling. Being friends with that kid in high school wasn’t going to make you polpular, but it would probably get you into some unique situations. This quiet, pedestrian street runs eastward from Charing Cross Road and hits St. Martin’s Lane. Stumbling upon it one day – trying to find a short-cut to Covent Garden that avoided the crowds – was a wonderful surprise. I noticed the first bookshop with its wooden sign and Victorian store front advertising Rare and Antiquarian Books and felt the usual flutter of delight that a bookshop causes. I walked over to peer in the window at the books on display and, as soon as I had arrived in front of the shop, the one next to it caught my eye. A beautiful display of children’s books was in the next window. I walked over to it, only to be distracted by Watkin’s books on the other side of the road,a beautiful old bookshop which specialises in New Age and Occult books. This experience repeated itself about twelve times. In a rolling wave of pleasure, I realised that both sides of the street were lined with bookshops.
Storey’s specialises in antique maps and prints, Marchpane’s window is filled with a beautiful display of children’s books, including a first edition hardcover copy of Matilda. David Drummond’s Pleasures of the Past is packed with memorabilia from years past and Goldsboro Books and Peter Ellis Books sell first editions of modern classics. In one of these windows (it gets a bit difficult to differentiate between them, I’ll be honest), I eyed up a first edition copy of D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love with envy.
Cecil Court, even on a rainy afternoon, is a street that invites browsers, curious minds, wanderers (aimless or otherwise), adventurers and people of all kinds, whether they’re shoppers or window-shoppers. In the middle of London, surrounded by buses and car horns, Cecil Court and its beautiful bookshops are an adventure of the quieter, more civilised kind.