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This report is taken from PN Review 165, Volume 32 Number 1, September - October 2005.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

I first visited Hay before its fame as 'the book town' had spread, and more than twenty years before the first, very small literary festival was held there: it was 1965. Richard Booth, who invented second-hand book buying and selling on an industrial scale, was already there and had begun attracting like-minded traders - and the interest of the media. I was teaching in Bristol at the time and collecting books in a modest way (on a teacher's salary extravagance was unthinkable). I had an old-fashioned gentlemanly arrangement with George's bookshop, where there was a fine antiquarian section and, in David Slade, a friendly and excellent bibliographer, which allowed me to purchase books beyond my means and pay for them gradually, sometimes over many months, with never a mention of interest, never a word of admonition for tardiness. All that changed when George's was taken over by Blackwell's. Almost the first I knew of this was when a Seneca folio of about 1490, which I coveted, was snatched away by Sir Basil, even though I had seen it first. Then the accountants got to work and I was informed that my account had to be regularised, and finally, catastrophically, the antiquarian section in Bristol was closed because the experts advised that part of the business should be centralised in Oxford. George's went the way of all those fine shops which took pride in their individuality and in good relations with loyal customers, destroyed in that ghastly push for bland ...


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