Books Do Furnish A Mind, Part III

by Ibn Warraq (June 2014)

I do not know that I am happiest alone; but this I am sure of, that I am never long even in the society of her I love without a yearning for the company of my lamp and my utterly confused and tumbled-over library. 
– Byron, Journal, April, 10th , 1814.

My father was struggling to pay the fees of Bryanston School which he did through an English family with whom I stayed during the school holidays. There was very little pocket money for me, so I had to devise other ways to acquire enough money to indulge my burgeoning bibliophilia. The English family lived near Norwich, Norfolk. Every school holiday I had to pass through London, arriving at Waterloo Station from Blandford Forum, Dorset, and then transfer to Liverpool Station to take my train to Norwich. I was given enough money to take a taxi from Waterloo to Liverpool Street but, instead, I took the Underground to Leicester Square on the Northern Line, thus saving considerable amount of money, which I would use in the second hand bookshops of Charing Cross Road. At Leicester Square tube station, as soon as I came up the underground steps, I felt in heaven as I was engulfed by the second hand bookshops with their bookshelves spilling out onto the pavements. I began the Charing Cross Pilgrimage at Cecil Court which came off the Charing Cross road and ran into St.Martin’s Lane, since it housed several bookshops, which also sold prints and maps. Apart from Cecil Court’s cultural and literary associations (Mozart, in London between 1764-1765, is said to have written a symphony while living here[1][2], while the Foyle brothers opened their first bookshop here, in 1904, before moving on to its present, more famous, location at 107, Charing Cross Road; John Watkins opened his esoteric bookshop in 1901 which flourishes to this day, and where I was to buy Ali Dashti’s truly iconoclastic work, Twenty Three Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad, and J.M. Robertson’s  A Short History of Freethought. Ancient and Modern, in two volumes, published by Watts & Co (London, 1906), for £9.00 and £20.00, respectively, in the 1980s), two shops in particular attracted me, one specializing in travel literature and the other in Sir Richard Francis Burton. Burton held a singular attraction for me as his works touched on my life in many ways; he wrote four works on the area of India where my ancestors came from, the Sind (my mother tongue is a Sindhi dialect, Kacchi or Kutchi), viz., Scinde or the Unhappy Valley (1851), Sindh and the Races That Inhabit the Valley of the Indus (1851), Falconry in the Valley of the Indus (1852), and Sind Revisited (1877). Furthermore, Burton, though a non-Muslim, had accomplished a pilgrimage to Mecca, and had written a fascinating account of it in Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Meccah, 3 vols, 1855-56. Writing about Islam in general was to become an important, and, in some ways, a rather depressing part of my life. Thus Burton’s account, apart from its intrinsic worth, was of profound interest to me. Alas, these works, though available in London bookshops, were collectors’ items and thus way beyond my schoolboy means. One of the salesmen of the two bookshops treated me with a rudeness I have never forgotten- he looked me up and down with contempt and told me this shop was not for me. I did eventually buy Burton’s Sindh and the Races That Inhabit the Valley of the Indus, an unattractively bound volume reprinted in Karachi in 1973, for a reasonable £5.25. Many years later when I was married and working as a primary school teacher I bought, in about 1980, Burton’s translation of the Arabian Nights in seventeen volumes from a second-hand bookshop in Crouch End, for £65.00. I was to quote Burton’s daring excursus on homosexuality, known as the Terminal Essay, and his remarks on women and sexuality in the Islamic world, in my first book, published in 1995, Why I am Not a Muslim.

I usually ended up, crestfallen, at Collet’s Penguin bookshop on Charing Cross Road, buying an affordable paperback, collecting the Penguin Catalogue, and then retreating to an Indian restaurant, the Murshidabad Grill, in Irving Street. I do not think either the bookshop or the restaurant exist any more.

I pored over the Penguin Catalogue wondering when I would ever have the money to buy all the books I kept ticking and noting, particularly in the Classics section. Instead of reading a history of English literature which would probably, I argued to myself, have not included modern figures such as Virginia Woolf, Ivy Compton-Burnett, or Max Beerbohm, I gathered my knowledge from the Penguin Catalogue, and what is more, knew exactly how much money I would need to buy, for example, Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes, which in 1957 cost three shillings and sixpence. I cherished the Penguin Classics with their distinctive covers: purple for the Latin classics and brown for the Greek, green for the French (Maupassant’s Boule de SuifCandide), blue for the Italian (Dante’s Divine Comedy, in Dorothy Sayer’s translation), red for the Russian (Turgenev’s On the Eve, Gilbert Gardiner’s translation), olive for German (Goethe’s Faust), peacock for Spanish (Cervantes’ Don Quixote, translated by J.M. Cohen) and so on, before they started producing from 1963 onwards illustrated covers, usually reproductions of paintings, frescoes, engravings, photos of sculptures, and so on. For example, Don Quixote had a reproduction of Daumier’s superb painting of the Knight of La Mancha; Racine’s Phaedra and Other Plays, carried a reproduction of a portrait of Racine at Versailles; Sallust’s Jugurthine War and the Conspiracy of Cataline, showed detail from a mosaic.

My healthy intellectual curiosity, at the age of fifteen, did not stop at works of fiction only, but led in all sorts of direction, as I haphazardly explored various fields of intellectual and scientific inquiry. One early interest in one such field was the History of Art and Architecture. Here Pelican Books, an imprint of Penguin, proved indispensable: my early purchases included Eric Newton’s European Painting and Sculpture, which in 1950 cost just one shilling and sixpence. Newton’s confession that he did not love Rembrandt was quite a shock to a novice like me, leaving me totally bewildered, but eventually his guilty secret proved to be a liberation since it made me realise that there would always be works of art acknowledged to be “great,” “important,” or even “works of genius” which would leave one cold. Here is Newton’s mea culpa: “The giant of Dutch painting is, of course, Rembrandt. And here the art historian has to gird himself to a special task. Not that there is any difficulty in assessing Rembrandt’s stature both as an artist and as a painter. By every known test he is the giant not only of Dutch painting but of European painting. But at this point, in my readers’ interests, I must make a confession that I have never been able to love him. Love is an irrational thing, but for the critic it is an essential thing.” He laments his own limitations in not being able to appreciate Rembrandt’s qualities. But for him, Rembrandt lacks “colour orchestration” and “gaiety”: “To feel a little unhappy in the presence of a work of genius which has neither quality is my personal misfortune….[H]ow I wish he could give me pleasure! ….Rembrandt can do anything except rejoice. There is no nonsense about him; he cannot smile. In that respect alone he is a smaller man than Shakespeare.”[3]

Ever since reading Newton’s confession, I have been skeptical of all those who seem to be able to appreciate and enjoy everything equally in the Western literary canon, from Chaucer to Virginia Woolf, and, every kind of Western art from Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Early Renaissance, High Renaissance, Late Renaissance, Baroque, Mannerist to Neo-classicism, Expressionism, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. I must confess to being unable, for instance, to appreciate the works of Marc Chagall; I am immune to the charms of his kind of whimsy, formlessness, and mawkishness.

I was always impressed by Cyril Connolly’s confession that he could not abide the works of William Faulkner. And then there was Nabokov, who dismissed almost everyone in European literature of the Twentieth Century except Joyce, Kafka, Bely, and Proust. There is, of course, a crucial difference between Newton’s and Nabokov’s position: while Newton concedes Rembrandt’s genius, Nabokov thinks that many so-called writers of “genius,” are, in reality, “miserable mediocrities,” a description he once applied to Saul Bellow and Balzac. Nabokov wrote (or perhaps said in an interview): “Ever since the days when such formidable mediocrities as Galsworthy, Dreiser, a person called Tagore, another called Maxim Gorky, a third called Romain Rolland, used to be accepted as geniuses, I have been perplexed and amused by fabricated notions about so-called “great books.” That, for instance, Mann’s asinine Death in Venice or Pasternak’s melodramatic and vilely written Zhivago or Faulkner’s corncobby chronicles can be considered “masterpieces,”  or at least what journalists call “great books” is to me an absurd delusion, as when a hypnotized person makes love to a chair. My greatest masterpieces of twentieth century prose are, in this order: Joyce’s UlyssesTransformation[4] PetersburgIn Search of Lost Time.” [5]

Lest there is some misunderstanding, I personally do love Rembrandt’s work.

There was also Nikolaus Pevsner’s An Outline of European Architecture, which cost three shillings, but which was re-issued many times and became more and more copiously illustrated, so that in a few years I possessed several editions of what became a classic. Pevsner persuaded Sir Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin Books, to launch two very ambitious series of which Pevsner was the editor: The Buildings of England, and The Pelican History of Art. I was able to acquire a paperback edition of the volume on “London, except the Cities of London and Westminster”, in The Buildings of England series, for six shillings but had to wait many years before The Pelican History of Art volumes were re-issued as paperbacks in the 1970s. Another constant companion was Peter and Linda Murray’s A Dictionary of Art and Artists, in the Penguin Reference Books series; this volume also proved to be of permanent value, and was also re-published in a larger format with color reproductions. It was an extraordinary work of scholarship, with aesthetic judgments, analysis of individual painters and sculptors, but also entries on engraving, on movements in art such as Cubism, and much more. But it also contained deliciously acerbic comments on the theories of Clive Bell and Bernard Berenson. Here is Peter and Linda Murray’s entry on: “Significant Form. A Phrase invented by Mr Clive Bell to define the specifically aesthetic element in a work of art. That is aesthetically valid (‘significant’) which is an expression of form; that is formally effective which is significant. A neat example of arguing in a circle.” And here is their entry on “Tactile Values. An illusion of tangibility. The inventor of the phrase, Mr Bernhard [sic] Berenson,[6] claimed that the representation of three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface in such a way that one received a strong impression of physical tangibility is ‘life-enhancing’. It is not clear why.”

At the time, I uncritically lapped up anything Bernard Berenson wrote, I particularly treasured his Florentine Painters of the Renaissance which I consulted in our school library. I sought out his works in the shops in the Charing Cross road, especially in Zwemmer’s Art Bookshop at 78 Charing Cross Road, just before Cambridge Circus. Zwemmer’s was more than a bookshop:

Zwemmer not only stocked art books but also high quality art reproductions and a large stock of domestic and foreign art journals. The shop was the only UK supplier for many of these specialist journals including The Studio, The Fleuron, Jugend, Cahiers d’art, and Verve. These journals which catered to new emergmg art and artists, often served as the only outlet for European art criticism, and in many cases provided the British public with the very first reproductions of the new art.

Noted British art historian Sir Kenneth Clark reflects upon on the artistic climate after the war and the void filled by Zwemmer:

‘In this wilderness, Mr. Zwemmer’s bookshop was the source of refreshment.

Generations of Oxford undergraduates have claimed that their education tooplace in Blackwell’s but at leastone art historian can claim the same for Zwemmer’s.This oasis had an even greater influence upon the formation of our taste. To those who had not seen the Post-Impressionist Exhibition of 1911, the great nineteenth century painters were almost unknown. In England, the people who had seen a Cezanne or Renoir were few. More incredible still, colour reproductions of Van Gogh did not exist and when they appeared in Mr Zwemmer’s windows, they were almost deliriously exciting. The same is true of Picasso and Matisse, only with them one could enjoy the added excitement of a movement belonging to one’s own  time. Young people ask, what is happening now. Only in Zwemmer’s bookshop could they find the answer.[7]

Mr Zwemmer also published expensive art books which played an important role in the history of modern art, its reception and appreciation. Herbert Read’s work on Henry Moore[8], for example, was accepted by Zwemmer at a time when no-one else would. Henry Moore himself recounts how a simple session of browsing in Zwemmer’s was so important to him: “I discovered Zwemmer’s bookshop in October 1921, in my first term at the Royal College of Art. I was a provincial student, raw from Yorkshire. That first year in London was the most tremendous exhalation for me. No doubt the British Museum contributed most of all to my excitement and education – but the art books I found in Zwemmer’s had a great share too. Charing Cross Road is between the British Museum and the National Gallery, and so it was easy to combine weekly visits with a “call-in” at Zwemmer’s. These calls would sometimes, quite shamelessly, last an hour. Having only my scholarship grant I couldn’t afford to buy a book, unless I was sure it was one I would want to consult continuously – but looking at a coveted book week after week it often became unnecessary to buy it, so most times I would walk out with no purchase, but nobody bothered.’’[9]

This was entirely my own experience: to gaze at, and be dazzled by, the displays in the window, and then enter timidly, to spends hours browsing, and finally to leave with a sigh and without a purchase. Gorgeous art books published by Phaidon and Thames and Hudson were obviously out of my reach: I did buy three paperbacks in Zwemmer’s over the years: one was Lionello Venturi’s History of Art Criticism (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1936), also Anthony Blunt’s Artistic Theory in Italy 1450-1600 , an Oxford University Paperback 1962, which contains the following words of thanks, in the Preface, “to Mr Guy Burgess the stimulus of constant discussion and suggestions on all the more basic points at issue.” And finally, a paperback edition of Elisabeth Holt’s A Documentary History of Art, Volume 2: Michelangelo and the Mannerists, The Baroque and the Eighteenth Century, first published in 1950s and 1960s.


“There are 10,000 books in my library, and it will keep growing until I die. This has exasperated my daughters, amused my friends, and baffled my accountant. If I had not picked up this habit in the library [Prospect Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library], long ago, I would have more money in the bank today; I would not be richer.”
– Pete Hamill, “D’Artagnan on Ninth Street: A Brooklyn Boy at the Library.New York Times, June 26, 1988

Leaving school in 1965, I had to fend for myself for a year and a half before going to Edinburgh University with a government grant of £60.00 per annum. With nowhere to live, and no money, I was forced to commit my first act of libricide – not in a literal sense since the books were not destroyed but merely sold to pay for my room in the YMCA in Norwich, Norfolk, U.K. I saved just two books from this “biblioclasm”: T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and Selected Poems, both Faber and Faber paperbacks published in 1963 and 1962 respectively, bought while still at Bryanston School. I was to give the Selected Poems to someone who gave me much solace at a particularly dark time in my life in 2003, but I still possess, in 2015, the Four Quartets.

Once at Edinburgh University, I started a private library over again. I continued to haunt the second-hand book shops on the Charing Cross road. At every university holiday break I was back in London trying to earn money working in a warehouse for a Japanese toy company. One of the junior Japanese executives allowed me to sleep on his couch, but in return I had to read to him T.S. Eliot’s poetry. “You have a beautiful voice. Please read for me”; a situation that reminds me now, unfairly, of Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust, where the main character is held captive in the jungle by an insane illiterate settler who makes him read Dickens aloud to him. 

During this period I once saw, in a Charing Cross second hand bookshop, volume one only of a three volume set of Boswell’s Life of Johnson, going cheaply, for obvious reasons. I was convinced that I had seen the other two volumes in a second hand bookshop in Edinburgh. I took a chance, and when back in Edinburgh hurried to the shop I had in mind, and lo and behold, I found the other two volumes in the same edition, also going at a very reasonable price.

After Edinburgh University I found myself homeless and lost in London in 1970; an orphan, without any other relatives in Britain either. All my books were at my former girlfriend’s apartment in Shaftesbury Avenue. But she finally told me to clear out of her life, and take all my possessions, mainly books. I had no alternative but to sell them. All bibliophiles know that the two necessary requirements for a good private library are the means to buy the books, and a place to house them. At this stage in my life, I had neither; one could not create or sustain a private library in a 1960s crash pad. So for a second time I was to cull my library drastically. I had to say goodbye to my Boswell, and all the other books I had accumulated except the aforementioned T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and Selected Poems. I also held onto, for sentimental reasons, Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy, an Allen and Unwin paperback, purchased in 1969; L.P. Elwell-Sutton’s Elementary Persian Grammar, Cambridge University Press, 1963; W. Wright’s A Grammar of the Arabic Language, Cambridge University Press, 1967; and two books that were given to me as presents by a friend to thank me for providing a couch to sleep on in my flat in Edinburgh, Italian Renaissance Studies, edited by E.F. Jacob, London: Faber 1960, which carries the dedication, “To ***** , 13th Nov. 1969. Lest We Forget. ***[10]The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, Phaidon Press, 1965, with the dedication, “6th March, 1969, Edinburgh. To ***** EEYEEEHOOOOOO !!! etc. a token of gratitude, ***.”[11] I have all these volumes – apart from T.S.Eliot’s Selected Poems – in my library to this day. In 1970, they were all that remained of four years of book buying.


He hath never fed of the dainties that are bred in a book; he hath not eat paper, as it were; he hath not drunk ink; his intellect is not replenished; he is only an animal, only sensible in the duller parts.
– Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost. c.1598

I got tired of lying around with a hassle[12] of amiable, kind, but inarticulate, unintellectual and aimless hippies in Notting Hill, and took a degree in education from the University of London, Education Institute, and became a qualified teacher. I taught for five years in London primary schools. But while teaching during the day, I enrolled in the night classes at Birkbeck College, University of London, and studied Philosophy (essentially Western philosophy: Pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibnitz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Frege, Russell, Popper, and Wittgenstein). Birkbeck College was specifically founded for working men and women who could not attend classes during the working day. These were some of my happiest years. For four years, five days a week, after a day’s teaching, I took the tube nearest to my school, South Kensington, and went on the Piccadilly Line to,…yes, Leicester Square, and the second hand bookshops. But this time I had money. My crawl up Charing Cross Road  ended very conveniently at the Birkbeck College, Philosophy Department,14 Gower Street, just in time for my first philosophy classes of the evening.

Every week-day, for nearly four years, I visited the secondhand bookshop Joseph Poole and Co. Ltd. at 86 Charing Cross Road. It was next to an address that became much more famous, 84 Charing Cross Road, thanks to Helene Hanff’s book. But as far as I can remember, by the time I frequented 86 Charing Cross Road (1974-1978), the shop at 84 was no longer in operation. Joseph Poole and Co was run by a group of young booksellers whose daily turnover was enormous, with wonderful bargains every day so that almost all my books in my newly growing library came from them.

Talking of 84 Charing Cross Road, here it would be appropriate to talk of “drif’s guide To the Secondhand and Antiquarian Bookshops in Britain. The Only Guide That’s Been There” by “drif field” [sic]. It is an eccentric guide, for which the term “irreverent” is totally inadequate, far more accurate would be “scurrilous” and “scabrous”. It is also hilarious. It does indeed go through every single second hand bookshop in Britain with pithy and rude descriptions of the shops and the shop owners. I am not sure when I first came across it, probably sometime in the 1980s during one of my visits to London (for by 1982 I was living permanently in a village near Toulouse, France). Each edition, execrably produced (tiny format, and tiny typed fonts so one needs, literally, a magnifying glass to read it), is different, with different anecdotes, introductions, and descriptions. The copy I acquired online recently is dated 1991, and all my quotes come from this edition. An earlier edition which I no longer have had this anecdote: Drif was coming out of a secondhand bookshop when a fellow dealer accosted him, and told him that he was looking for a particular title for which he was prepared to pay a good price. As the dealer was talking, Drif noticed that that very title was in the window of the shop he had just come out of. Needless to say, Drif did not apprise the dealer of his discovery.

Drif laments the passing of an era: “The old style bookshop, the one before the advent of television, used to rely on knowledgable collectors, people who had some grounding in the subject they collected. People who had some understanding of the history of English literature and European culture, but there are no such people  any more. They also relied on what was known as the carriage trade, who did not so much buy books, as buy decorations for their homes, but most of these people are long dead and their offspring now try to emulate what they fondly believe is working class culture.”

And again: “It is a sign of ignorance of most British book dealers that they are unable to tell the three different types of customers. Readers; Collectors and Dealers. If a bookshop owner takes more than two-fifths of a second to tell to which group a particular customer belongs, he is in the wrong business. And most British book dealers are in the wrong business….Readers are usually lost in bookshops and it is indeed sensible to ask them if you can help them, but not in such a way that it intimidates them. Readers often display signs of confusion and say such things as ‘Is this a library?’ or ‘I could spend hours in a bookshop’ (the only thing they do spend); or ‘Is this a bookshop?’ I was in a bookshop talking to three other dealers when a very attractive young lady came in and asked this very question. One of the other dealers said, ‘No, this is a male brothel!’ She looked at the thousands of secondhand books then looked carefully at us and said ‘It is not for me then.’”

And here is Drif’s exposure of the chicanery of the Harrington Brothers, bookdealers located in the Chelsea Antiques Market in the King’s Road, London: “The Harrington Brothers bill themselves as being Antiquarian Booksellers and are proud members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association [ABA]. What they are is sellers of tat[13] and the ABA is a tatty organisation for allowing them in. In their window you will see large tomes that have been highly polished so that even more highly polished customers can have themselves photographed in front of them. Should you open these books, and in the case of the Harrington’s customers this is most unlikely, you will find that these are the rare coloured copies. And this is true; they were coloured by the Harringtons.” Drif sees a pair of Golf Pictures in the window which seemed to date from the 1890s, asks their price, and is told they are £150.00 each. Embarrassed Drif goes back and looks at them again, “how could I have been so stupid not to see that the paint was too new, in fact in some parts it did not even look as if it was dry. The golf ball would have been the size of a football if it had those proportions. The gold clubs were far too short, originally golf clubs were far too long. And then most shameful of all, I suddenly realised that they were painted in what is known as the Venetian School. I have never been to Venice but I can say with some certainty that there were very few golf courses there in 1890.”

Drif uses special terminology of his own coinage to describe various kinds of bookshops. For example, there is the ‘Book Dealer Special’: “A bookshop where it is hard to decide which is more dead, the owner or the stock….” Then there is “A Helen [sic] Hanff Special”. Helene Hanff ’s 84 Charing Cross Road was an account of Ms Hanff’s twenty year correspondence with Frank Doel of Marks & Co, on whom she depended for the classics of English literature. A New Yorker, Hanff never visited the Charing Cross Road. But for Drif, a Helen Hanff Special is “A bookshop which looks great from the outside, preferably 3,000 miles away. The owner is usually very good at talking and writing, but the books are terrible. The good news is that these shops soon go out of business. The bad news is that it does not stop people writing about them and reinforcing the Hollywood image of what book dealing is like. The unforgettable book, whose name no American can ever remember is constantly being quoted in the press as the way book dealing is. Miss Hanff is one of those people who would not go to the toilet without informing the press first. The end result is the same, ….”

I only once strayed from the Charing Cross Road or Dillon’s Bookshop on Gower Street, when I accompanied my wife to an auction at Sotheby’s. She wanted to buy some second hand furniture for our apartment. While wandering around I found a cheap clothes cupboard that was filled with books, among which I picked out some tomes in the prestigious series Sacred Books of the East. I immediately decided to put in a bid. The bidding began at a very low sum, but someone started bidding against me. I still managed to acquire the entire lot for £10.00. Most of the fifty or sixty books in the lot were worthless, rather tatty copies of romantic fiction from Boots Booklovers’ Library, a booklending service established in 1898, within the Boots Chemist’s chain of shops, a service which had ceased to operate by 1966. I think I gave them to some charity shops. But I kept what turned out to be the personal copies of books on Jainism and Hinduism of the British Jain scholar, Herbert Warren. For years, until, in fact, I began writing this essay a few weeks ago, I was under the impression that Warren was the scholar also of Buddhism mentioned by T.S. Eliot in the end notes to The Waste Land. Much to my disappointment, Eliot was referring to another scholar altogether, namely, Henry Clarke Warren, and his work, “Buddhism in Translation.

Herbert Warren was a convert to Jainism, and known for several works on this religion originating from the Gujarat. My haul consisted of two volumes in the Sacred Books of the East series edited by Max Müller: the Jaina Sutras, translated by Hermann Jacobi, Part I published in 1884, and Part II, in 1895; thus they were both first editions. There was also “A Sketch of the Vedanta Philosophy” by M.S. Tripathi, published in Bombay in 1901. One volume from the Oriental Translation Fund, New Series, The Antagada-Dasao and Anuttrovavaiya-Dasao, translated by L.D. Bennett, published in London in 1907. There were several short works on Jainism by J.L. Jaini, and Virchand R. Gandhi [1864- 1901] a well-known scholar from the Gujarat who represented Jainism at the first World Parliament of Religions in 1893 in Chicago. Finally there were three personal black  leather-covered notebooks of Herbert Warren himself. They contain, in beautiful, regular handwriting, notes on lectures given by V.R. Gandhi, in Spring 1901. These notes were the basis of his book, Jainism in Western Garb, as a Solution to Life’s Problems, published by K.D. Prasad in Arrah, India, in 1912.[14]

I have not managed to find out much about Herbert Warren on the Internet but have pieced together from what I kept from the Sotheby lot the following: Warren [1866-1954] was the Honorary Secretary of Jaina Literature Society. It was in 1909, that J. L. Jaini created the Jain Literature Society in London together with F. W. Thomas, professor of Sanskrit at Oxford, and Herbert Warren, and in 1913 the Mahavira Brotherhood or Universal Fraternity with Herbert Warren, and others.

I think his married daughter, called Ivy Arthur, a violinist in a London orchestra, inherited some of his works. Warren lived first at 84, Shelgate Road, London, S.W., then 15 Eccles Road, Lavender Hill, London, SW, but finally seems to have moved in with his daughter at 18, Wandsworth Bridge Road, Fulham, S.W.6. Among the books, there was a part of a letter to Warren from the bank manager of Barclays Bank Ltd., stating that Warren had £25. 8. 1. [twenty five pounds, eight shillings and one pence] in his current account and £50 in his deposit account. There is one more piece of evidence, a 1917 edition of a book of poems by Laurence Hope, Indian Love, in which someone whose signature I can not read has inscribed, “To Ivy, with fond and happiest memories.” She probably died in her seventies, and the contents of her house in Fulham were auctioned in circa 1978.

I had a regular salary, and a flat in Crouch End,[15] London which even boasted what could be called a library – a lovely room with a bow window overlooking some gardens and a tennis club. I had some shelves put in, and felt confident, even smug about my growing library, and decided to order some ex libris from a local printer; it was a reproduction of the woodcut of the plan and elevation of Palladio’s Villa Trissino, in Meledo, Italy, taken from Palladio’s Four Books of Architecture, which came out as a Dover paperback in 1965. I had ordered 500 in a small format and 500 in a slightly larger format, on fine paper, very light yellowish colour but no adhesive on the back. I would have had to apply some kind of glue to each ex libris in order to stick it into my books. Thirty five years later I still have not stuck in one single ex libris. Very recently, about six months ago, I thought it would be easier if I had a stamp made of the ex libris, then I could simply stamp each of my books very rapidly. Alas, I paid a lot but the stamp was totally inadequate: each time I stamped a book the image came out all blurry and smudged, and once again I abandoned my attempts at proprietary elegance.

I suppose the only possible collector’s items I picked up at J. Poole and Co. were the six slim volumes in blue of the “International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, Volumes I and II: Foundations of the Unity of Science” published by The University of Chicago Press from the 1936 onwards. These volumes were the result of the missionary spirit of the Logical Positivists of the famous Vienna Circle, which, in 1930, had taken over a journal called Annalen der Philosophie, renamed it Erkenntnis [Knowledge]. With the advent of Nazism, the title of Erkenntnis was changed to The Journal of Unified Science, and its place of publication to The Hague. Rudolph Carnap, one of the leading lights of the Vienna Circle, was in Chicago by 1936, and he persuaded the University of Chicago to carry on the tradition established by The Journal of Unified Science, and to publish a series of short works, to quote A.J. Ayer, “ambitiously entitled the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science”[16], which soon ceased publication. However, several titles did get published, and these are the ones I was able to buy for just 20 pence each; titles such as, to name the most famous, Rudolph Carnap, Foundations of Logic and Mathematics[1939]; Carl Hempel, Fundamentals of Concept Formation in Empirical Science[1952]; Ernest Nagel, Principles of the Theory of Probability[1939].

I recorded my daily purchases in a notebook that I still possess. By 2nd August, 1979, my library held 1519 books, of which 605 were on philosophy.

(A good investment, as I pleaded with my long-suffering wife, since I did receive a good honours degree in Philosophy from the University of London.) I had spent a total of £1558.25, approximately £311 per year for five years. Thus my books cost just a shade more than £1.02 each. Almost all of the books were bought from Joseph Poole and Co., and were real bargains. Here are some examples: I managed to acquire William Kneale and Martha Kneale’s The Development of Logic, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971 for £4.00, a huge hardback tome of 783 pages; it was re-issued as a paperback in 1985 at £51. Then there was Reginald E. Allen and David J. Furley, Studies in Presocratic Philosophy, Vol. 1: The Beginnings of Philosophy, in hardback, for which I paid £2.30, it now sells for £109.00, and even second hand copies cost £28.00. My final example: I paid just £3.30 for E.C. Mossner’s standard biography of David Hume, another huge hardback tome of 683 pages, published by Oxford University Press; the hardback now sells for £102.68, and the paperback re-issue for £49.62.



[1] Stanley Sadie. Mozart, the Early Years 1756-1781 New York: W.W.Norton & Co, 2006, pp. 64-65.

[2] Arthur Ransome, Autobiography, London: Jonathan Cape, 1976. Ransome and Sadie are both referred to by Tim Bryars in his execellent History of Cecil Court on line at All my information about Cecil Court comes from this source. Bryars himself now has a shop in Cecil Court, “Established …in summer 2004, [it specialises]  in rare and antiquarian books, maps and prints, particularly atlases and original antique maps of all parts of the world printed between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries – a golden age of discovery and decorative map-making.”

[3] Eric Newton. European Painting and Sculture, Pelican Book: Harmondsworth, 1950 [Ist. Edn.,1941]pp.133-136

[4] It is more commonly spelt, Bely

[5] Vladimir Nabokov. Strong Opinions, Vintage Books: New York, 1990, p.57.

[6] Bernard Berenson was born  Bernhard Valvrojenski in Lithuania.

[7] Jane Carlin, “Anton Zwemmer:London’s Bookseller and Publisher for the Arts”, in Book Club of Washington Journal, Fall  2012 Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.38-39, which quotes Kenneth Clark.

[8] I once possessed a Henry Moore sculpture for forty eight hours. But I digress….

[9] Jane Carlin, “Anton Zwemmer:London’s Bookseller and Publisher for the Arts”, in Book Club of Washington Journal, Fall  2012 Vol. 12, No. 2, p.40  where Henry Moore is quoted.

[10] The asterisks represent my and my friend’s name.

[11] “EEYEEEHOOOOOO !!!”is a private joke between me and my friend specific to a particular time and place which would make no sense now to an outsider.

[12] My coinage: a collective noun for 1960s hippies.

[13] Oxford English Dictionary: “Rubbish, junk, worthless goods”.

[14] Entire text available at:

[15] Bob Dylan came to live in Crouch End at about the same time.

[16] A.J.Ayer, ed. Logical Positivism, Introduction, New York: Free Press Paperback, 1959, pp.6-7. All my information on the Vienna Circle comes from Ayer’s introduction.

Continue reading here.



Ibn Warraq’s latest book is Sir Walter Scott’s Crusades and Other Fantasies.


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