During my self-imposed Bookshop Challenge, a quest to find bookshops all over the UK during 2018, I have already started to amass some favourites. When I wrote recently about the rather wonderful Daunt Books in London I was intrigued to have Stanfords recommended to me. I had gushed with venom about how Daunt was substantially based around travel books and maps and pleasingly organised by Country. Like it was something unique. My head was then turned to Stanfords, in Covent Garden, another travel bookshop.
In exploring the area to locate the shop we came across a large number of antiquarian bookshops along the Charing Cross Road, a historical base for bookshops in London and clearly the road that the famous book was written about.
We even found an Agatha Christie monument, which was exciting.
Eventually we located the imposing Stanfords shop and entered Narnia!
Set over three floors, covered in maps, housing books about most places in the world and also selling useful bits of kit, this was a wonderland for those of us who love the outdoors. Whether it’s walking, cycling, climbing, horse-riding, well you know, you name it – you would feel this to be a wonderland too.
Stanford’s came to be in the mid 1800’s and the location of the shop we know now was the map printing part of the business until the very start of the 1900’s when it became the shop too. I was rather excited to read that my hero Ernest Shackleton had visited. Stupid not to have thought that, given the history of the shop as a map provider, the map provider. Shackleton would have absolutely needed their services for his expeditions. As would another famous visitor, Captain Scott!
Whilst the shop is no longer the family business it was then, handed through the Stanford family, it is still a mecca for travellers, including arm chair ones like me! For me, the Nordic Noir fan, these travel shops are always a good place to find the fiction I crave but don’t seem to find in the mainstream bookshops! Being organised by country makes it easy for me to pop to Iceland and buy some fabulous new (to me) crime authors.
The bookshop challenge has already been so good to me but finding travel bookshops has been an utter revelation! Inspired by my read of Katherine May’s book this week, The Electricity of Every Living Thing, I have decided I want to walk the Kent coast. So I need maps. Guess what is on my to do list next weekend?