The antiquarian market seems like a secret society, closed to anyone who isn't in the know and in possession of a limitless budget. The bookshop Jarndyce, opposite the British Museum, almost confirms this stereotype. For starters, you have to ring a bell to gain entry. Yet the shop is bustling on a weekday morning.
Ed Nassau Lake, whose family owns the shop, agrees that young people can feel intimidated by the shop's appearance and the industry's reputation. He describes typical clientele as "rich people with a passion for antiquity; perhaps the odd stuffy old man". But he is determined to dispel this image and broaden the shop's appeal, kicking off with a catalogue aimed at those considering their first foray into antiquarian book-buying. He has produced a new catalogue – usually priced at £5 but, in this case, free – which collects more than 500 titles into themes designed to help customers choose books to give as presents. Most are well under £100, some are as cheap as £12 and £20. The entire catalogue will be made available online in the new year.
So, if you have a daughter called Julia who is exhibiting wayward tendencies, you might want to buy her Advice to Julia, from 1820, for £65. A newly minted house-husband with a sense of humour may well appreciate Elementary Laundry Work, £30. There is a literary section, with first editions from Tolstoy, Twain, Sterne and Hugo, though these jewels will set you back at least several hundred pounds. At the racier end of the collection is The Illustrated Sunbathing News, essentially an early porn mag dressed up as the official publication of the "Gymnic Association" which, in the 1930s, meant nudists.
This is intended as a taster of what the antiquarian market can offer, and is proof that old does not necessarily equal stuffy and fusty.
For a free catalogue, call 020-7631 4220 (Jarndyce.co.uk/booksforpresents)