Hallo again to all.
It's hard to recall when we first heard the odd name 'Anglican Bibliopole'. It was likely sometime in the early 1980s, in some conversation or other about good sources for second-hand books having to do with Anglican theology and history. Such specialized bookshops were not thick on the ground then in North America (nor are they now), so our ears pricked up. We learnt further that they were located in Saratoga Springs, New York, sent books by post all round the world, and issued catalogues.
In those pre-email days, we recall writing for a catalogue, which came promptly. Modest in size (about 5 by 8 inches or an A4 sheet folded in half), humble in production values (black and white, with varying colour covers, and very small type), but impressive in its content, the catalogue made it clear that the proprietors of the Anglican Bibliopole were serious chaps indeed about their inventory. That ranged from General Theology, Worship /Devotion, and Music to Biblical Studies, Church History, and 'Lives of Saints and Worthies', whose subtitle varied. One of our favourites was a quotation from MS Shepherd, 'The best sort of Christian education is knowing a saint'.
There was always a brief description of a particular offering and its condition and if one were lucky, an occasional little aside that could be utterly delightful. Each catalogue began with a small gem of an essay. Like the proprietors of the Bibliopole, the essays were catholic and ranged over the vast and intriguing terrain of the Ecclesia Anglicana, from 'THE BOOK of COMMON PRAYER, 1549–1999: its Legacy and Patina' and 'DATING BOOKS of COMMON PRAYER' to 'ANGLICAN BIBLIOGRAPHIES: The English Church Ethos' and a survey of THE WARHAM GUILD publications (which it was our delight to publish here). The catalogues were issued quarterly and came regularly without charge once one bought a book from the shop. We looked forward to their appearance, each a treasure chest of Anglican-related titles which one could browse over a cup of tea.
Every country doubtless has its equivalent of the Anglican Bibliopole. Phillip Lund in the UK is a well-known purveyor and other names could easily be included. We're not as familiar with the Anglican-related bookshops in other provinces of the Communion, but surely there are similar vendors. Since the advent of the Web, though, the sense of locality for bookshops has faded. There is of course no 'Anglican Amazon', but numerous bookshops now have online presences and front-end search engines such as biblio.com, abebooks.co.uk, and alibris.com (not to mention ebay.com) collate and bring the bookshops of the world to one's desktop. And the body of digitized Anglican out-of-copyright material available for free in one's browser is growing exponentially.
We're all aware of how this has affected many independent shops. It's surely cut down on our own habits of browsing the aisles of real shops. Our computers may be virtual Charing Cross Roads, but the experience of scanning inventory online and clicking 'Add to cart' will never be as rich and redolent as the experience of being in and amongst books and their knowledgeable owners. Yes, one now finds what one wants more quickly and one can expect prices of hard-to-find and rare Anglican books to be lower than they once were, owing to the worldwide marketplace. But still, something precious is lost.
And that was brought home to us last week when in the postal mail came a little letter from our friends Paul and Robert at the Anglican Bibliopole, saying that after more than 30 years, they were winding up their 'active involvement' and relinquishing the business to new proprietor who will carry it on in Vermont. We're certain that Robert and Paul have chosen a good successor, but for us, it is the end of an era. It was our great good fortune to visit the Anglican Bibliopole in Saratoga Springs once in the mid-1990s and meet Paul, Robert, and their most genial cat, Oliver. We didn't want to leave, but time pressed us with other appointments. We were sure we'd return someday soon. Alas, it wasn't to happen. The valedictory letter from the Bibliopole concluded:
We look back over these past thirty years with gratitude and ahead with confidence. We conclude, as we have concluded every catalog, Confiteantur tibi, Domine, omnia opera tua: et sancti tui benedicant tibi*. May God bless and keep you on this journey Godward.
And ave atque vale to you, dear friends, for your ministry of books and for 'the Anglican ethos' that you personified. GK Chesterton once wrote
Comradeship and serious joy are not interlude in our travel; but rather our travels are interludes in comradeship and joy, which through God shall endure forever. The inn does not point to the road; the road points to the inn. And all roads point at last to the Ultimate Inn where we shall meet . . . And when we drink again, it shall be from the great flagons in the Tavern at the End of the World.
We'll brazenly adapt the last line:
And when we meet to browse again, it shall be in the crowded aisles in the Bookshop at the End of the World.
See you next week.
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