those who love knowledge are like people afflicted with dropsy who, the more they drink the more they burn with thirst
- Retribution, Liutprand of Cremona (translated by Paolo Squatriti)
The first time I visited York was in October 2009 and I explored the city's bookshops with such diligence that I left the city with 18 books and 2 booklets in my luggage. Since then I have visited the city three times and each time I have rummaged through the bookshops and seldom left any of them empty-handed. In the spring of 2011 - when I studied at the University of York - I had to ship a number of packages in the mail because in those three months I had acquired far too many books for me to bring back in my suitcase. When I revisited my friends and flatmates in September that year I was almost forced to repeat my modus operandi on my departure due to the several books purchased only in the course of one week.
Earlier in August I visited York again, but this time around I tried my very best not to buy too many books. My sojourn in York was a conclusion of the summer holidays and I was leaving directly for the university, meaning I had too much luggage to allow myself any great acquisition of printed material. As a consequence I deliberately avoided bookshops for a couple of days, trying my best not to get sucked into their wonderful worlds of shelves, stacks, walls and windows filled with that greatest of all human things: books. However, I have never been particularly good at suppressing my true nature for very long and in the end I decided to casually pass by Minstergate Bookshop to see if there were any interesting books placed on the discount shelves outside. This was of course a mistake. Well, actually not, because there were some really captivating titles on display. I stopped, picked up two books, went inside, skimmed the first bookshelf by the door and found another title I picked up as well. The whole thing can not have taken more than about five minutes.
I returned to the Minstergate Bookshop once more during my stay and bought two books more, but on the whole I remained faithful to my original intent. I stayed away from Fossgate books, for instance, knowing I would only take with me more than I could possibly afford at that juncture. This is not to say, however, that I stopped there. I did also visit a charity shop on Goodramgate, the giftshop of York Minster and that of Yorkshire Museum, but compared to my previous trips the catch was rather meagre. This was, however, no great sorrow, for being a bibliophile is not just about collecting books or building your own private library. Being a bibliophile also means you walk by bookshelves, stop, pick a title or two, glance at this greatest of manifests of human creativity and feel awestruck by what that particular book represents. Sometimes you catch a line that makes you buy that book, sometimes you find a line to carry with you, but you leave the book, sometimes you just read the titles, sometimes you remember books you've already read. Being a bibliophile does not mean being materialistic in one's approach, but I would lie if I did not admit it can sometimes be very, very hard not to bring a book home, promising by that act to one day read it, enjoy it and reflect upon its content. Being a bibliophile is, in other words, quite like Liutprand of Cremona's description of those who seek wisdom, for if you first start reading there really is no end to it.
Being a bibliophile also means to interact with fellow bibliophiles, and for this reason I present to you what I purchased during my most recent trip to York.
From Minstergate bookshop
From Amnesty Charity Shop, Goodramgate
From Yorkshire Museum giftshop
From York Minster giftshop
For more about books in York, see my blogpost on York National Bookfair and assorted bookshops in York