Aside from being a destination that inspires great literature, Edinburgh is also a wonderful city in which to discover a new favourite author. The annual Edinburgh International Book Festival, which in 2013 celebrated the great works of the late Iain Banks, attracts bookworms from across the globe with its author events, debates and workshops. This steeple speckled city is also home to a multitude of unique bookshops, in which many an afternoon can be whiled away leafing through volumes old and new. While Edinburgh is a famous pilgrimage spot for collectors of the literary classics, it will also please booklovers of all kinds. Each independent bookshop is likely to have its own specialist focus, tailored to the preferences of its owners and customers. An afternoon’s exploring through the Old Town will put you in the way of plenty of bookshops worthy of a visit. However, here are five that are not to be missed.
Old Town Bookshop
The first stop for the antiquarian collector, Old Town Bookshop has been supplying rare books and prints since 1978. Run by two men who both happen to be named Ron Wilson, this narrow bookshop guards treasures dating back as far as the mid 17th century and is a haven for those who enjoy the tactile experience of literature. The scent of old book jackets, the creaking of burdened shelves, the glisten of gold leaf etched into ageing leather — all combine to the delight of literature geeks and historians alike.
Loved by locals, Elvis Shakespeare is an enthusiastic purveyor of selected literature and music, reflected in the fact that both its namesakes are royalty within their respective industries. The shop hosts ‘in-stores’ throughout the year, at which many a burgeoning local poet, author or musician can be found debuting their new material. Even if you don’t manage to catch a show, the selection of quality literature is enough of a reason to make the trip down Leith Walk, only a 15-minute venture from the city centre.
Analogue Books, tucked away on Candlemaker Row, is a treasure trove for design buffs. Its shelves are carefully stocked with unique books on art and graphics, as well as a variety of magazines from around the world, on varying themes. Whether you’re looking for an aesthetically sophisticated read on the politics of global food distribution or an insight into Scandinavian photography, Analogue Books will have the publication for you. Only a stone’s throw from the Edinburgh College of Art, the bookshop also showcases local talent, providing a rare opportunity to get your hands on some local goods at very reasonable prices.
The very sight of Armchair Books is likely to make a booklover salivate. Every room, connected by a winding walkway, is lined from floor to ceiling with bookshelves. A docile collie named Struan makes his home on one of the many threadbare Persian rugs, while the shop’s owner speaks in friendly, hushed tones with the customers. Holding an impressive selection of texts, from fiction and antiquarian books to an inspiring choice of philosophy books, Armchair Books has a comfortable, worn-in feel to it that newer bookshops can only strive to replicate.
Word Power Bookshop
If you have only a single anarchist bone in your body, you’ll feel the magnetic pull of Word Power Bookshop before you even turn onto West Nicholson Street. While the shop stocks ‘normal’ books — fiction, poetry and the likes— what sets it apart from other Edinburgh establishments is its selection of left-wing, activist reading material. It also prides itself on stocking and supporting work from local, Scottish publishers.