While in the centre of town for the session on Mingei at the British Museum yesterday I thought I’d check out some bookshops. It turned out to be an expensive trip.
Firstly, Arthur Probsthain. A lovely pokey little bookshop for Oriental and African books just opposite the British Museum (41 Great Russell Street WC1B 3PE). It does both new and second hand books. It probably had 30 inches of shelf space devoted to Korea, of which about two thirds was academic – the sort of stock they have at the SOAS bookshop – and a third of which was second-hand. I picked up some folk tales translated by Zong In-sob, some short stories translated by Agnita Tennant, and some poems by Shin Chang-ho. Though second hand, that little pile still came to over forty quid. Never mind, it’s a good shop for browsing.
Turning by chance down Museum Street I came across Fine Books Oriental, 38 Museum Street WC1A 1LP, which only does second hand / antiquarian books. I clambered up a rickety ladder to browse the Korean section – about 4 feet of shelf space. So excited was I to see an edition of James Scarth Gale’s History of the Korean People that I immediately shelled out the 30 quid asking price1. And I also got carried away by parting with another 20 quid for Susie Younger’s Never Ending Flower. An expensive detour. The man in the shop thought he was on to a good thing and tried to flog me a history of China with an appendix on Korea. A bargain at £150. He usually sells it for £300, but a frontispiece was missing. Looked vaguely interesting, but that was an impulse buy way too far.
Finally, I followed up on a lead provided by a visitor from the Czech Republic, and went to Grant & Cutler, 55-57 Great Marlborough Street, W1F 7AY. Not the most expensively fitted out shop I’ve seen, with the sort of metal shelving you find in garages or garden sheds. But this is the place to go if you want to learn Korean. Coursebooks, language CDs & tapes, dictionaries and phrasebooks. There’s also a couple of kiddies books in Korean. They also sell films, though you’ll find a cheaper and better selection in HMV.
- on returning home I discovered I could have saved money by buying direct from the Royal Asiatic Society (RASKB), who are asking 30 dollars. Never mind. But there’s one thing that puzzles me about the book available from the RASKB: their copy claims only to have 174 pages while mine has 396. I think their website’s wrong because they say the Rutt edition was published in 1967, while my copy distinctly says 1972.