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Home » Editor's Pick, Features

Bibliophile’s Paradise: Colin Page Books

Published by on Friday, 13 February 2009No Comment


Colin Page Books, Duke Street, Brighton

Colin Page Books, Duke Street, Brighton

If you’re a book lover you probably occasionally browse the table of second hand books outside Colin Page Antiquarian Bookshop in Duke Street, but have you had a good look inside this fascinating treasure trove? Rare and valuable books are kept on the ground floor by the desk, for obvious reasons, but climb down the corkscrew wrought iron staircase to the basement for a wealth of inexpensive books on every imaginable topic. They can’t be bought online – in fact, contrary to what you might imagine, second hand books tend to be sold online tend for several times more than the £4 average instore price, because of the extra effort involved.

Colin Page started the business in the late 1960s, and moved down to Brighton a decade later. John, the current owner, who studied Maths at Sussex University in the late 1970s, started working here in 1981 after graduating, becoming a partner a few years later. He bought Colin Page out when he retired ten years ago, but kept the name – after all, it would be hard to come up with a more appropriate one for a bookshop! Perhaps the degree in maths helped John develop his astonishing memory – that’s where most of the stock inventory is recorded, rather than in the computer on the desk! However he admits to not knowing how many books he actually has. Theft, however, is rare, valuable stolen books being virtually impossible to sell, even online, thanks to book traders’ excellent e-mail network: there are about 2,000 professional book dealer in this country, and most are members of two trade organisations; a likely stolen book would be notified to all their members immediately, and so about 90% of valuable stolen books are recovered.

Most of Colin Page’s customers are ordinary readers, perhaps enthusiasts about a particular subject, who buy books for that reason, not as an investment, although ‘the odd Russian’ does come in from time to time and buy a small fortune’s worth. John is in the market for all manner of books, both rare and otherwise. He once had a Shakespeare fourth folio, but it was in poor condition, so not all that valuable. In fact rare new books can be worth far more – for example the first edition of the first Harry Potter book, as only a few hundred were printed, so they’re very rare.

John is a book lover and avid reader himself, although he admits that he buys far faster than he reads – in fact he’d need to live for about another 150 years to get through his own personal library as it is! But he’s still a keen buyer of books, both for himself and the shop, so if you have an old book lying around, take it in to him for a valuation. John prides himself in paying a fair price for books – as he says, you couldn’t build up a stock like his otherwise. Your old book might only be worth about £50 or so if it’s not rare but in good condition, but then again, it might surprise you by being worth a few thousand quid. And you might find something interesting to buy while you’re there.

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