Friday, April 09, 2010

Montreal English Language Bookshop Bookmarks: a Small Selection

It is almost as if bookmarks are little memory devices for bookshops that have long since closed their doors. Holding one, the subtleties of paper texture, weight, colour and design can bring about assorted memories of the shops, their owners, employees, and customers. It seems most of the bookshops represented in this small selection have ceased operation.

The Double Hook (1974-2005) briefly took hold on St. Catherine Street before swinging round to the Greene Avenue location where they established themselves as the source for Canadian authors. Named after the Sheila Watson novel, the bookhop's logo or device still hangs over the entrance to the old shop (now occupied by the Babar bookshop, Babar en ville), an architectural detail that has become a possibly unnoticed memento mori. The Double Hook provided not only hard-to-find Canadian books for customers, but an abundance of memories of pleasant book browsing and interesting author signings.

Elliot-Duncan Ltd. Booksellers, 1381 St. Catherine Street West. Librairie Ficciones Literary Bookstore, 111 Duluth West. (Excellent selection of world literature in translation.) Avenue Bookshop, 1368 Greene (location now an art gallery beside the newer and still thriving Nicholas Hoare Bookshop.) Footnotes Fine Used Books, 1454 Mackay St.(A very small shop near Concordia University that had a decent selection of literature and academic titles.) Librairie Déjà-lu, 5624 Monkland Avenue. Livres Métamorphoses Books, 3418a Avenue du Parc. Circum, 1946 St. Catherine Street West. Lexis, 2055 Peel Street. (New books with a couple of retail stores while in existence.) Vortex, 1855 Ste. Catherine Street West. (Fine selection of secondhand books in what was probably the cleanest and most orderly shop in town, not a book out of line.)

Huis Clos/No Exit, 3636 St. Laurent. (Previously discussed here.) Magnus Bookshop, 4932-B Sherbrooke Street West. (A below street level shop in Westmount that dealt in remaindered books and publishers' overstock. It was a good place to come across some interesting titles. The owner was helpful and provided special orders and was always busy with his photocopy service which helped keep the business viable.) Tally-Ho Book Store, 764 St. Pierre. Nebula, 1452 St. Mathieu. (Discussed briefly here.) Everyman's Bookshop, 1475 St. Catherine Street West (with the classic v-shaped die-cut design.) Prospero, 1455 Peel. (Retail chain selling new books with a number of outlets in Ottawa.) Librairie Russell Books, 275 St. Antoine West. (The wonderful large bookshop with used books and publishers' overstock; the owner, a well-loved and respected bookman who helped mentor many young booksellers.)

Bibliophile, 5519 Queen Mary Road. Livres Anthologies Boooks Inc., 1420 Stanley. Terre des Livres, 1612 Sherbrooke Street West. Danger!, 3968 St.-Laurent. (Owned by the same young man who opened and operated Nebula, Claude Lalumière. A knowledgeable collection of comics, graphic novels, science fiction and fantasy.) Le Mélange Magic, 1928 St. Catherine West. (Wide variety of books, mainly non-fiction, dealing with esoteric subjects, in addition to Tarot cards, incense, candles, and much else. Store cats were always a draw.) Librairie Beaconsfield Bookstore, 50 Boul. St.-Charles. (A serviceable West Island bookshop selling new books.) Librairie de théatre Stage Theatre Bookshop, 3575 Avenue du Parc.

It seems out of this small selection of bookmarkers, only Bibliophile and Mélange Magic are still in operation.


Kitty Lewis said...

Ficciones is where we launched Short Talks by Anne Carson. Because the talks are short, she chose to read some excerpts from the book that became The Autobiography of Red. And I was there... very cool.

Kitty Lewis, General Manager, Brick Books

ralph mackay said...

Thanks for adding some colour to my rather list-like post. That must have been a fun night at Ficciones. Most of the shops listed flourished through the nineties, but out post-analog world caught up with the bookselling world. Still, there are some great survivors, The Word, Wescott's, S.W.Welch, Argo, Bibliomania, ExLibris to name a few.

Bernard Wolf said...

Curious how it is that you have never heard of ODYSSEY BOOKS on Stanley street. They have been there for over 20 years.

ralph mackay said...

Dear Bernard,

Your bookshop was always on my excursion list when I did my weekly trek. I remember when you were across the street and in the lower level location and you had more vinyl then too. I always looked forward to dropping by and browsing your stock. Yours is one of the great bookshops in Montreal, and still thriving it's good to see. Not many of you left. The strange fact is I don't seem to have one of your bookmarks! I enjoyed your shop a great deal. Your stock was always of a fine condition and scholarly. I have regrets at passing over many a lovely volume from your closed cases due to my limited funds at the time. I shall have to update this blog post. Many thanks for the wake-up comment. My apologies for the unintended oversight. I haven't been back to Montreal in some time but will definitely drop by next time we're there.

all the best,

ralph mackay said...

Dear Bernard,

My memory is fading, but your earlier location in the lower level I seem to remember being on another street, Metcalfe? Between Sherbrooke and de Maisonneuve? I'm getting old, or at least my memory.

I've just completed another section of my ongoing serial novel and have made a reference to your bookstore. Will be posting it after I finish this comment.