Barry Long’s lifetime with books old and rare starts with a discovery in a rubbish heap.
A thirteen year old is scrounging rubbish stacked on a footpath for a council clean up. Reacting to a householder’s screams to get away, the youth scampers, clutching an old book to his chest. Running homewards, he glances at its leather binding and rag paper pages of print. Sniffing mustiness, he senses earlier centuries of the book, Johnson’s Works of the Poets. Arriving home, he struggles with the language of Dryden the 17th century satirist, reading only a few verses. Holding in his hands a book someone held centuries earlier, he does not understand the poetry, but it communicates something .
At Sydney’s Wynyard ramp the messenger boy took refuge in Tyrrell's bookshop.
Employed later as a messenger boy, he would sneak into Tyrrell’s bookshop alongside Sydney’s Wynyard ramp. There he bought from his first pay packet a fine binding. Absorbed in his purchase, he almost forgot to collect the lunches his workplace ordered. Close to Wynyard ramp he discovered an Aladdin’s cave. Hidden away upstairs , his newly found treasure house was then a second hand book section of Dymock’s George Street store. The quietly spoken, gentlemanly Sid Mann in his grey dust coat was always there, ready to be of service.
Books falling onto the roadway created havoc.
Searching other city book shops, he purchased many books on different subjects from Berkelouws’ in Hunter Street. Eighteen year old Henry Berkelouw wrapped the volumes into strong parcels which he carried to the Elizabeth Street tram stop. Other passengers helped him on and off the toast rack tram. Foregoing lunch some weeks later, he bought a 19th century set of 22 Thackeray novels at Stewart’s in Castlereagh Street. Tied with string, the Thackerays collapsed when they fell onto the roadway as he climbed down from the tram. Although he managed to get all 22 volumes home, many gilt decorated spines were broken and separated from their covers. Eventually immersed for decades in bookshops, auctions, garage sales and book fairs, he was in later years guided by booksellers Timothy and Ann McCormick and Peter Tinslay.
Reading brought with it self renewal.
A childhood experience of self renewal emerged the day he learnt to read. Renewal continued as he read throughout his life. Talking points emerged from 100 categories of books he curated. His home became a library of thoughts, ideas and conversation. In 2003, fifty years after his escapade at a rubbish heap, he founded Banfield House Booksellers. The aim, purpose and culture of the business is to make books old and rare relevant .