Barry Long’s life with books old and rare changed into the life of reflective bookseller, owner of Banfield House Booksellers.
It started with an accidental discovery
The reflective bookseller remembers well how it all started. 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 boy scampers, clutching an old book to his chest. Running homewards, he glances furtively 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 struggled with the language of Dryden the 17th century satirist, reading only the first few verses. Holding in his hands a book someone held centuries earlier, he did not understand the poetry, but it communicated something .
Lost at Sydney’s Wynyard ramp
Employed later as a messenger boy, the bookish youth 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. There he obtained an early edition of R.L. Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes. The quietly spoken, gentlemanly Sid Mann in his grey dust coat was always there, ready to serve him .
Tram travel trauma
Searching other city book shops, he purchased from Berkelouws’ in Hunter Street The Complete Works of Guy De Maupassant. Eighteen year old Henry Berkelouw wrapped the volumes into strong parcels which he carried to the Elizabeth Street tram stop. Other passengers helped him onto and off the toast rack tram.
Foregoing lunch some weeks later, he bought a 19th century set of Thackeray’s novels at Stewart’s in Castlereagh Street. Tied with string, the books collapsed when they fell onto the roadway as he climbed down from the tram. He got them home with gilt decorated spines separated from loosening covers.
Enthusiasm goes on
Years later, immersed for decades in many bookshops, he was guided by booksellers Timothy and Ann McCormick and Peter Tinslay. He also went to auctions, garage sales and book fairs. Categories of books he curated were his talking points. His home became a library of thoughts, ideas and conversation.
In 2004, 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 .