For those that are new here: thanks for coming along..
I'm an architectural photographer. I travel around Britain recording and interacting with special places that have a spirit about them. I work from my camper van called Woody and I share my experiences via this digest.
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Photographs and words by Andy Marshall (unless otherwise stated). Most photographs are taken with Iphone 14 Pro and DJI Mini 3 Pro.
View from the library.
The library at Stowe House, Buckinghamshire.
Conservators installing the ceiling roundel to the Music Room after conservation.
The ceiling roundel in place.
“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
Warning: If you’re a minimalist, perhaps best not read on…
When it comes to my books I operate a kind of Wary Kondo. A state of avoiding stripping back my books because of the latest trend.
I look at my books as both individual and collective. More organic than dead wood. My books feel like an organic extension of me. My library (which is scattered about the house like loose iron filings) sits at the back of my mind like a comfort blanket. Books contribute to my wellbeing. Book clutter is like fertile leaf mould.
Time lapse my books and you would see a murmuration: perching on the shelves then fluttering to the surface of the desk in my study, some splitting off to settle on my coffee table and others finding their final roost at my bedside. Some books aren’t read at all. They are totems - markers as to my bookish life - they never get opened- just glimpsed- their spines are enough to trigger a memory or to reinforce a part of my identity.
There’s a filing system, of sorts, but it gets muddied with time - say after a book gets dislodged during a creative frenzy and then takes up residence under a chair. Every five years or so, I haul them off the shelves and re-ignite the reference system. The question that’s always at the back of my mind: is this the right way to order them? Should it be thematic, size based or alphabetical? I never end up finishing the job fully, because I always find a book I thought I’d lost, and fall down a rabbit hole.
My filing system extends to pockets of floor space - little book constellations dotted around and under chairs, or beds about the house. I make imaginary projects up to initiate a book-fest. When I’m working on several projects - each constellation has a different context or meaning. They can sit there for months until their presence snags a memory and I finish the project.
I love seeking out a book and sliding it from between its neighbours, but am deeply anxious when placing a new book - worried that its intended shelf won’t be capacious enough to fit it. I shoe horn the existing books apart until a gap exists to fit the new one - and then slide it in - allowing its mass to push the others along the shelf. I don’t think I’ve ever had a book that doesn’t fit.
Once in the early years of our relationship I walked into our bedroom to find the pile of books that had been there for months had gone.
"Char", I said - "Where’s my books?"
"I’ve filed them away on the shelves.
" How could you?"
"You’ve not touched them for months."
"I know but but..."
I faltered to explain why.
Only those that have an archive of books can know of the ‘book-slip’. Those joyous moments occur most often when I’ve been researching a project or looking for a reference but, part way through, I’ve come across another book nearby - a book that I’ve completely forgotten about, or even better, a book that I’ve bought and Charlotte has filed away, before I’ve even read it. The result is alway the same - my original quest is abandoned and I sit, mesmerised with the new book for hours - my mind lights up with the possibilities as to where it might take me. Sometimes it has pushed me in directions that I would never have taken - to places unimagined. My life is exalted by books.
Better the tactile pile of books around the winged chair than the bland space it might betray. Better than polished table tops is the teetering mass of books, partitioned like the giants causeway.
And of course, there is the book dust. It gathers within days - coating the book tops and sparse spaces between the books with a thin particulate layer. But, for me, on the dust spectrum - book dust comes only second to fairy dust.
"..but, for me, on the dust spectrum - book dust comes only second to fairy dust."
Does that book spark joy? I couldn’t possibly tell - for the present isn’t the only factor in its impact. Books remain dormant until a chance happening and then the magic happens.
Better keep hold of it.
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My favourite bookshops
It just so happens that my favourite bookshops are also architectural gems in their own right. Here they are:
The Grove Bookshop in Ilkley, Yorkshire.
Only people that spend a considerable amount get a textile bag with this bookshop. Whenever I visit I always walk out with one, burgeoning with books - trying to think of an excuse to justify the outlay.
My favourite second hand bookshops
The Old Wheatsheaf Inn - Cornell Books.
If you like your vernacular then this is heavenly. I get all of a dither inside here - should I check out the bressumer or look for rare Edwin Smith books? Timber framed delight with medieval core and mid C17th facade. And, oh, what a door!
Barter Books, Alnwick, Northumberland.
Located in the old train station with roaring fires in the winter, and plenty of seating for rambling through books - you could spend all day here. Forget the castle. There's a cafe too.
My favourite library
The Chained Library, Hereford Cathedral, Herefordshire.
Just a few metres away from the Mappa Mundi the chained library houses a host of medieval books and manuscripts including the C8th Hereford Gospels. It is a remarkable experience. No lending, no buying - just gawping.
And, of course, my library extends to Woody.
Books that are relevant to my journey or the places that I’m visiting are stacked, cheek by jowl, next to comfort books that will keep me company during dark nights on the roadside.
With Woody, my library becomes a bookish universe - the shelves in the snug at the centre and the books in the camper the orbiting stars.
Members can see snippets from my books by clicking the link below:
Maggie the bookworm cat.
Maggie is no longer with us and I miss her dearly. She loved books - wherever they lay she lay. She loved sitting with me and reading along with me.
Strap yourself in, let Woody do the time travelling...Members' Area
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