Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Attentive readers of The Cow will remember how Gould's Book Arcade played a pivotal and somewhat spooky part in my quest to create a musical work based on Electronic Voice Phenomena.

Although I mentioned that Gould's is one of my favourite places in Sydney, I glossed over it a little in the EVP post since it had a small part to play in that already lengthy story. But this wonderful literary landmark definitely deserves some dedicated Cow ruminations.

Gould's is a great sprawling collection of secondhand books, records and magazines that is about five minutes walk from where I live. In my opinion it should be deemed one of Sydney's National Treasures. The narrow aisles are quite literally crammed with books and it is easy to spend a Sunday morning rifling through the stacks.

In addition to the Raudive Breakthrough which I mentioned in my EVP post, I've found some great stuff here over the years. I have no doubt that in among the nooks and crannies of the shelves, pushed to the back and way up high, there are many fabulous gems to be found. Like all buried treasure, you'll have to work hard for it though - there is a loose cataloguing system in place, but it is less Dewey Decimal than 'oh, somewhere over there in the back corner'.

The people at Gould's also understand the magical affinity between books and cats, and whilst the books are important, as is the proper order of the universe, cats have the upper hand.

Bob Gould tells me that he gets lots of tourists that come just to marvel at the massive collection, which approaches nearly a million books. Sadly, he says, most marvel but don't buy. This is an unfathomable concept for me. If I want to avoid buying a book, that necessarily means avoiding even entering a bookshop.

Gould's also has an online catalogue, accessible through their website or at Abebooks. But as instant-gratification as that might be, it's nothing compared to spending a few hours among the shelves.

And for Cow's sake, buy something!

Gould's Book Arcade
32 King St

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore? ~ Henry Ward Beecher


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The narrow aisles are quite literally crammed with books".Evident from your posted photos that the aisles are clear but the shelves are crammed.....

November 08, 2005 7:45 PM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

Well, yes, that's true. But nevertheless, what I say is accurate for elsewhere in the shop - it's just that I was specifically asked by the management not to take photos of aforementioned 'aisles crammed with books' for reasons that it's best you speculate upon...

In some places, you actually have to climb over piles of books to go any further into the stacks.

November 08, 2005 11:25 PM  
Blogger Radioactive Jam said...

If I ever get to Sydney, I will most certainly buy something at Gould's. I have long felt The Call.*

* ref. Souls in the Great Machine, by Sean McMullen.

November 09, 2005 12:02 AM  
Blogger Chickie said...

It definitely looks like a place to while the day away. I love prowling through used books.

Then again, I love prowling through anything. I'm just nosy I guess.

November 09, 2005 12:13 AM  
Blogger Joe Fuel said...

Well, I'm jealous. That looks so very inviting.

One might note that if you look in the top left corner of the picture of the aisles, there's just a massive stack of books. I think I see some sort of book monster back there too.

November 09, 2005 1:00 AM  
Anonymous anne arkham said...

I can't decide if I'm fired up about seeing so many books at once, or if I'm horrified that the books are not being treated like pieces of glass.

November 09, 2005 5:02 AM  
Blogger r.fuel said...

Great photos.

November 09, 2005 5:10 AM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

Joe: Oh, I'm sure there are monsters in there. Plenty of places for them to hide...

Anne Arkham: There's a lot of junk. Personally, I think of it a bit like a pet shop: there might just be that sad, badly treated little fella that I can scoop up and take home to be cared for in a proper manner.

And it doesn't really pain me to see a half dozen copies of 'Dianetics' with their spines bent double.

November 09, 2005 6:54 AM  
Anonymous Universal Head said...

I love going to Goulds, but I must admit I never seem to find anything there, probably because I'm not putting in the required half a day. And I must also admit I find the mistreatment of books a bit sad.

There seem to be two sorts of booklovers - those who are more concerned with their contents and voraciously devour books, cast them aside and reach for the next, and those who read them but then carefully add them to their library to be loved as part of a collection ... possibly the former type doesn't often buy books for how they look, which is something I often do, because I also love books as objects. Which explains why I have books such as 'An Introduction to the Carbon Compounds' (University Tutorial Press, 1907), a 1952 Buying Guide for material handling engineers (whatever they are) and a growing collection of 'Lord of the Rings' editions in my collection.

I also - a bit embarrassingly - like to catalog my books. Must be the librarian in me, but I love having all the information about my books at my fingertips, and it makes things easier to manage when you have - at last count - 828 books. If I may be so rude as to mention it here at the Cow, I made a Filemaker template for book cataloging and you can download it at my blog.

My family recently asked me to take possession of a number of books from my deceased grandfather's collection, saying "we'll send you a list of titles and you can pick which ones you want; some of them are pretty old and useless and there's no point in shipping them all to you" to which I replied "send them all - I don't care what they're about!"

I mean, they're books aren't they?

November 09, 2005 10:01 AM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

Must be three kinds of book lovers then... depending on what books they are, I can treasure and keep, or cast aside. I have my Keeler collection, some beautiful large format design books, my Dore illustrated Poe and so forth, which I swoon over, but then I have books of other provenance which range from those I'm intending to sell next weekend on my front porch to those I would happily use as firestarters (now don't flinch - what else are you going to use 'The Bible Code' for?)

I love the books. I love the information in them. I hate to see one compromised for the other...

November 09, 2005 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Universal Head said...

Our chief types of book lovers are three - three: those who treasure and keep, those who read and cast aside, those who do both, and those treasure and cast aside - four - our types of book lovers are four, those who treasure - (etc)

November 09, 2005 1:21 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

If I want to avoid buying a book, that necessarily means avoiding even entering a bookshop.


I think I am in love with this place. I will add it to my list of things to do once I finally get to Australia.

November 09, 2005 1:55 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

I'm the 'both' category too. Some I buy because they're books and I read 'em over and over again, others I read once and think "wow, that's such a profoundly excellent book", and buy a copy to keep on my bookshelf for my descendants to read. (Let's just hope my descendants are book lovers, coz otherwise they're going to spend a LOT of their time being bored.)

November 09, 2005 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Cissy Strutt said...

How wonderful - people talking about books, and on the 'net. I sell books (to support my real job as a writer & director) and recently I moved from new books into second hand. It's a whole new game. Though my store is nothing like the magnificence that is Goulds, it has a certain messy charm. F'rinstance, some books are balanced sideways on top of the more conventionally shelved books. Now I work in second-hand books I can tell you - it's intentional. Yes, even if there is enough room to shelve them upright, we do it deliberately. Apparently, a neat second hand book shop looks expensive to a customer. Also, though our catagories & sections are rather well maintained, we like to contribute to the thrill of the hunt by constructing piles. I love customers who love books. But I also witness such off-handed cruelty to books - new & pre-read - that I want to say "stop - you are not allowed to have books". But I also see a child's shining face, eyes big round saucers, a book clutched fiercly with both hands to the chest, hardly believing they are allowed to have such a wonderful object. Happy reading, fellow CowOPhiles.

November 09, 2005 3:01 PM  
Anonymous anne arkham said...

Um. . .I have no problem buying more than one copy of the same book. I'll buy a first edition to keep and a reading copy to devour. I see no reason to collect a book I'm not interested in reading, and no reason to destroy a book I'm collecting as an object.

November 09, 2005 4:55 PM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

Ok, how about a book you're not interested in reading but some misguided friend gives it to you anyway because he is convinced that when you've read it you'll really like it? But you don't, you think it's an abominable piece of crap that's come home to roost in your bookshelf and has taken up the space of two much more worthy books...

Oh, and when you're saying 'devour' I take it you're speaking literally. Otherwise we will have to include yet another category of booklover.

November 09, 2005 5:20 PM  
Anonymous Cissy Strutt said...

Mr Cow - when someone gives you "an abominable piece of crap" - be it book or whatsoever - I have one word for you - OnGift.

November 09, 2005 5:29 PM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

I have my pride when it comes to ongifting. Lawks, the ongiftee might get the impression that I have appalling taste.

November 09, 2005 5:43 PM  
Anonymous Cissy Strutt said...

Yes, I considered that. Unfortunately, I considered it after I commented - one day I'll learn. In the hallway of my apartment building are the mailboxes. The long shelf formed by the top of the boxes is a Bermuda triangle for all unwanted "abominable crap". Got something you don't want? Stick it there and vooom, gone.

November 09, 2005 6:13 PM  
Blogger jedimacfan said...

I have always wanted a first edition of Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Maybe your store will have it available when I finally get around to moving there.

November 09, 2005 6:15 PM  
Anonymous Pil said...

I like to think of it as a sign of how much I love good books (6000 so far and I must stop buying - oh dear 40 years to go!) that I feel a special satisfaction when I put one in the recycling.

Before I am cursed and damned by all booklovers, let me reassure that it only happens once a year - but it feels SOOO good to say "you are a piece of crap and don't deserve a home in a house that loves books!" (e.g. - and I may be cursed anyway - The Bridges of Madison County.)

November 09, 2005 6:19 PM  
Anonymous anne arkham said...

Anaglyph: Oh, you mean 'The DaVinci Code'. I have it, I read it, I hated it. But it's a $300 book now, and I'm hanging onto it 'till the movie comes out. I might sell it then. Or I might not.

And as far as devouring goes, I do have books with bite marks on them.

Jedimacfan: I LOVE Arthur Rackham.

November 09, 2005 6:23 PM  
Anonymous Pil said...

jediMacfan, I found a copy of The Wind in the Willows 1st Ed. illustrated by Arthur Rackham in Hay-on-Wye in January. Only 30 pounds.

Have you been there? It is the bookshop town in Wales, UK where there are a hundred bookshops and lots of pubs - and that's all! Mecca!

Make sure you go to Hay on your next trip to the UK. Of course, Gould's in Sydney is even more fun!

November 09, 2005 6:26 PM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

Anne Arkham: Ah, you are so perceptive. It was exactly that book (I use the term advisedly) of which I was speaking.

The wonderful Bill Bailey says of Dan Brown's works "They no longer sell them by edition, they sell them by the kilo" (or the pound for you Yanks).

November 09, 2005 6:34 PM  
Blogger jedimacfan said...

No, I have never been anywhere near the UK (unfortunately). I really think I was born on the wrong continent.

The Wind in the Willows would be another awesome book to own. I am jealous of you, Pil.

I wish the Annotated Alice book had the Rackham illustrations rather than the Tenniel illustrations. I have never much cared for his. I think Rackham captures the true insanity of the book with his pictures moreso than the "cutesy" photos by Tenniel.

But when I make my way to Australia or the UK I will most certainly be on the lookout for rare random Rackham riches!

November 09, 2005 6:39 PM  
Anonymous Cissy Strutt said...

At my book shop, we have a "contemporary fiction" section & a "popular fiction" section. The PopFic section is refered to by staff as "Crimes Against" as in Crimes Against Literature. There you will find - oh, you can just imagine - but may I tell you that Mr Brown has nearly a whole shelf to himself? imcluding all the books about him and his books. Crimes Against is in a different room entirely from Contemp Fic & Classics - should be on another floor (we have three). I'm off now to look in our locked cabinets for an "Alice", jedimacfan.

November 09, 2005 6:42 PM  
Anonymous Cissy Strutt said...

sorry, jedimacfan, no Rackham-illustrated Alice today ... I took so long because our Children's Nostalgia section is enchanting. Pil - 6,000 books & you haven't come in to see me at my shop? would you be tempted by the 1917 Glugs of Gosh I've found for you??

November 09, 2005 7:02 PM  
Blogger jedimacfan said...

It's 3:10 A.M. here and I have Photoshop.
It's not my best, but I think it came out well. Right click and open in new window because the blog forbids img src links.

Just for you, Peter:

New Davinci Book

November 09, 2005 7:14 PM  
Blogger ScroobiousScrivener said...

How about an ultimated illustrated annotated Rackham Alice, and Mervyn Peake Snark, in one beautiful box set? Is anyone with me on thinking we should start lobbying random publishers NOW?

I love, love, love the look of that shop. I recently moved out from Bloomsbury (centre of London, tons of universities, literary heritage yadda yadda, bookshop heaven) to, er, The Sticks. I was sure I'd be leaving behind me all good bookshops, as I've left all good cafes (there are probably three decent coffee shops in the whole of London, and they're all in Bloomsbury/Marylebone). But lo! I found an amazing shop - tiny, but crammed and semi-randomly arranged in classic bookshop/treasure hunt style. Ever since my first visit, I've been avoiding it for the sake of my budget. But it makes me sooo happy to know it's there.

November 10, 2005 3:38 AM  
Anonymous anne arkham said...

Nice work, Jedimacfan.

November 10, 2005 7:50 AM  
Blogger jedimacfan said...

Thanks. I'm in agreement that the book was "other than spectacular". It's too bad they are making a movie of it as well. I don't think that even Audrey Tatou can save this one.

November 10, 2005 9:39 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

I have never read "The DaVinci Code," just on principle.

November 10, 2005 2:19 PM  
Blogger weirdpixie said...

What a refreshing thing to read about after just getting in from a very long 12-hour drive back from Phoenix, AZ, where you ask anyone to recommend a good bookstore and they all say "Go to Barnes & Noble".... sigh.

Anaglyph, you are so lucky to have such a magnificent bookstore near you. We have many here in San Francisco that would be a close match (from your description and photos) but this place really sounds amazing. If we ever do get to Australia and out your way we would love to meet you for a coffee and a stroll through Gould's.

November 14, 2005 9:54 AM  

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