Old Children’s Bookshelf, Canongate
By Victoria Bamber
“Do you see that thick, dark wood over there, backing on to the lane at the bottom of our garden? Well, listen, that’s the Enchanted Wood! We’ve had all sorts of adventures there, adventures you wouldn’t believe in your wildest dreams…”
In an unobtrusive area of The Royal Mile, there is a shop, a shop easily overlooked by many visiting Edinburgh’s Old Town. ‘Old Children’s Bookshelf’ is, unsurprisingly, a children’s bookshop, yet it provides its visitors with so much more than just literature.
Tucked away on Canongate, ‘Old Children’s Bookshelf’ sells copies of well loved children’s books, comics, annuals and prints from the 1950s onwards. Specialising in classics – the shop includes works from Enid Blyton, A.A Milne and Beatrix Potter, many of which come complete with authentic illustrations, dust jackets and in the case of ‘Last term at Malory Towers’, a message from the original owner.
Walking into ‘Old Children’s Bookshelf’ is reminiscent of walking into a library or museum as a child. The floorboards creak under your feet, you feel the need to speak in hushed tones and the shelves are filled with a rare and unusual array of novels you remember from years past – possibly owned and now misplaced or given as a gift one Christmas when you still wore your hair in plaits and left a carrot for Rudolph.
The shop itself is tiny, split into two sections – novels and annuals/prints. As one would expect, many of the books in particular are somewhat expensive (around £15/20 for a hardcover, depending on its age and condition), although considering many on offer are first editions and over 50 years old, the price isn’t horrendous – especially if buying a gift or making an investment. The prints and annuals on the other hand – including classic Beano, Dandy and Bunty comics, are within a pocket money price range, which can provide the modern reader – young or old with much entertainment and amusement when investigating the contents. King George VI commemorative stamp anyone?
The staff in ‘Old Children’s Bookshelf’ are also very knowledgeable and friendly – as one would expect from such a lovely business. They appear very willing to answer any questions, including daft or obscure ones, and will let you wander around the shop at your leisure without interruption. (It came as a welcome relief not to feel at all pestered or pressurised when browsing).
Overall, ‘Old Children’s Bookshelf’ was a pleasure to visit and well worth a trip back time and time again. For those who crave nostalgia, the past and an air of mystery, this shop would suit perfectly, and the atmosphere and sense of intrigue is a rare treat one would find difficult to recreate on the high street.
175 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BN 0131 558 3411
Opening hours Mon-Fri 10.30am – 5pm, Sat 10am – 5pm, Sun 11am – 4.30pm