Halcyon Books

1, Greenwich South St, SE10

You know, sometimes a place is so obvious to write about that in my increasingly muddled mind, I think I’ve already done it. I could have sworn I covered Halcyon Books bloomin’ months ago but since I can’t find it anywhere, presumably I didn’t…

A dying breed, secondhand book shops in Greenwich. We seem to be losing them all, one by one (most recently Marcet Books in the little passageway between Nelson Rd and the market) but one that is clinging on – and still seemingly doing pretty well, is Halcyon in that little row of stores in Greenwich South St that includes Stitches & Daughters (or whatever it turns out to be next) and the Junk Shop.

Handily, whilst googling Halcyon for the exact address, I found a fun competition from abebooks where the prize was visiting 10 booksellers around the world, including Halcyon – my kind of competition. Shame it’s finished…

Apparently the owner, Matthew Hubbard, started the business as a stall in the market in 1988, moving to an actual shop in 1995. So it’s 20 years old this year. Nice one. Congratulations, Matthew.

I’m always rather suspicious of neat second-hand book shops, but that’s not something you can level at Halcyon. While the shelves themselves are pretty well-ordered, there seem to be veritable landslides of volumes at the foot of each section, more than ever just now, waiting, tantalisingly, for space on the racks themselves.

It’s bigger than it looks from the outside, going right back into the recesses of the shop, but I’m yet to see a good secondhand bookstore that had enough room for all its stock (at one I know on the south coast you literally climb up piles of books to get to the shelves) and Halcyon, happily, is no exception, bulging at every seam. There’s a small local section, a lot of geographical stuff and an enormous amount of military books – hardly surprising, given the history of the area. The classics shelves probably have a little more room now after my own last visit where I cleared them of Trollope. Sorry chaps – but I guess you probably have more. I still need The Warden, btw

Much of the bog-standard stuff is ‘priced to sell,’ but very little costs huge amounts (well, not that I’ve seen.) Staff are friendly and helpful – on my last request they double-checked and then cross-referenced my query. No luck – but that’s not the point. They made the effort and believe me, I ask obscure

From a vibrant selection of secondhand bookshops in Greenwich we have gone to a paltry couple plus a remainder shop and a mega-chain. I did wonder whether Halcyon keep afloat by selling on the internet, but although the domain name is taken, I can’t find any website, save a rather obscure bit on abebooks. So for now it’s still a proper, hands-on vistors’ bookshop. We need to keep visiting to keep it that way…

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