Wagon Way Road, Alnwick, United Kingdom
Barter Books Alnwick Reviews
Barter books.. the birthplace of a 20th Centuary Icon Aug 10, 2013
Barter books is a second hand book shop housed within Alnwick`s old railway station.
The name will most probably mean nothing to you so you will no doubt be surprised to learn that is linked to an iconic british poster. For it was here that a long forgotten WWII poster exhorting us all to `keep calm and carry on` was found in an old box of books purchased at auction in 2000.
Unlike the other wartime posters, such as 'Dig for Victory', this one was never put on public display. The reason is that it was to be distributed in the event of a Nazi invasion of Britain. The invasion never came, so Churchill ordered the stocks to be destroyed. The Barter Books copy was one which escaped pulping.
The poster, which was was framed and put on show behind the bookshop counter became an instant hit with customers. So much so that the shop began to sell facsimile copies.. Which in turn were copied.. And so the legend was born.
Has it brought Stuart Manley, the shop owner and purchaser of the original poster fame and fortune? In a word, no. There was no copyright on the original wording and so it and its many variations were open the global merchandising bandwagon. However Stuart`s bookshop has benefitted enormously. When I first discovered barter books back in the early nineties, the place was evidently just surviving and I have vivid memories of viewing the books in the freezing cold old platform area and huddling around the waiting room fire with a hot filter coffee to revive me as I read my chosen purchase.
My visit today was a strange mixture of the new and deja vue. The place is still housed in the old station building and the filter coffee and comfy sofa in the old waiting room are still there, as is the train track with miniature trains running above the book cases. But now the few browsing customers have been replaced by a hoard, there is a fancy coffee shop, smart reading areas, mural of literary greats and central heating.. And in pride of place and surrounded by a myriad of souvenirs is.. THE poster.
I am just a little sad that now the shabby-chic second hand book shop of my memories has gone up market and the days of lone browsing of the stock are long gone. But on the whole I am extremely pleased that the chance find in a box of old books has made the place so popular and secured its future.
So, whenever you see the `keep calm..` branding think of barter books where it all started. And if you are ever in england and near the northumberland town of alnwick, please be sure to visit, buy a book and see the original poster.
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