Sunday, October 05, 2008

Again with the Books

Mistress Melisande is spending the weekend doing something called "stitching camp". I find this activity remote, inexplicable and possibly injurious to sanity; therefore I chose to enjoy a leisurely day among the booksellers (and restaurants, and sellers of fine viands and bottled items) to be found in the Barony of Cynnabar. That is to say, Ann Arbor, for those readers not familiar with the nomenclature of the Middle Kingdom.

Some time ago, I mentioned that I would have more to say about bookstores in Michigan. Two of the finest are to be found in downtown Ann Arbor, and I spent a leisurely hour in each. They don't exhaust the possibilities, by the way, but they are more reliable locations for medieval books than the others.

First, perhaps my favorite bookstore in Michigan is Motte and Bailey, at 212 N. 4th St., just south of the Kerrytown area. With a name like that, you might surmise that the proprietors have a good medieval section, and they do. Their prices are reasonable, I might add. Today I chose Those Who Fought; An Anthology of Medieval Sources, edited by Peter Speed. It was an inexpensive paperback; I resisted the many other temptations in the quiet, elegant store, having many other stops to make. (Besides, I'll be back soon enough. I had to make sure I didn't actually have a copy of another book, and I don't.) Checking out, the co-owner suggested a work describing the military campaigns of Louis the Fat. It's that kind of store. I've had similar conversations with both owners on previous occasions. Once had a long talk with this gentleman about Jonathan Sumption, and when we could expect the next installment of his magisterial history of the Hundred Years War.

A bit later, it was on to Dawn Treader, the venerable warren of stacks at 514 E. Liberty, quite near the big Borders and State St. I've been visiting Dawn Treader since the early 1980s, and have lost track of all the books I've bought there (sold quite a few books to them, too). Today I chose, with some difficulty, The Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle Ages, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is an exceptionally fine catalog from an exhibition in the mid 1970s; not the flashiest museum exhibition book I have, but probably the best I've seen, with many photos of late medieval objects arranged logically, with clear and knowledgeable commentary. Just at a glance in the store, it had photos of things I had heard vaguely described and found interesting, and it was inexpensive. Over the years, I've both found many wonderful things at Dawn Treader but often found their medieval selection a bit thin; picked over by Cynnabar folk, no doubt. The last couple of times I've visited, the selection was not thin; I had trouble deciding what to buy.

Ann Arbor has other used bookstores; I usually visit Westside Books, at 113 W. Liberty, but it happens that I rarely find what I'm looking for. Still fun to look, as I did today. Also, keep in mind the Ann Arbor Public Library Friends book shop, which is open in the basement of the library on Saturdays and Sundays during fall, winter and spring. Their selection changes massively from week to week, but I usually find it the best of the library book sales in Michigan. Today I found two books I've seen many times but never for a price I cared to pay, Grant Uden's handsome Dictionary of Chivalry and Flanders in the Fifteenth Century: Art and Civilization.

Sometime soon, bookstores in East Lansing.

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