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Monday, 5 March 2018

Upstairs, Downstairs

“The truth is that even big collections of ordinary books distort space, as can readily be proved by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned secondhand bookshop, one that looks as though they were designed by M. Escher on a bad day and has more stairways than storeys and those rows of shelves which end in little doors that are surely too small for a full-sized human to enter. The relevant equation is: Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass; a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.”                                                                                     - Terry Pratchett -  Guards, Guards!

There was always a certain comforting reliability to the inconvenience of the old shop layout. You could rely on the maze of peculiarly obstructive furniture to pose a small but consistent risk of death wherever you were in the store, from the teetering piles of journals on the highest shelves to the knee-high boxes that would leap in your way just as you tried to descend the stairs. Sadly our renovation required many of these idiosyncrasies to be removed or rearranged, and longstanding customers of Sotheran's will no doubt notice their absence. However, the new layout of the store has several advantages which arguably make up for the exodus of homicidal furniture. Here's a handy guide to what survived the purge, and what didn't:

Things we've changed:

  1. The right half of the store has been vacated, ready for a sublet which will proceed in due course. We (of course) were hoping for a Zoo, but according to our lawyers there's some issue with 'space requirements' and 'practicalities'.
  2. The new window display lets daylight into the store, which not only had the primary benefit of solving our vampire problem, but also helps the place seem more open and bright
  3. We replaced the long-suffering carpet on the upper floor with wooden flooring, which is superior to the carpet in that it hasn't taken on a suspicious shade of grey in some places.
  4. The "Grand Cabinet", ironic guardian of all books too strangely shaped to be housed anywhere else, was a casualty of the renovation and has been consigned to the void. RIP.
  5. The Childrens/Illustrated and Travel departments have moved downstairs, to make use of the new shelving space down there. It's not because they embarrass us. *sly wink*

Things we have kept:

  1. The staircase. We need it to get up and down. Motions to include an escalator were regrettably dismissed.
  2. The portraits of Mr & Mrs Sotheran, who brood suggestively from above the stairwell.
  3. The bookcases, partly kept out of appreciation for their Victorian charm, and partly because no one could be convinced to try moving them
  4. The bookshelf ladders, the mere rickety sight of which has been known to drive health and safety inspectors to drink.
  5. The staff, who have also been known to drive health and safety inspectors to drink

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