It’s not every day that you discover a 2nd Edition of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species in your day’s work.
That valuable tome is just one of the many interesting secondhand books that Robert Ford has unpacked since he opened Seddon Book Alley in 2015.
“I buy a lot of bulk lots of books, particularly from local people who are moving away. Occasionally if I come across a book that’s particularly unique or valuable I work with the owner to come to an agreement about it. Or if I find a banknote hidden inside a book’s pages (which happens reasonably regularly in old books) then I tell the owner we’ll go halves!” laughs Robert.
Robert’s particular interest in secondhand books, and later, book binding, inspired him to open Seddon Book Alley in 2015 as a temporary pop up store in an alleyway off Charles Street. He wanted to open the bookshop in the west because there was no other good quality secondhand bookstore nearby and he enjoyed the village feel of Seddon.
After 18 months and an enthusiastic response from the local community, Robert outgrew the alleyway and moved into Seddon Book Alley’s permanent retail space in Victoria Street. Inside the light and well-organised bookshop you’ll find everything from children’s books to biographies, art, and top-selling Australian and international crime and fiction.
Robert has always been passionate about books – as a child, his parents taught him that books were where people went to learn about things. So it’s always exciting when new stock arrives. He will often put aside a few ones for regular customers with an interest in particular topics or titles.
“I have cardboard boxes for each of my regulars and I collect books that I think they’ll like. As a bookseller, I really get to know what they read,” Robert explains.
With access to new books all the time, it’s very tempting for Robert and his partner to keep the books to themselves. That is why they have one golden rule – a book has to remain on the shelf for a month before they can take it home. Though Robert says that they often cheat, by hiding the book at the back of the shelf so no one else can find it!
At the back of the store Robert has also set up the workshop for his bookbinding service, Rebound TXT. Rebound TXT revives customers’ old and worn treasures by reattaching torn off spines and repairing well-worn pages.
Robert says “What I love about secondhand books and book repair are the same things – it’s about repurposing and recycling and bringing stories back to life. Behind every book is a story about the person who owned it – that’s special to me.”