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10 November 2009 | Books & Poetry | By: Rachel Holdsworth

Biblio-Text: Black Gull Books

Biblio-Text: Black Gull Books

Continuing our amble round London's independent bookshops

Black Gull Books is a bit of an institution in Camden Market; owner Chris has been there as a stallholder from the market's birth. His second hand and antiquarian books have a more all-weather home these days and a sister shop in East Finchley.

But what really, really sets these shops apart is the joyful and unexpected decoration. Take a peek behind the counter at East Finchley and what you will see is a display they've called "The archaeology of the book", made up of items they've discovered in second hand books over the years. There's various family photos, bookmarks and foreign banknotes, and also a letter about army desertion, the weekly takings from the Apollo Theatre on 10 May 1969 (£6,530 16s if you're interested) and an invite to an open day at Sellafield. But our out-and-out favourite is a little slip of paper where someone's written "Because we knew it was a prehistoric penwiper Alan dear!". It physically pains us to think we'll never know the story behind that.

In Camden, you can clamber among the stacks and over the tourists to admire the big railway-style clock backed with an amusing quotation about dictionaries (anyone know where it's from?) and some freaky-ass masks. If you want to experience all this you'll have to pay them a visit since they (sweetly) don't have a website, but you can check stock on Abe Books if you've got a particular volume in mind.

Black Gull Books, 70 West Yard, Camden Lock, Mon-Sun 10am-6pm / 121 High Road, East Finchley, Mon-Sun 9.30am-7pm. Continue reading for a map. Images author's own. Know a good bookshop? Email us at londonist (@) gmail.com.

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Rachel Holdsworth

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The quote is from Steven Wright, a stand-up comedian.