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Rare books in Southport, Lancashire

PUBLISHED: 08:33 26 May 2010 | UPDATED: 20:53 21 October 2015

Laurie Hardman looks at Walter Raleigh’s History of the World

Laurie Hardman looks at Walter Raleigh’s History of the World

Turn over a new leaf and venture off the main streets of Southport to discover some hidden gems. Emma Mayoh reports

A tiny copy of Schott’s Almanac at Kernaghan’sA tiny copy of Schott’s Almanac at Kernaghan’s

It is well known that Napoleon III lived in Lord Street when he was in exile in the 1840s. But far fewer people will know that away from Lord Street it’s possible to find Walter Raleigh, Charles II and Florence Nightingale.

Southport has a handful of antiquarian bookshops stocking rare novels, poetry, manuscripts, collectors’ items and little pieces of history.

On the shelves of the second oldest antiquarian bookshop in northern England, Broadhurst’s of Southport, you’ll find the English writer, poet and soldier, Walter Raleigh.

A heavy duty, intact first edition of his History of the World, worth tens of thousands of pounds and dating back to 1614, sits among other historical gems like the Kelmscott Chaucer and zoology text books.

From the Himalayas to Southport: Bryan and Alwyn KernaghanFrom the Himalayas to Southport: Bryan and Alwyn Kernaghan

Owner Laurie Hardman said: ‘It’s a very influential book. We bought it as part of the library of the Well-Blundell family who used to live at Ince Blundell Hall. We bought a substantial part of their collection about 45 years ago when they moved to the north east. In today’s money it would be worth around £10 million.’

Broadhurst’s was set up by Charles Broadhurst in 1920. The former president of the Antiquarian Bookseller Association was well known not only in Southport but also in the book collectors’ world. The old restored building in Market Street, which dates from 1875, was originally housing and the shop still retains many of its original features.

The most impressive is the main office, a restored gentleman’s room complete with original fireplace. It is here you will also find precious literature as well as letters from Alexandra, Queen of Yugoslavia, proving Broadhurst’s hold their royal warrant.

Broadhurst’s has loyal customers and celebrity followers including John Gielgud, Lawrence Olivier and Sir Ralph Richardson and they have sold to prestigious collections including America’s Yale University and The Vatican. Previous guest authors at literary lunches have included Rudyard Kipling, Terry Pratchett and Michael Palin. And they are hoping to hold another in September, featuring Alan Bennett, to mark the shop’s 90th anniversary.

Tony Parkinson at Parkinson’s of SouthportTony Parkinson at Parkinson’s of Southport

Laurie, who worked at the shop for years before taking it over, said: ‘Charles was dedicated to this shop and had an incredible reputation. I always knew I would end up doing this, it’s in your blood. I think Charles recognised that in me and I hope he would be proud of what I have done.’

But for Bryan and Alwyn Kernaghan opening Kernaghan Books in the Wayfarers Arcade, was an unusual change of pace. They had been living in the Indian Himalayas before they set up in Southport in 1985.

The couple had been working at an international school overlooking the Tibetan border and only ever intended to stay in Southport for six months. But they set up shop in the corner of an artist’s studio in Wayfarer’s Arcade and are still in the town 25 years later. They have sold precious items including a rare devotional book, a Medieval Book of Hours, for £13,500, as well as first editions of every literary great you can think of.

Their Book Room, decorated like an Edwardian gent’s library, houses, among many, many others, a tiny Schott’s Almanac, no larger than a postage stamp and a book, when held in a certain way reveals an intricate painting along the edges of the pages.

Bryan, originally from Belfast, said: ‘The Himalayas was such a remarkable place but we wanted a change. Someone offered us a house in Southport, so we took it.

‘We love the book shop. People come from all around to bring us items and some very special books have passed through our hands.’

Southport’s third antiquarian bookshop, Parkinson’s of Southport, is not just filled with books, it also stocks hundreds of fossils and shells. Owner Tony Parkinson, a fourth generation bookseller, decided to move his business from Lord Street to a former tropical shell shop in ginnel just off the main street.

The 66-year-old said: ‘There is something very special when someone brings something in that you know is significant. But there are also those books that, although they don’t have the same price tag, are still very important and are great collectors’ items.

‘There are a few antiquarian book shops in Southport which is no bad thing. I think people come here especially to visit all three. It has a great reputation for antiquarian books and we want to keep it that way.’

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