A few weeks ago, my mother had a statistically significant birthday. I had decided I wanted to get her an impressive old book. Problem was, my budget wasn't going to cover anything impressive. So I had to be a bit ingenious.
Trawling the second hand and antique bookshops on Charing Cross Road, I was looking for either something beautiful and related to classical music and interesting to someone who has worked in classical music for a lifetime, or a pretty edition of a classic – Dickens, Austen, Hardy (Trollope and Brontë were out of the question because we already have lovely sets at my parents' house).
I passed up the £265 first edition of the Pickwick Papers at the Francis Edwards/Quinto Bookshop, beautiful as it was, and popped into a few more before finding a biography of Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert & Sullivan operetta) at Henry Pordes, along with a few editions of classics with potential. Knowing that I now had a backup plan I moved onto Cecil Court, home of some weird and wonderful bookshops. The antique children's bookshop looked wonderful but didn't have what I was after.
Finally I worked my way around every shelf in Travis & Emery in Cecil Court, looked at a few volumes of Mozart's/Beethoven's/R Strauss'/Wagner's correspondence, but none of it was very special, and then I found this: a collection of Gilbert & Sullivan songs, beautifully bound, with an inscription from 1924! Needless to say, that was purchased without hesitation.
Had the shop had the sense to price it appropriately, I would probably have left it at that, but given its modest price I thought I should make a bit more of an investment and headed back up Charing Cross Road (now overrun with tourists just out of the matinee performances of musicals and theatres) towards my bike and passed Any Amount of Books, which I hadn't even gone into on my way south, rememebring that I had purchased lots of cheap books there before and I didn't think they would have anything significant enough.
I was wrong: I picked up these two:
to round out the present nicely!