“A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.” – Terry Pratchett Guards Guards

Don’t you just love those old book shops, the second hand kind where old shelves bow under the weight of paper and years, forming dark corridors of promise and reading adventure. They are becoming a bit of rarity in this the digital age but thankfully they can still be found. Just thought I would share one of my semi-local and one of my all time favourite bookshops. It seems appropriate, since travel itself is a bit restricted and the pandemic has reduced most of us to arm chair travel at the moment, (not a bad thing), and a good book will never go a miss.

If you are in Queensland and looking for a good book or two you could do worse than to venture into Archives Fine Books on Charlotte St in the heart of Brisbane. Archives is a bit of a local institution, it has been around for as long as I can remember but it is a bit of a hidden treasure if you are not a local or familiar with the second hand book trade. Located in a heritage listed building, the John Mills Himself building at 40 Charlotte St, the unassuming entry gives no indication of the treasure within. And treasure there indeed is within these old brick walls and dark windows.

image credit: David Jackmanson www.brisbaneishome.com 

Walk through Archives’ door and you really do enter another world, an adventure in itself. I always think of Pratchett’s description of such places whenever I enter Archives:

“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.

image credit: David Jackmanson www.brisbaneishome.com 

But just when you think you have seen it all, you discover a small staircase at the back that leads up into a light filled room and even more books and sheet music. Archives is undeniably Tardis like in the way that such a small doorway leads into a universe of books, it is very definitely; “bigger on the inside” . I never get tired of visiting Archives and it is always my first port of call if looking for an older or out print text but to be honest I never really need an excuse to visit Archives, I love to visit and wander the dusty alleys of shelves and breathe the hallowed scent of wisdom past. This is a magical place.

The big bonus of a visit to Archives is the fact that you can follow up Archives with a visit to the Pancake Manor just a few steps up Charlotte St and located in an old church. Perfect spot to take your Archives purchases and peruse them over a cup of coffee and a short stack, just watch out for the maple syrup or you might end up with a bit of a sticky text.

I love the Pancake Manor in Charlotte St almost as much as Archives and like Archives, a visit here can feel like an epic adventure, once you step into the dark cavernous interior you are world’s away from the city and life outside. The pancakes are a bonus. I have tried pancake Manors is several locations in Australia but without question this one is the best, not just for the food but for the atmosphere and a visit here after Archives makes a visit to Charlotte St complete.

12 thoughts on “Of Bookshops and Blackholes

  1. These places are not friendly to disabled people, people with breathing problems, anyone not mobile, or anyone without much energy. It’s too much to expect them to be – but it means they’re off my list.

    Hope you find things you like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point and I guess in this day and age even heritage listing should not stop the upgrading of a building to be a little more accommodating. The dust I suspect will always be a problem with old books. At least with the internet you can still access these stores but I must confess buying from them over the internet is not have as much fun as just wandering the shelves.


      1. There are many other kinds of fun I can no longer do – including ski jumping, ice dancing, and rope jumping. Go ahead and have your fun.

        But realize it is time- and circumstance -limited, and hope their are alternatives.

        The rules are that public places should be accessible. Where possible. Sometimes it’s obvious people just don’t care.

        Other times retrofitting is awkward. Well, so is getting into the store for those who don’t have mobility. The rules are supposed to make this as fair as possible for merchants – so that one not doing it to save money is not an economic advantage over others.

        Often it IS possible to make places accessible.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I find more and more there is always room for education and improvement and disability awareness is something that we have to improve in my own workplace, sometimes think the best training would be for us all to experience what it is like to live with each disability. Accessibility has become so much better that I was really shocked to discover another business where they had a sign saying wheelchair and pram access was only possible through the neighbouring building, that was a bit of a shock in this day and age.


      3. Many businesses don’t want to encourage disabled people to come – it is a bummer for the ‘normals.’ We suggest what their future might be, and they don’t want to think about it.

        They do the absolute minimum they can get away with, and people who are already disabled, and have much reduced energy, have to spend much of that fighting for what the law has already granted!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. That really does suck and we shouldn’t accept that. I guess if you are lucky enough to have a long a life sooner or later you will have to face at least some impairment of ability and maybe a healthy society should realise that. Maybe then we wouldn’t have a society that is quite so comfortable with throwing the older members of the community under the metaphorical bus in regards to the pandemic.


      5. The point is that accessibility CAN be designed in – and then used by other people (mothers with strollers, for example) as well.

        It just takes either good intentions – or a heavy fine.

        We were promised retirement for working diligently – Americans rarely even use all their vacation time – and now they want to yank it.

        I wish we could yank the lifetime pensions of those who make these decisions – maybe that would make them more concerned.

        Politicians have their own cozy little arrangements – while the rest of the population suffers want.

        I hate to think how much money DT is going to cost us in pensions and moving expenses from all the people he’s hired and fired.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve just outlined my dream daytrip to the CBD. Do the wooden floors still creak in Archives Fine Books? Many Pancake Manors have closed their doors but I think Charlotte Street survived because of the old church’s solid personality.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes they do and that is part of the charm and yes love the old church’s personality between Archives and the Pancake Manor they make visiting Charlotte St a pretty perfect Brisbane day out.

      Liked by 1 person

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