Despite spending six weeks in London at the end of 2018, it was only after I was back on Sydney soil that I heard about The Second Shelf. An independent bookshop snuggled down a cobblestoned court in Soho, The Second Shelf is the brainchild of AN Devers, an arts journalist turned rare books dealer who wanted to open a bookshop that championed women writers, by selling everything from rare books, to modern first editions, and rediscovered works by women, as well as new titles which Devers considers “future classics”. Eager to support the new kid on the independent bookshop block, the day after I landed from Sydney, I winded my way through Soho’s streets to the vaguely Victorian Smith’s Court, where The Second Shelf is tucked away in a pretty corner.
Small but perfectly formed, the first book that caught my eye on entering The Second Shelf was a signed first edition of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. The book that inspired this very blog, at the princely sum of £2,275 I put it back on the shelf, and after some quick mental maths, calculated that if I put £22 a week aside for the next two years, I could treat myself to this treasured tome.
With a wonderfully cluttered collection of both classic and contemporary books by women, it was easy to spend the next half-hour there, pouring over the well-stocked floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and talking to the bookseller – Natalie – about our favourite and current reads. Not wanting to leave empty-handed, I tossed up between a signed copy of Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher – my very favourite festive book, and a first edition of The Scapegoat, my all-time favourite Du Maurier. Deciding that Winter Solstice was a more Yuletide-appropriate purchase, I bought The Scapegoat, before swiftly adding a second-hand (and thus considerably cheaper) copy of The Talented Mr Ripley to my purchase.
A sacred, bookish space that was opened with the hope of correcting the yawning gap between the perceived value of rare books by men versus women, The Second Shelf is not only a beautiful shop that is ripe with nostalgia and charm – it too is an important destination for lovers of literature who want to support both undervalued writers, and the proprietress trying to balance the books.
About The Second Shelf
The Second Shelf bookstore opened in November 2018 to offer customers rare and antiquarian books, modern first editions, ephemera, manuscripts, and rediscovered works by women.
Located in the heart of Soho, The Second Shelf is one of many new shops in the courtyard transforming the space into a quiet meeting place for people who love to browse, shop, meet for tea or coffee, lunch, and, of course, discover great books by women.
The Second Shelf carries over 3,000 titles ranging from affordable first edition collectible Penguin paperbacks and Virago green spines to Jane Austen’s best friends personal copy of Sense & Sensibility. From collectible and signed editions of literary classics and modern first editions to experimental and avant-garde poetry. There are works on suffrage, feminism, history, science, philosophy, cookery, and children’s books. We also carry rare books, historical ephemera, and objects relating the work and lives of women, as well as unpublished manuscripts.
The Second Shelf specializes in providing this scarce material to collectors, to libraries, and to institutions.
Useful Information about The Second Shelf
14 Smith’s Court
Telephone: 0203 490 2800
Opening times: 11am-6pm Tuesday – Thursday; 11am-7pm Friday – Saturday
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