Jean Pain Bookseller

Jean Pain, Antiqueseller is dead. Jean Pain, Bookseller is born. It took me a good two or three weeks to get all the bookshelves and their contents into my shop. What took longest was pricing all the books. How did I do it? I hadn’t a clue or just a tiny bit of a clue. I didn’t fall into the trap that most people do of believing that the earlier the book was published, the more valuable it is. The bible is a good example as it was probably the commonest of old books no matter how many centuries old it might be. With very few exceptions they were piled up in a corner so we could reach the highest books if we were too poor to buy a stepladder.

The books had cost me so little that it didn’t much matter what prices I put on them. I made an educated guess. There are some advantages of having earned a university literary degree. I actually had a repertoire of famous writers in my head and I could recognise a first edition when I saw one. All collectors will pay an arm and a leg for one rare book that will fill a long-awaited space. All good booksellers keep lists of such rarities for that is part of the fun. You never knew what might turn up and where.

Who buys old books? First and foremost, as I soon discovered, were other booksellers. They were few and far between and often the second and third generations of family businesses. They all spent many miles of driving especially to find the bookshops they already knew and any new ones that sprang up out of nowhere like me.

One day when I was making myself a cup of tea in the small kitchen at the back of the shop I heard some funny noises: plop! plop! plop! over and over again. I came round the corner to see what was going on. A middle-aged man dressed in drab clothes was going round the shelves, building up piles of my books on the floor. He took off his hat, showing himself to be a proper gentleman. “Ah Mrs Pain I see. I haven’t met you before. How long have you been here?” He then revealed himself to be a well-known bookseller from Preston in Lancashire. “You’ve got a nice lot of books here. As I am buying a fair number of them will you take off ten per cent? That is usual in the trade.” I made him a cup of tea and he said “I’ll come back soon”. This was the first time I had earned so much money in one go. And I had only just started. He visited me frequently after that and always bought books, but he never did so well as the very first time before I picked up some of the ropes. However, one of the advantages of visiting fellow booksellers is that we all loved books and had our own special knowledge of which books are most sought after and their market price.

After a while I learned that there was a very useful publication that came out yearly: The Book Auction Records. It gave up-to-date information of the prices paid for the most sought after books sold at auctions.

Was advertising for books any good? No. Not in the ‘sixties and not now. Only if you are lucky. Unhappily, most of the bookshops, especially the second-hand ones, are nothing as popular as it was then. Of all the kinds of ways in which we might pass our leisure, the least popular always has been reading. Some people blame the vast increase of television. But I think readers will always be readers. I very rarely find anything I want to watch on TV. I like to make my own pictures when I am reading and as far as I know this is true of all people like me. This is a characteristic of using our own magic camera. The decline is in the number of people who no longer collect books, not necessarily to read but to own rare things, whatever they may be. It is a form of snobbery. Most people do not have one book in their houses. That has always been so and always will be. They think magazine is another word for book. Every day prospective seekers of a bit of money brought in piles of paper. “But it is old!” they would cry “I got it from my Dad!”


Autobiography Early Years

The Fear Of Freedom

Goodbye to another Christmas and welcome to another new year. In my eighty second year I have developed from a tiny human being, knowing nothing about this world up to today when I have reached nearly a full lifetime of experiences. It is quite one thing to think about plans for the future when we are young, with what seems to be an endless stretch of time before us, and how we think when at last we realise that we have very little time left.

When we are young we know nothing about the future. We make decisions from the basis of very little knowledge of both the world around us and and even less about what kind of people we are. No-one can know the future but every one of us has individual potentials inherited from our ancesters through the particular genes that we possess. How we use those genes for our own benefit, and for our fellow beings, depends on our making use of our powers to get to know what our real potentials are.

In order to do this we need to learn to observe what is going on around us and inside us. Some kind of guidance is needed but we need to make sure that we are moving in the right direction for ourselves. It is vital that in order to make the best use of our lives we must gradually learn the truth from the false. No-one can teach you this except yourselves. The biggest impediment is the set of beliefs that we pick up from our cultures.

Inevitably we are hampered because of the influence of the society in which we live. Very few people have the courage to work things out for themselves from fear of loneliness. It is easier to fit in with others in order to feel safe. The greatest contributors to universal knowledge work on their own and do not ask for help. Yet they need help but know that the best kind comes from the discoveries of individuals who have lived before us. Not everyone is a genius, but I believe that most of us have the potential to contribute something to the common good. The biggest mistake we make is taking on other people’s ideas without question. Everything should be examined. If they are not, we are liable to turn into bigots who are terrified of changing their minds. For example, when Germany was in dire straits, after World War 1, such a man as Hitler would never have risen to power if enough people recognised what sort of man he was. Erich Fromm was a great writer who recognised in the late thirties the dangers ahead, expressed them very clearly in his book “The Fear of Freedom”. What a wonderful title! It epitomises the fact that to make full use of freedom, we must take full responsbility for ourselves. Any thinking person who has read Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” would spot the dangers. Had there been more people who did, Hitler would not have been accepted.

My aim for the rest of my life is to tell about my lifelong experiences and the uses I made of them. From my earliest remembered days I have always noticed what was going on around me and tried to make sense of it: especially the way people talk to each other. I have always done what I wanted to do and refused not to go along with any ideas that I thought might be harmful. As I look back on my life I realised that I had achieved everything I wanted to do and it gives me much satisfaction. I took risks that most people would not take and on the whole they were successful. The reason for this is that I always enjoyed what I was doing.

My main aim is to show to young people that they have more power to do what they want than they think. Far too many reach old age and are disappointed about what they have not done. Think for youself, do not accept what you don’t want. Whatever the pressure stick to what you think is right. That is the best and only way to achieve self-confidence.