Photographers' Blog

Tales from a rare bookstore

By Andy Clark

The book immediately caught my eye. It was small, about the size of a deck of cards, but twice the thickness, and there was no question it was very old. It sat in a pile of other aged publications that had just arrived at MacLeod’s Books in downtown Vancouver. It looked fragile as I picked it up and opened to the title page. “Wow!”, I said.

I had been in MacLeod’s Books about five or six hours at that point, not to search for any rare or out of print books but to do a day in the life photo essay on the 50-year-old used book store. The store originally opened in the early 1960s but in 1973 a young Don Stewart bought the place and has been there ever since.

I had been in the store once before about five years ago while waiting for an assignment to begin nearby. Once inside I was in awe of the thousands of books I saw. Unfortunately, duty called and I left shortly after. Well maybe I am fibbing a bit here. I love books, always have, and when I got a glimpse of the inside I had to turn and walk out, right then. If I hadn’t I would have been in there for hours, my assignment forgotten and my wallet considerably lighter. I promised myself I would return and thought this place might even make a pretty good photo story.

My return came about two weeks ago when I happened to drive by and decided to stop in and talk to the owner. Again I was speechless once inside. After looking around for a few minutes I approached Don and made my pitch to spend a day or two in his place to photograph and produce a photo essay. I was very surprised he agreed to the idea quite quickly and we set a date for the project.

As I mentioned Don Stewart has owned the used bookstore for about 40 years. He estimates he has roughly 100,000 titles in stock. Add to that the multiple copies of many titles and the number of books he actually has far exceeds a count I couldn’t even begin to estimate.

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A U.S. soldier of 2-12 Infantry 4BCT-4ID Task Force Mountain Warrior takes a break during a night mission near Honaker Miracle camp at the Pesh valley of Kunar Province August 12, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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