Snapshot: Hamish & Dawn Alcorn, Archives Fine Books

By Sophie Baker 

Walking up Charlotte street I spotted the red sandwich board from a distance, "BOOKS, OPEN" – sweet relief! Very few times do I successfully navigate my way through the heart of Brisbane's CBD. But the store's gorgeous brick facade won me, and my attention, over immediately.

For the past three and a half years, Hamish Alcorn and his wife, Dawn, have been the proud and grateful owners of Archives Fine Books. Gentle and kind in demeanor, Hamish quietly drifts around his beautiful store, barefoot and ready to help, whatever your need.

The store has sat in this very location for over 30 years and Alcorn – who once ran a political blog and is a sometime Webdiarist – is the fifth owner to steward its second-hand books from owner to owner; early editions, elegant hardbacks, thumbed and adored. 

In the era of the eBook, it's ironic that a former online diarist would find himself in a second-hand book store, but Archives Fine Books appears to be weathering the economic blows. It's plain to see why: this prestigious but humble store has charm.

As I crossed the threshold into the store, the smell of antique books engulfed me and I was in love. It's the smell of a childhood spent rummaging through my grandma's attic, fascinated by her special trinkets, old photos and memoirs from a time long gone.

Upon entering, you need a few moments to take in the sight that greets you. Floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall, a maze of books, each with a history all of their own.

I wanted to hop onto the wooden ladder to my left and roll along the wall of books, one arm outstretched singing about how wonderful life is. I walked in a little further and spun in circles, trying to take it all in, all the while wondering "Where do I start?".

Complete with creaky floorboards, there are so many wonderful nooks and crannies to settle down into with a few good books, and step ladders in each row to help you grab the books far above your head. 

A section out the back and up the stairs adds to your excitement as you realise "there's more!", with gorgeous royal red curtains lining the french doors at the back and Victorian chandelier-like lights guiding your way.

It was so beautiful.

Books in excess of 100 years of age, complete with personal messages to their original recipients in the front, books in foreign languages, history books, historical books, literature books, media books, theology books, books, books, books!

Hamish treated my friend and I to viewing (and holding!) the oldest book in the shop. Arcadia by Sir Philip Sidney Knight was published in 1633 and outdates Australia itself, coming in at 379 years of age.

Hamish says having the store is dream come true. "So many people would love to work here and have a place like this, that I almost feel a bit guilty that I get to!" Though he admits you certainly wouldn't buy the place if you were looking to earn money.

Archives Fine Books is located at 40 Charlotte St, Brisbane. 
Ph: 32210491 or Facebook
And they're open til 9pm on Fridays! 

Sophie @ Girl With a Satchel 


Anonymous said...

What a fascinating ride. Congrats to you all.