The Eagle Bookshop -an historical adventure

The Eagle Bookshop on a sunny day

A good second-hand bookshop is balm to the soul for those of us who love research and love books. While the internet has widened access to out-of-print books, it is no substitute for the feeling of browsing in a real shop. The element of chance, of serendipitous discovery, when perusing the eclectic stock of  independent bookshops is what it is all about. Recently I posted my memories of the, now departed, old bookshop on Mill Street in Bedford (click here). So, on a more positive note, and as I had a chance to visit again last weekend, I thought I’d take a moment to feature another Bedford second-hand bookshop: The Eagle Bookshop, on Castle Road. It is mercifully still with us and still going strong.

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The Eagle bookshop is located in a part of Bedford that has been rejuvenated in the decade since I last lived there. Castle road now has a number of boutique shops, including the always excellent Cheese kitchen coffee shop/deli, and has been tidied up no end. The combination of coffee, cakes and books all within a few steps is something of a winner for me. My family lives a few streets down from Castle road and so whenever I’m visiting, which is a several times a year, I always ensure that I make it over to the bookshop. I think my family are well prepared for my random disappearances now, and tend to plan around it.

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Being up in Bedford for my sister’s wedding I was pressed into immediate service with the preparations (I’ve never folded so many napkins) but I managed to sneak off on the Thursday under cover of lunch. I probably had about ten minutes before I’d be rumbled and dragged from the shop. As I scurried in I noticed that the history section was stripped almost bare, I think I may have even let out an audible gasp in pantomime fashion. Spotting the look on my face, and possibly with a surreptitious reach for the smelling salts, the assistant reassured me that the stock had been refreshed and the piles of books o the floor constituted some of that stock. As I then learnt from the proprietor, Peter Budek, they had just acquired 2000 history books from a London historian. I may have made an exclamation of joy at that point, but I’m almost entirely certain that my mind simply typed: O.M.G.

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Peter and his colleague seemed apologetic that the history section was so disorganised, and after divining my specialist interest, fetched me a whole load of mid 17th Century histories. Unfortunately, in response, I had to disappear and promise to return the following day, which I then was unable to. The story has a happy ending though, as they now open on a Sunday, which enabled me to have my fill then instead. While much of the stock had been shelved by then, a fair amount was still filled under ‘unsorted’ which gave me a chance to root (I know, I’m weird about this, like a bibliophile truffle pig).

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If you are in the area, or even not, I’d recommend popping in when you can. The shop is particularly strong on scientific, mathematics and art books (as well as the new history stock). You can see from the pictures what a splendidly handsome place it is, and Bedford itself is glorious in the Summer. Grab a coffee from across the road and have a browse. I’ve even forgiven them for removing the iconic Eagle from the window and replacing it with a bust of some unknown playwright.

Displaced Eagle (Not for Sale)

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Unknown 17th C. Playwright

I should also mention that next door is the Eagle art gallery, another place that’s worth a browse.

The Eagle gallery

If you can’t make a visit and you are interested in their historical stock, or indeed their non-historical and antiquarian & rare book stock, then you can ring them 01234 269295 or visit the website by clicking on the picture below.

Link to the Eagle Bookshop

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