November Books Interview29/08/2012
Established during the summer of 2010, November Books sources, buys and sells rare and out of print fashion books and related material, encompassing photography books, rare magazines, modern first editions, art books and counterculture. We recently caught up with Paul Lawrence of November Books for a chat.
Yasmine Ganley: I was reading that November Books started out of a collection of rare and out of print magazines and books, was this your own collection that developed into a bookstore? Can you tell us the history of November Books?
Paul of November Books: I started November Books primarily as a way to share research material I had found for myself. At the time I was working for a fashion house in London, along with a couple of projects on the side, and it sort of occurred to me that I had a huge amount of really interesting stuff just laying around the house which nobody else seemed to know about. I worked in the antiquarian book trade whilst I was at Central St. Martins, and had been devouring art history and certain aspects of popular culture for some years, so it made sense to bring these things together and create a place where one could find books that were interesting from a fashion perspective rather than just the latest designer monographs and fashion magazines.
YG: What do you personally love about printed magazines and books?
NB: There are a few of things I love about print that as yet do not exist in any other form. The depth of information and level of detail one can find is incredible, books are also, for me at least, a very intimate experience, rather like a one to one conversation with the author, and I find it hard to imagine how such an experience could be translated into another medium. As a bookseller I also value the book as a cultural artefact, as something that represents a particular person, place or moment in time. Books can be wonderful, rather ethereal objects too, my favourite type of book tends to be one that has an accidental beauty that was never a part of the author’s original intention. Of course, books can also be horrendously ugly, or plain ridiculous, I sometimes like that too.
YG: Favorite era of books/magazines that you love for their aesthetic when collecting?
NB: I devour books on almost everything, from 60′s boutique culture and seventies YSL to 90′s Moschino, performance art, counterculture and pretty much everything else. But I will always have a soft spot for the late seventies and early eighties, I love the D.I.Y. aesthetic and the free attitude towards borrowing from history. I also like the links between fashion, art and music that were happening in this period.
YG: How does the internet help and/or harm your business?
NB: I think the internet is great for anything specialist, and what I do wouldn’t be possible without it. Aside of being a superb research tool, it’s how most people find out about me.
YG: What do you think of the arts/media online today? Do you think it is relevant for publishers to be on the internet as well as printing art books and annual magazines?
NB: Very much so. For me the internet is like a huge and chaotic notebook, it sounds rather obvious, but I’m still amazed by the things one can actually find. I think the internet and print media do quite different things, and that the distinctions will become more clearer as time goes on. At the moment I find the internet great for finding out that new things exist, but that if I would like to know or see more, I can buy a printed version.
YG: Any favorite blogs/sites that you like to check out?
NB: I read a lot of the blogs that are fairly well known, such as Style Bubble and Jak + Jil, along with the online sections of Purple, Self Service and A Magazine curated by. For historical things, Sighs and Whispers is brilliant, if you’re searching for anything off the beaten track the chances are you may end up there. I also love Adventures in Rock and Pop Fashion, it’s written by a journalist called Paul Gorman, who’s brain must contain a phenomenal archive of popular culture. I use tumblr quite a lot too when researching a particular designer or person.
YG: Any new magazines that are stand out? and why?
NB: Encens is amazing. It’s not so much about seasons and trends, more an analysis of inspirations, details and fashion history, it’s such an elegant interpretation of fashion history. Garmento is a new zine which I like a lot, they are only on their second issue, and things are shaping up to be really great, again, they are more interested in analysis and the long view of things. And then of course there are some brilliant well established new magazines like The Gentlewoman, which must be the best print magazine around at the moment.
YG: Is there a book or magazine that people often ask after?
NB: I have a giant spreadsheet of client’s wants, some of which may take years to find as a lot of the books I sell are the only available copies. But the classics tend to be the most popular. The books I get asked for the most are probably Comme des Garcons 1981-1986, Charlotte Rampling with Compliments, Native funk & Flash, Roquette Rockers, Dries Van Noten 01-50 and anything by Deborah Turbeville. All brilliant I might add!
YG: I read that you work with clients to build personal and public libraries, could you explain the process to us a little?
NB: Libraries often come to me to fill in gaps in their collections, as do private collectors or design companies, so I’m often looking for things for them, or I’m finding things they do not yet know about based on what I know they already have or are interested in.
YG: Any memorable moments in a rare find or coming across something highly prized for very little?
NB: This happens less so, especially with the internet, but the flip side is that one can find incredible things which were previously unknown or had been ignored.
YG: What is the one book you would never sell?
NB: One of my rules is that I cannot keep anything, there are lots of books I have been sad to see go, but by way of consolation, they’ve all gone to happy homes!
YG: Where do you see print heading in the future? Will it always be relevant? Will there always be a need? A desire?
NB: I’m not sure, but it will continue to exist, just in a different way. Now that books don’t have to be the sole means of conveying information they can be something else, which I think is quite liberating, and I think rather than having lots of books people will just have nice copies of the books they really love, or books that mean something to them.
YG: If you were to buy one book for the whole world what would it be?
NB: There are so many! But I would settle for Anna Karenina. A bit of a cliche, but it’s the book of books.