As somebody who has lived for and off rare and old books for decades, it comes as no surprise that Odean Long has developed a philosophy on the subject.
“I’m a great believer in the fact that owners of books are caretakers of books, that they don’t necessarily own them, but that they are taking care of them for a period of time, before they are passed on,” she said.
The owner of Sidney’s Haunted Bookshop is getting ready to do something similar (albeit on larger scale) as she prepares to transfer ownership of the store to Victoria bookseller William Matthews on Dec. 1.
Long admits to feeling ambivalent about selling. “We have been here in this location for 24 years, so it’s a major change,” said Long. “But it was time. The opportunity came up and you don’t say no in this business climate.”
The pending sale closes another chapter in the history of the business. Rosamond Rand first opened the business in 1947 on Fort Street in Victoria, before Long and her late husband Adrian Butterbury moved the business to its current location in the 9800-block of Third Street in the summer of 1996. Over that time, the store has developed a wide-reaching reputation for its eclectic, even exclusive selections.
“Over the years, we have had many, many compliments for the fact that we select our stock very specifically,” she said. “For example, we had a first edition Tennyson that was from Dickens’ own library.”
This range runs counter to the still widespread perception that the store specializes in ghost stories and is haunted itself.
“There are indeed still people in Sidney who won’t come into the shop because of the name,” said Long. “I get a kick out of it because of it any of them finally do, they say, ‘I didn’t know you were here. I didn’t know you had books like this.’ They assumed quite frankly that we are full of ghost stories.”
The name itself comes from a 1919 novel by Christopher Morley and pays tribute to the idea that a good bookstore is “haunted by the ghosts of greater writers” as an 1996 article in the Peninsula News Review says.
Many more such spirits will join the existing ones at the store as William merges his collection with the existing stock, a blend Long predicts will benefit the store. “[His] stock really does fit in with mine really well,” she said.
Long, who is currently reading a biography of W. Somerset Maughm, has no plans to disappear any time soon. She will continue to appraise books for the University of Victoria and other organizations and plans to remain a visible presence as she contemplates her legacy.
“I feel happy that we have served, I think, Sidney well,” she said. “There are obviously going to be many, many people that I have met over the years that I’m going to miss terribly. But I am not moving out of Sidney. I’m going to be here. I will probably be in the shop a few days while Bill makes the change-over.”
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