Do you remember your first used bookshop? Can you still recall the way the afternoon light streamed in through the windows, or how you felt when you walked in the door, bell tinkling above you, and knew you were in a place full of actual magic?
To tell a tale of Lippincott Books, I must tell a tale of myself. Bear with me; I’ll try to make it quick. Or at least painless. I was fourteen, in Bangor for one reason or another, and the group I was with decided to head into downtown to check out Lippincott Books. The moment we walked through the door, I fell in love. It was then, and still remains in my memory, the quintessential used bookshop: ceiling-high shelves overflowing with volumes, creaky floors, a cat holding court in the window, and that scent of books, mostly old, some new – a faint, musky aroma blended with hints of vanilla… the smell of golden sunlight upon creamy pages.
Over the next few years, whenever I was in downtown Bangor, I made it a point to go into Lippincott’s. When the store closed its doors in 2011, I was heartbroken. I didn’t know then that the owner, Bill Lippincott, had chosen to close that location so that he could move his inventory to his home and sell books from there and online. At the time, I thought it was just one more local bookshop forced out of business by the boom of e-readers and online retailers like Amazon.
Fast forward four years, to February of 2015. I’d just taken up with my fella. After a conversation in which I mentioned I wished I had a nicer copy of The Great Gatsby, he ordered a rare boxed copy of the book. When I asked where he had found it, he said, “Some book seller up in Hampden. He has a huge stock online. I think he has a little shop as well. If you’d like, I can arrange a time for us to go check out his inventory.” I then saw some correspondence on his desk that bore a familiar name… you guessed it. Lippincott. It seemed like a rare bit of magic – that even without telling my guy about that beloved bookshop, he just happened to order one of my favorite books from the very bookseller who owned that same shop which had lingered in my mind all those years.
Though a different environment – a large barn on Bill’s property in Hampden– walking into Lippincott Books now is just as magical as it was when he owned the shop in downtown Bangor. A beautiful entropy of books waits for you just beyond the doors. Paperbacks. Hard covers. Boxed sets. Gilded, marbled pages. Embossed leather covers. First editions. Signed copies. Poetry. Travel/ adventure. Maine historical non-fiction. Classics. Contemporary. Sci-fi. History. Architecture. Botany. Geography. Pretty much anything you could ever want, all right there in front of you.
Bill always makes sure the heat is on for you, and is happy to talk to you about authors, books, and where he has found his inventory. He is a friendly man and possesses the vast knowledge base unique to booksellers. Slight, wearing a plaid shirt, he looks completely at home sitting at his desk surrounded by the shelves of volumes that go all the way up to the ceiling.
Right away, Bill unearths for us a hardcover, boxed copy of The Hobbit. He still remembers selling us a set of The Lord of the Rings when we came up here last year, and we spend some time talking about Tolkien. Bill mentions he might have some of Tolkien’s earlier writings somewhere in his shop. “If I find them, I can let you know,” he says.
Other treasures of the day include The Forest Years, by Louise Dickinson Rich, a collection of short essays by John McPhee, and the fifth volume of Anaïs Nin’s diaries. Seeing this book, Bill smiles and opens it up to reveal a bookplate inside: David P. Michaud.
“You know, I think I have some letters between this guy and Anaïs Nin. Somewhere in here…”
“Thank you for saying her name out loud! I’ve never known how to pronounce it,” I tell him, laughing.
He laughs as well. “Well, I’m not sure I’m saying it right, either.”
“Sounds right to me.”
I ask if he could let me know if he ever tracks down those letters, to which he says he will. Bill has those qualities that I appreciate most about booksellers. In my experience, booksellers are honest, genuine folks who have turned their passion of acquiring books into a career of selling them to other people who share that love. To me, booksellers are proof that good things still exist, a reminder of a better way of life – proof that business deals can still be done over a cup of tea surrounded by piles of books, all while Bob Marley music plays in the background.
If you are interested in Maine-based subjects, including town histories, the North Woods, lumbering, or Maine literature, Lippincott Books is sure to have something to suit your tastes. If you spend time searching the shelves, there is no doubt you will find something that appeals to your unique love of Maine –be it an appreciation for the history, folklore, traditions, or geography of our great state.
To see what Bill carries in his inventory, go to http://www.abebooks.com/lippincott-books-hampden-me-u.s.a/25613/sf, where you can search for books by title, author, keyword, or ISBN. You can order books online or by setting up an appointment with Bill to go to his shop in Hampden (his number is listed on the website). Prices are always fair, and the selection is incredible.
When I was fourteen, I couldn’t have known that twelve years later, I would still be reaping the rewards of stumbling into that yellow-lighted bookshop in downtown Bangor. When it closed its doors, I thought it was lost from me forever. In my mind, it will always be the used bookshop – the one to which I compare all others, the epitome of what a bookshop should be. There have been and will be countless used shops I hold in the highest regard, but Lippincott Books will always remain the one dearest to my heart. Call me sentimental – but alas, that weakness is common among us bibliophiles.
“So often, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me, and reminded me that there are good things in the world.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Vellichor: (n) the strange wistfulness of used bookshops
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