An absolute gem of a book store – ‘Janette Ray, Bookseller’

I had just turned left, through the old Bootham Bar Gateway in the York city wall, a place where a Roman city gate had given access to their fortress of Eboracum nearly 2000 years ago, when I spotted a splash of bright blue, just down the street (it is called Bootham, at this point). It was a blazing hot Monday, and I was eager to find some shelter from the torrid sun. There it was, a lovely oasis – or so I thought – ‘Janette Ray – Specialist Dealer In Books About Architecture, Designs, Gardens & Fine Art’. Perfect, I thought, and tried the door. Oh no! Locked. I looked a little further and found that this establishment is open Wednesday through Saturday, only! Ah, well, at least I can window shop.

Janette Ray is a member of both the Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association and the Antiquarian Booksellers Association, which assures you of fair pricing and good practice, at this rather expensive end of the trade. A statement by the store reads, ‘We specialize in the sale and purchase of rare and out of print books on architecture and building, landscape design, design history, international exhibitions, town planning and fine art, mainly published from 1800 to 1950, and our stock includes original drawings and photographs.’ Other categories include photography and building conservation. One positive note in the sizzling summer weather was the fact that ‘Janette Ray’s’ is pressed up against the remains of the outer wall of the ruined Benedictine Abbey of St Mary’s and an ‘interval tower’ on the wall surrounding the abbey. This, it is claimed, keeps the shop decidedly cool in summer; you can examine the wall and the tower at close quarters from the shop!

The abbey was originally founded in 1055, and was dissolved – and partially torn down – in 1539 by Henry VIII during the ‘Dissolution of the Monasteries’. The grounds and remains are a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and are listed as such by English Heritage. Inside the shop you will find a lovely spiral staircase supported, in part, by some ancient timbers; the building is singularly appropriate as an antiquarian booksellers, and it does have a specialist Antiquarian Room. I suspect that I would have to cut my credit card up before venturing in there!

‘Janette Ray’ took part in the York National Book Fair on the 14/15th September, 2012 – it was held at the Barbican Centre, York – an event which is acknowledged as being Britain’s largest antiquarian book fair. In 2013,  this wonderful event took place in the Knavesmire Suite at York Racecourse on Friday and Saturday, 20th/21st September. If you enjoy old books, especially those about the arts, this annual event to be missed.

‘Janette Ray’, a lovely book store, with bags of history, and a cool atmosphere. Next time, I had better go on a Wednesday, taking some cash, but NO credit cards!

2 comments on “An absolute gem of a book store – ‘Janette Ray, Bookseller’”

  1. A dangerous place to enter, indeed!


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