Sunday, 15 July 2012

Vintage Penguins in Adelaide (and a very brief reference to statistics)

I went to Adelaide last week (about two and a half hours by plane from Perth) and was delighted to return home with another 26 vintage Penguins to add to the collection. I didn't expect to find nearly so many, as there was very little time available to pursue the search. I was in Adelaide to attend a Statistics conference, and that meant long days sitting through presentations (and a little stress preparing one of my own), with only a single free afternoon. It was fortunate, therefore, that the conference venue on North Terrace was so well placed with respect to Adelaide's second hand book shops, with six within easy walking distance. By skipping a few sessions each day, I managed to get to them all. And I have to thank the Caustic Cover Critic for his help in locating the better prospects.

One book shop he suggested, and the one I most enjoyed browsing in, was O'Connell's Bookshop at 62 Hindley St., near the city centre. You enter into a large room which has well-stacked book shelves completely covering the walls, and the internal space cluttered with double-sided bookcases and tables, all stacked high with books. There was no area dedicated to Penguins; instead, the vintage Penguins were scattered throughout the shop, and every surface had to be scanned to find them, but what a wonderful way to spend an hour. This was where I bought most of my new Penguins, leaving behind many others I would have loved to own. The prices for their vintage Penguins seemed to range from $4 to $15.

Another delightful book shop was The Glenelg Book Exchange on Moseley St, at the end of the tram line near the beach front in Glenelg. Here, the Penguins were grouped together with other old and collectible books on a large bookcase just inside the front door. I found five numbered Penguins, with prices ranging from $1.50 to $3.50.

There is also an extensive collection of (predominately) paperbacks housed at the rear of the antique market at 32 Grote Street, on the north side of the Central Markets. This is Michael Treloar's other shop (with the main one located on North Terrace), and it would be very easy to miss; there is little signage outside to indicate just how wonderful it is within.

Across the road, immediately inside the entrance to the Central Markets, is a book stall which also had a few Penguins priced at $5 each. And I also had some success at the the Adelaide Booksellers and the Twin Plaza Book Exchange, both located close by each other in Twin Street, just off the Rundle St. Mall.

As much as I enjoyed searching for elusive Penguins, the highlight of my week was actually a presentation given by Professor Peter Donnelly from Oxford University on the Genetic Map of Britain. I don't know how widely this research has been publicised in the UK, but the results would make fascinating reading/viewing for anyone with an interest in British history, irrespective of whether they cared to know anything about the analysis of genetic data (although nothing I've read since explains it as well or as interestingly as was done in this lecture). The variation in human DNA has a strong correlation with locality, and one reason for studying these correlations is that they need to be taken into account in studies which search for the genetic determinants of diseases. But they are also interesting because of what they can reveal about the recent past. Archaeology can show the spread of ideas through time, but by analysing variations in genetic data, and comparing it with contemporary European DNA, there is the potential to understand something about the spread of people as well.

And, as always, the other highlight of a trip to Adelaide is their wonderful chocolate....

Today's book haul 23/9/2011

Vintage Penguins: books found in Adelaide

Vintage Penguins in Amsterdam
Vintage Penguins in Newcastle
Vintage Penguins in Lyme Regis
Vintage Penguins in Oxford
Vintage Penguins in London


  1. I've never been to Adelaide, but now that I know there are great book shops there, to add to the wine region and what is supposedly the best record shop in Australia ( I collect records) I'll have t go at some stage.

    I'm fascinated by genetics - must have been interesting.

    1. Hi Jeremy,

      Adelaide it quite different to Perth: smaller, no freeways, and they've managed to retain a higher proportion of their old buildings (and their tramway). I find if I stay in the city, it seems a little seedy, but when I stay in the suburbs I love it. If you go, make sure you include a visit to the Adelaide Hills - they are wonderful - and don't be put off by the price of the Haigh's chocolate.

  2. Thanks for sharing the wonderful bookshop photos and those of your 'new' books. So happy to see you found so many. The genetics lecture would have been fascinating. Great to see you got to do so many interesting things in just a few days and followed up by chocolate. I can't think of a better time. Pam

  3. Glad you enjoyed your time in Adelaide - that's a wonderful haul.

  4. What a wonderful array of books and bookshops. That top photograph is particularly lovely, and wouldn't it be wonderful to have covers like that on display all the time. I wonder which you went for - I'd have found Voltaire in Love very difficult to resist.

    1. A good guess, Jane. I took two books with me onto the return flight: An Error of Judgement by Pamela Hansford Johnson (with a great Terence Greer cover which you only see a tiny portion of in the photo above), and Voltaire in Love. I ended up reading PHJ's book though.

    2. And btw, I seem to recall that one of the interesting conclusions from the genetic map of Britain related to people from Cornwall, and how distinct they were from genetically from their Devon neighbours, almost mirroring the county borders, implying perhaps a strong preference across to time to marry locally.

  5. Is it possible that there is a Haigh's in Melbourne or Sydney. I am pretty sure John and I had some when were there in 2007.

    1. You find the Haigh's stores everywhere you go in Adelaide, and I recall one store in Melbourne's Block Arcade, although perhaps there are others over there. You certainly cannot buy it in on this side of the country.

  6. I'll be interested to hear waht you think of Voltaire in Love. I have my eye on a new edition of it that NYRB is releasing this fall, since I don't think I'll be lucky enough to find a vintage one any time soon.



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