Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Vintage Penguins in Amsterdam

I have seen Amsterdam on one freezing cold day and come away with a set of impressions which will now form my view of the city, without any sense of how representative they are. My very first thought as the plane touched down was of the Hobbema painting of the avenue of trees; it seemed to perfectly capture exactly what I was seeing. And once I was through the airport and out on the streets, snow-covered Amsterdam seemed clean, well-ordered, and efficient, although my strongest impression is of a city of incredibly helpful people. It happened several times during the day: a man who saw us rummaging through boxes of books pulling out Penguins and helped us to find more, another who followed me down the street to show me on his iphone how to find the street I was searching for, people who stopped and offered assistance whenever we stood gazing perplexedly at our map. I don't recall ever receiving so much freely offered help from strangers anywhere else I have been.

We had a wonderful first day of book buying with a total haul of 46 Penguins, 34 for me and 12 for Pam (her choices are much more constrained as she only buys first editions). This unprecedented success creates a few logistical difficulties as I have to carry these books around with me now for the next three weeks and I don't yet have a suitcase, but you don't think of these things when faced with a stash of Penguins you've never seen before. I think today will be devoted to the Rijksmuseum, and more book buying will be put off until England.

The cheapest Penguins we found were 7 books for 5 euros at Long Harry's book stall at the Waterlooplein flea market. We purchased 19 between us, but there were many more we left behind. We found a few in the English section of the Antiquariaat Kok on Oude Hoogstraat, priced around 3 to 3.5 euros.

But perhaps the best moment of my day was when I spotted this shelf at The Book Exchange on the Kloveniersburgwal:

These hard to reach green Penguins cost between 2 and 2.5 euros, were mostly ones I didn't own, and Pam didn't want any of them. The shelves in the back room had vintage Penguins peppered through the other books, all well priced. It is a lovely shop with a delightfully friendly and helpful sales person named Frederico.

And this was the total haul:

Link to Pam's blog describing the day


  1. You've got off to a great start - I hope the rest of the trip is equally successful.

  2. Wonderful post! So glad you are finding plenty.

  3. Lucky you. I'm a bit worried about the people on that canal!

  4. The thrill of the hunt...I applaud you. I'm sure you know about PENGUINS BY DESIGN by Paul Hunt but in the obscure off chance you don't it's very good.

  5. Now that is a haul, and the hunt it seems really paid off.

  6. This site is a constant joy to read. I was in Amsterdam in October and it never crossed my mind to seek out 2nd hand Penguins there. Must remember next time. Have just finished another Cerise, "The Dark Invader" by Captain Van Rintelen, a German Naval intelligence officer carrying out espionage in the USA during the First World War.



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