Meg’s new roommates – 1,500 books; photograph Lucinda MacPherson
You know how some adult children quietly moved back in with their parents during lockdown? Something similar happened to Meg Dillon, but it wasn’t her children, but 1,500 books, which suddenly took up residence in a room with a view in her highly desirable riverside home on Chiswick Mall.
Meg explains, “I trained as a librarian, then last year put an ad in the TLS offering to work for small collections, and then a guy phoned me up and said his stepfather had died in 2009 and he thought they might be worth something. Before I knew what had happened all the books were here!”
The guy was the actor, turned writer Sean Chapman, who played Frank Cotton in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and several major roles at the National Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company as recently as 2016. The collection had been owned by his stepfather, the crime writer Angus Hall and his call inspired Meg to set up a family run live in bookshop.
The Small Library Company buys, sells and organises books for small private collections and is currently managing The Angus Hall collection. “The deal was that I’d find a good home for all the books,” says Meg.
These include literary biography, classic fiction, history, philosophy, psychology and, not surprisingly, a lot of crime, all collected by Angus from the mid 40’s until his death in 2009.
One corner of her living room is dedicated to what she calls her “Tesco Finest”, anything valued over £40 which includes some highly collectable items. The most prized is the first edition of Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) which has been valued at around £2,000 and is to be auctioned at Forum’s on 27 May .
Hardbacks from the 50s and 60s are prized for their covers, especially by American collectors who prefer the artwork on the British editions.
There is also classic literature by Steinbeck, Camus, Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, as Meg explains, “ he was fairly obsessed with them, so he had not only their work, but books about them, essays and biography.”
“He had little obsessions, he was an autodidact and had no formal education, so you have this sense
that he was desperately trying to find out about things.”
“When I did the price research, I thought about him all the time and he strikes me as an introvert who sat in his room all day reading, and his son said that was completely right.”
Meg has a background in research, so enjoys finding the people who would be interested in buying some of the more niche books.
All photographs taken by Lucinda MacPherson
“There are blogs about Angus Hall films so I stalk them, and a Facebook page called “Movie Tie-In Books”, so I’ve sold a few books that way.”
“ I really like the books, its like having a cat, they are very comforting.”
Books can be viewed by appointment in Meg’s home in Chiswick Mall, or if you live in West London Meg also offers to hand deliver each book by push bike. thesmalllibrary.co.uk/.
Left: Meg offers a books by bike delivery service to local clients. Photograph, Lucinda MacPherson
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