And so, our second Glaswegian Bookshop Spotlight turns to the City Centre and Oswald Street Bookshop, owned by Denis Rixon. This fresh-faced indie bookshop is keeping the Gaelic tradition alive and kicking, featuring perhaps the most comprehensive selection of Gaelic texts in the Central Belt, while its broader focus is on Scottish culture, history, sociology and book history. Their selection of antiquarian maps, dating from c.1574, will whet the appetite of medievalist junkies such as myself. Bookseller Naomi very kindly answered my questions about the shop and its future:
Could you tell us a bit about Oswald Street Books?
Oswald Street Bookshop has been here for three years now. Denis, the owner, had another bookshop in Mallaig, where he also worked as a school teacher. The aim when opening was to sell Scottish books (by which I mean books about Scotland, including Scots language and culture, books by Scottish authors, books published in Scotland…) and children’s books. If you come into the shop, you’ll notice that, while these are two separate categories, we do have some overlap, with a great selection of children’s books in Scots and Gaelic.
The shop certainly has a strong Scottish emphasis. What are your thoughts on the future of Scottish publishing and bookselling in the wake of the referendum and the continuing threat of online megastores?
Well, there’s no denying that people’s buying habits are changing, and that more people – especially young people – are shopping mainly online. But I think people do still appreciate bookshops, especially when, like us, they have a specific focus. If you’ve got a really niche interest in, say, medieval Scotland, it’s possible we’ve got a book you haven’t seen before. We’ve also noticed that a lot of people still like to look through children’s books before buying them, which is an experience that can’t quite be replicated online.
What would you consider the greatest ‘treasure’ in the bookshop?
The obvious answer to that would probably be our antiquarian maps, which draw a fair amount of attention. These, too, fit the Scottish theme of the shop, and offer yet another perspective on Scottish history. However, the real strength of the shop is our dedication to our theme. You’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else with a comparable selection of Gaelic books (for both children and adults) or Scottish history books. We challenge anyone to come in and not find anything to interest them.
Finally, other than your own shop, are there any bookshops in Scotland you would recommend to a friend?
I, like so many others, discovered Voltaire and Rousseau on Otago Lane while at uni, and have ended up buying something unexpected every time I’ve been. I also have fond memories of my last visit to The Mainstreet Trading Company in St Boswell’s.