Second-Hand Bookshopping in Brisbane

Hubble and I enjoy rummaging through second-hand bookshops. They are treasure troves. I buy some new books, but I am building up my Australian history collection by finding out of print, sometimes obscure gems in second-hand bookshops. Often these books are hard to find in a library near me – particularly if they solely relate to a state other than the state in which I live. I visited two great second-hand bookshops while I was in Brisbane recently. I left Sydney with a 10kg suitcase and returned with a 20kg suitcase full of second-hand books.

Red brick building with 'Archives Fine Books' sign at the bottom and "John Mills Himself' formed in concrete at the top.

Archives Fine Books in Charlotte Street, Brisbane

Book cover

Soldiers of the Service Vol II, edited by Eddie Clarke and Tom Watson (Church Archivists’ Press, 1999).

For a number of years I have been visiting Archives Fine Books in Charlotte Street. Recently I found a large room at the back of the shop that I had not been aware of. In this room I found Soldiers of the Service Volume II: More Early Queensland Educators and their Schools. Not too many people would get excited by this title, but it should be a good reference book for my work about the history of education in Queensland. I bought it because I thought it would be difficult to borrow from a library in Sydney where I live. Not only is it available in very few libraries, there was not one image of the front cover on the internet until I photographed my own and uploaded it. Now I need to find a copy of Volumes I and III. Given the interest in this book (see comments) I have added a list of the chapter titles of this book at the end of this post.

I also picked up some old school readers. School readers are generally not digitised. I am purchasing readers when I can so that I can digitise them at home using my camera, a cardboard box, a lamp and some optical character recognition (OCR) software to convert print to machine readable text using these instructions. Once I have done this I can easily analyse the text in these readers.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am a big believer in walking the streets of the places I am researching. Historical research can be a very sedentary occupation so walking the streets is also a good way to get some exercise on a research trip. One morning I walked a couple of kilometres from my hotel to Bent Books in Brisbane’s West End.

Small bright blue shop with 'B3NT BOOKS' written in red above a red and yellow awning in

Bent Books, 205A Boundary Street, West End.

100 years of history : Holland Park Mosque 1908-2008 by Mustafa A Ally (Eight Mile Plains, 2008).

100 years of history : Holland Park Mosque 1908-2008 by Mustafa A Ally (Eight Mile Plains, 2008).

It was well worth the walk. Bent Books has a well organised history section where I picked up 100 years of history: Holland Park Mosque 1908-2008. According to Trove, this book is only available in four Australian libraries, none of which are in Sydney. I am looking forward to learning more about Brisbane’s experience of Islam.

Bent Books is on Boundary Street in West End. This street marks the boundary where Aboriginal people were not allowed to cross after dusk (see The History of Boundary Street Curfew). Earlier this year there was a debate about whether the name should be changed but at least one Aboriginal elder argued that renaming the street would be wrong as such an action would enable people to avoid an essential aspect of our history.

Huggins Auntie Rita

Auntie Rita by Rita Huggins and Jackie Huggins (Aboriginal Studies Press, 1994).

Bent Books, like most good second-hand bookshops, has books about our Aboriginal history. I picked up a book that I have been wanting to read for some time – Auntie Rita by Rita and Jackie Huggins.

Second-hand bookshops offer a great service recycling old books. Like shopping at a good bricks and mortar retailer of new books, it is the experience of being in the bookshop which counts as much as finding books. I know that I can just get onto Abe Books and order whatever I want from the comfort of home, but I enjoy searching searching for books on the shelves, talking to shop owners and customers. At Bent Books a customer recommended that I check out Boswell’s Books in Ashgrove. I’ll do that next time I’m in Brisbane.

After a bout of second-hand bookshopping I add them to my LibraryThing catalogue. If they are paperback books I cover them with contact – I hate dog-eared books. Books go straight onto the shelf if I have previously read them through a library or if they are reference books, otherwise I add them to my bedtime reading ‘to be read’ (TBR) pile or my research TBR pile.

Soldiers of the Service Vol II: List of Chapters

After the introduction by Tom Watson:

  1. ‘Andrew Barlow: A Reforming Minister of Education, 1903-1909’ by Tom Watson
  2. ‘John Douglas Story: The ‘Atlas’ of Queensland Education: His rise to power, values and administrative style, 1900-1923′ by Greg Logan
  3. ‘Leonard Morris: The Long-serving Superintendent of Technical Education: developing practical technical education, 1909-1925’ by David Green
  4. ‘James Stubbin: The Zealous Teacher of Agriculture, 1910-1926’ by Greg Logan
  5. ‘Marianne Brydon: The Respected Inspectress of Women’s Work, 191901932’ by Michael Marendy
  6. ‘Edith Bryan: The Gifted Teacher of the Deaf and Dumb, 1901-1937’ by Geoff Swan
  7. ‘Reginald Roe: The Cultured Inspector-General, 1909-1917’ by Tom Watson
  8. ‘Milisent Wilkinson: The Battling Lady Principal of Brisbane Girls Grammar Scool, 1900-1912’ by Tom Watson
  9. ‘Frederick Bousfield: The Besieged Headmaster of Brisbane Grammar School, 1909-1928’ by Pam Barnett
  10. ‘John Shirley: The Highly Qualified Trainer of Teachers, 1914-1919’ by Tom Watson
  11. ‘Cuthbert Potts: The Isolated Principal, Queensland Agricultural College, Lawes, 1915-1923’ by Philip Raymont

10 thoughts on “Second-Hand Bookshopping in Brisbane

  1. I lost my favourite 2nd hand bookshop, Booksabilia in Carlisle WA (but I did get to buy their entire Australian collection), but there are plenty in Freo to keep me going. If I’m visiting mum in Melbourne there’s a shop opposite Nunawading station which has layers of books, on the shelves and on the floor, you can just keep digging until you’re exhausted.


    • It is sad when a bookshop closes but you were lucky having the opportunity to buy that collection! Thanks for the tip re the second hand bookshop opposite Nunawading station. I’ll check it out next time I’m in Melbourne.


  2. Damn you, Yvonne — winking eye !

    You may not believe this, but it is God’s own truth. I was at Archives Fine Books in Charlotte Street, several months ago with my youngest daughter, and I found Volume 1 and 3 of Soldiers of the Service, and I was desperately trying to find Volume 2 on the shelf. I swear to God, not that I believe in such an entity, it is the truth. I bought Soldiers of the Service Volume 1: Some Early Queensland Educators and their Schools, and Soldiers of the Service Volume 3: Mid-Twentieth Century Queensland Educators, from that very same bookshop.

    Needless to say, I want that Volume 2 which you got your ‘grabby hands’ on (winking eye). As someone else publishing in the the history of education in Queensland, what do you suggest we can do to resolve the issue?


    • Hilarious! I want your volumes and you want mine 🙂 There is a volume II on ebay that you could get. Seems volume I is easier to find than volumes II and III.


  3. I enjoyed reading your great post about second-hand bookshops. I’m interested in your new treasure about early educators in Queensland. My great-grandfather on my husband’s side started a school in Rosewood, near Ipswich, in the 1860s/1870s (would have to look up the info) after he and his wife arrived from Ireland. His name was John William Vance and his wife was Olivia (Johnson). Just wondered if he is mentioned in your book. Regards, Carol Vance-Roberts, Windsor, NSW.


    • Given the interest in Soldiers of the Service Vol II I have added a list of the chapter titles at the end of the post. As you can see the focus of this volume is on early twentieth century. There is no mention of Vance in the index and two brief mentions of Rosewood because James Stubbin was a pupil-teacher at the school from 1888 and worked there until 1894. That is the extent of the reference to Rosewood. You could check the index for Volume I to see if the person you are interested in is mentioned.


    • Fantastic! I am trying to download one now – I seem to have a slow connection. I worked with Deakin’s excellent Australian Schools Textbook Collection a few years ago while I was working on the Teaching Reading in Australia project. I featured this collection on my post, Significant Historic Australian Education Collections – Deakin University, Geelong. Are they in the process of digitising more from the Australian School Textbook Collection?

      I’ll add this link to Stumbling Through History Links when I next update it. Thank you for your contribution!


      • Hi perkinsy, there are very likely to be more such items digitised in the future, although I can’t tell you what and when, as it all depends on funding and whatever other priorities arise when another project gets the go-ahead. The PDF files in the link I gave you are very high quality, and thus the files are pretty large. Lower quality, and thus more easily downloaded files can be found here – All the items in the Special Collections folder in that first link I gave you should also be in the fusion link somewhere.

        Thanks for the Deakin link; hadn’t seen it. And yes, I do work there in the library, although not in the ADPML itself.


      • Thanks for all this. I opened the downloaded file and was impressed that you had already run OCR on it – so many cultural institutions don’t do this simple step and end users often can’t do it themselves as they don’t have the professional edition of Adobe Acrobat.


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