Till’s was opened in 1986 by Rick and Ann Till and is still managed by Rick today. The Canadian transplant boasts a huge selection of fiction and non-fiction, many of the books sporting charming discontinued covers.
When the fire is lit on a winter’s day, it’s easy for a Till’s customer to imagine themselves in Edinburgh in the 1980s, back when Till’s was the only store to sell used paperback books.
The market for books aged longer than those fresh off the press at Blackwell’s – but not quite as long as the antiques with hefty price tags to be found at McNaughtan’s – has expanded since Till’s was founded, but the shop retains a strong niche in the market.
Perfect for cinephiles, Till’s stocks up on posters and memorabilia during the Festival, making them available to film fanatics year-round. Complement a poster purchase with a paperback or two, all reasonably priced between two and four pounds. Customers in a hurry need only peek behind the charming swinging counter for an expert staff member to direct them to their preferred genre.
Two rooms of floor-to-ceiling shelving may seem modest, but Till’s packs in a lifetime of reading. No particular book is on display more than another; there are no staff recommendations (unless you ask). Each book competes for the reader’s attention on the merit of its spine, and some have lived on the shelf for quite some time. The result is a bibliophile’s dream: a rainy-day trove of undiscovered gems hidden among highlights of the literary canon.
At any given time, modern favourites from Margaret Atwood to Markus Zusak may coexist happily next to classics from Jane Austen to Emile Zola with plenty of unexpected relics of twentieth century publishing in between. Of course, no title is a given find; the shop has enough turnover to see locals come back regularly.
After finding their poison of choice, Till’s readers are well-situated for a bookish stroll through the nearby Meadows or a cosy cup of coffee at Cult Espresso around the corner.
Photograph: Rebecca Heap