Between the Covers
South Ex Books and Prints us where biblophiles go treasure hunting
Beware of Dog, warns a signboard outside flat number A 40, South Extension II, but beyond that and the iron gates lies a city secret. South Ex Books and Prints is a treasure trove that you need to explore at a languid pace. The heavy wood door opens into interiors that look like they were inspired by a period film. Antique wooden furniture and ornate glass chandeliers will try and impress you, but ignore those amd walk up to the rows of bookshelves, that rise floor- to- ceiling . To those in the know, this is a one- stop- shop for all kinds of antique books, maps, prints and photographs. South Ex Books and Prints seels collectibles such as a signed copies of George Bernard Shaw’s works, the first English edition of Ulysses, and first editions of Rudyard Kipling’s many works peer from behind the bookshelves. THE LEGACY Owner Rajiv Jain, 53, a second generation antiquarian, who inherited the store from his father GC Jain, 78, recalls how a bookstoore such as his was not rare in the city. “Delhi used to have so many such bookstores selling antique books, but now only five or six, including ours, are left,” he says. His father GC Jain opened his first bookstore in 1967 in what was then Calcutta. “I always had an affinity for books, and it was Shubho Tagore, nephew of Rabindranath Tagore who inspired and patronised my venture. I began collecting rare books and started importing illustrated books on history, natural history and travel,” recalls GC Jain. The family moved to Delhi in 1985 and Jain restarted the bookshop at their residence. While Jain senior has now retired, his sons Rajiv and Sanjiv have inherited his passion for books and love it when other book lovers ask to see some rare copies from their collection. “We show them the books even when we know it may not be a sale,” says Jain. The anecdotes they share are as priceless as the books themselves. “One of our oldest books is the History of the Sect of Banias from 1630, and is a work on India. We have the Limited Editions of Lysistrata signed by none other then Pablo Picasso. Another very special book in our collection is Six Principal Ragas: With a brief View of Hindu Music,” says Rajiv, for who tracking these rare books is a collectors mission more than a trade requirement. “Our regular clients are hotels, auction houses and collectors. The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts has bought quite a few books from us too,” says Rajiv. Prices begi at a few thousands and go up to lakhs, depending on the rarity. A browsing session and the history lesson, of course are on the house and priceless.
Book Warm: Rajiv with his father GC Jain n at the shop; ( left) A book signed by Pablo Picasso