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.

CHANDRADEEP KUMAR/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

Book Warm: Ra­jiv with his fa­ther GC Jain n at the shop; ( left) A book signed by Pablo Pi­casso

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