As a writer, I don’t think you’ll ever find me dabbling in any kind of dystopian, futuristic genres. I know never say never… but beyond self-nostalgia, I enjoy daydreaming into the past… history, getting lost in the richness of it. I’m obsessed with learning about apothecaries, American and European witch trials, Baroque art, and medieval alchemy. Folklore, monsters, and faeries. I chose Medieval Age Brittany and Cornwall to set my first novel in for a very specific reason…
Yesterday, my family and I took a ride to Julian. Tucked between the nooks of the Cuyamaca and Volcan Mountains, Julian is an old saloon town reminiscent of the 19th century gold rush era. It was our fourth trip up there in our year-and-a-half residing in Southern California. My husband and I love the area for the quaint shops, delicious organic sage-infused honey and teas mixes, and the friendly chit-chat with locals who recognize we ain’t from these parts (if you imagined that in a John Wayne drawl—quite accurate).
This time though, we went for the multitude of antique shops that line the main road into Julian; I’m not sure exactly, but I must have seen at least seven on the way in. We were on the prowl for an Olde English style hanging tavern sign. I went into my search knowing very well it that would be a stretch to find one on the west coast; I reckon this is partially due to the scarcity of English and Scottish immigrants here—as opposed to the amassed communities on the east coast, anyway—dating back that far. So, long story short, we did not find an Olde English tavern sign as planned… but as fate allowed, I found something momentarily far more intriguing.
The antique shop we ultimately ended up at was The Barn Vintage Marketplace. From the outside, it seriously looked like every rustic-lightworking photographer’s dream setting. I was afraid that that meant it was going to be full of shabby-chic, expensive items from the ’70’s and ’80’s, like most of the “vintage” labeled shops scattering the San Diego area. Granted, I suppose anything from a former decade could be considered so. But the kind of antiques that tend to catch my eye are from the 1950’s and prior. World War I and II-era artifacts are nothing to sniff at. However, I will absolutely squeal at anything boasting the grandiloquent 1800’s literary style.
Alas, we were pleasantly surprised. Amongst an abundance of apothecary cupboards, Underwood typewriters, pearl necklaces, and iron wrought chandeliers—we found books! Actually, it was my husband Tim who found them. Sweet Tim, who already knows that I will inadvertently ignore him amidst a thrum of disinterested mhmm’s and oh, really’s while he tries to show me anything in an antique shop, after I’ve found the book section. He made a beeline for what looked like a rusted shop shelf, perhaps originally meant for storing garage or workshop tools of some sort. It was stacked with leather-bound classics. These books were breathtaking, titles stamped in gold leaf and pages preserved, though time-worn.
I walked out—or, rather, Timothy walked me out—with two of them. This time, I chose titles that I have not yet read.
The first I discovered was an old French Primer book, which I believe after skimming through it, was a college or high school textbook. This one was published in the year 1873 by E. Steiger, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington. I chose it because I am currently trying to self-learn the basics of the French language, being that my upcoming novel is set in Brittany, or Bretagne. The contents of this textbook appear even easier for me to comprehend than the beginner’s course language app I’m using, so I think I’ll use it to brush up before moving onto the next level.
The second I found chose me. At least it seemed that way. It was a small, red, leather-bound book embellished in gold cover lettering. The cover was unattached from the actual binding, so the shop owner kindly secured it with a thin piece of cordage. I refused to glance at the book title until we got home, and when I did I was pleasantly surprised. Unlike my usual favorites—Swift, Dumas, and Dickens—this was a book by English author and antiquarian Charles Lamb. The book I chose was Essays of Elia, which is a collection of Lamb’s own personal essays, then written under the pseudonym Elia to utilize his wit freely. It was published in 1823 in Great Britain.
All in all, I think I have found a new-ish hobby; I have always felt the itching need in bookstores to purchase as many as my wallet allows. I will normally pick a book on my to-be-read list that I would’ve eventually purchased anyway to quell this never-ending need for leather bound adventure. But perhaps, there is something odd about older pieces—original, first-print copies, that strikes me as somewhat magical. Maybe literary luminaries of those times were wizards, too? Historical works often tingle, makes one feel. Sounds like enchantment to me. Don’t you think?
Below are some photos of our other finds. This vintage marketplace was enchanting, and a must-see for those venturing into Julian.