I had the chance for a bit of a wander today - and popped in at the Freedom Press bookshop, hidden away (and I really mean hidden away) down an alley at the side of the Whitechapel Gallery. It's the sort of place that's always worth a good rummage. The new stock is largely anarchist or that way inclined - but there's also some second-hand sections which are much more diverse.
For the first time, I think, I went to the guy in charge and said one of his books simply shouldn't be on sale at all. A work of philosophy by Herbert Spencer once owned by, and bearing the signature of, the anarchist Matt Kavanagh, and with copious pencil notes either by him or someone else. This should be part of the Freedom Press archive held at the Bishopsgate Institute - I hope that's where this book will be heading.
I was happy enough with what I did pick up. I got a 1924 edition of Bertrand Russell's Justice in War-Time with the ownership signature of John Hewetson, one of the defendants in the renowned Freedom trial of 1945 which was about, yes, justice in war-time.
The other really nice book was J.M. Guyau's 1891 volume Education and Heredity: a study in sociology - bought above all for this splendid bookplate.
Tom Keell was the mainstay of the Freedom Press for a decade either side of the First World War.
The book also has the ownership signature of the educationalist G.W.S. Howson.
Why Freedom is disposing of its library in this way, I really don't know. It's not even raking in lots of money.
From there to Bishopsgate, where the library often has shelves laden with items for sale - there's usually a few things of interest amid, on this occasion, a remarkable number of titles about Stalin.
This is my favourite of the handful of items I picked up at Bishopsgate today - a pamphlet by the renowned historian E.P. Thompson about the struggle for a free press. It was published in 1952.
This pamphlet looks at the history of the movement for a free press, and concludes: 'Today the Daily Worker has become one of the last channels for the circulation of free opinion, the only paper to stand between the people and the unprincipled campaign of lies and war propaganda of the capitalist press.'
Four years later, E.P. Thompson walked out of the Communist Party - largely because of disagreements over freedom of expression.
And in case you are wondering about the title of this blogpost: We're All Normal And We Want Our Freedom: Tribute To Arthur Lee & Love is a 1994 tribute album for the band Love and its leader Arthur Lee. The album was named after a line in their song "The Red Telephone" from the album Forever Changes. The phrase originated in Marat/Sade, a play written by Peter Weiss.
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