Subscription Subscription
Home > Sunday Mid Day News > Your ultimate antiquarian trail in Mumbai

Your ultimate antiquarian trail in Mumbai

Updated on: 09 June,2024 07:33 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Sanjeevni Iyer |

It’s authenticity, intricacy of design and eloquence of the writing that makes rare books so sought-after in Mumbai, tell us the sellers and preservers of the same

Your ultimate antiquarian trail in Mumbai

Hitlar Nadar shows a copy of an English-to-Chinese dictionary from the 1800s. Pics/Ashish Raje

Listen to this article
Your ultimate antiquarian trail in Mumbai

Purchasing and collecting books from second-hand booksellers is a unique aesthetic of bookselling and reading in Mumbai. The musty smell, scribbled notes from previous readers, affordable prices, and the flexibility of exchanging and returning books, curates a very distinctive reading experience in the city.

Amidst these sellers, sit the antiquarians, who have been collecting and selling books for more than 20 years, bringing an explicit collection of old and rare books, dating back to the 1800s. “I’ve always been an avid reader and this profession of selling and collecting books started during my college days,” says Shashikant Sawant, a rare bookseller from Vashi.

VM Uday Kumar
VM Uday Kumar

“We have books like the unabridged version of the 1880s’ Arabian Nights, Bertrand Russel’s 1903 Principles of Mathematics, and even the exclusive editions of Shakespeare’s books, which we sell, only after tracking them from fellow vendors across the city and beyond.” According to most antiquarians, rare books are quite difficult to find but are also the most sought-after, to the extent that some readers and collectors even pay lakhs to fetch them. The reason behind their demand is their authenticity, intricate covers, and eloquent style of writing.

Nadar shows a Chinese translated book that was published in 1935Nadar shows a Chinese translated book that was published in 1935

What makes these sellers more special, is that they use only word-of-mouth as their marketing strategy. “Being in this business for more than 30 years, helped me build my network in and around the city, including journalists, advocates, bankers, and other professionals,” adds Sawant. The prices of these books are decided based on their demand, the amount at which they are sold online, their antiquity, the price at which it was bought originally, and how much the reader is willing to pay. Unlike first-hand bookshops like Crossword or Kitaab Khaana, these sellers do not set a fixed price. Instead, if the reader is truly desperate  to read that book, but unable to afford it, then they might even give it off it for free.

Shashikant Sawant, a rare bookseller in Vashi has been collecting books from his college days. PICS/KIRTI SURVE PARADE
Shashikant Sawant, a rare bookseller in Vashi has been collecting books from his college days. PICS/KIRTI SURVE PARADE

“For us, helping readers seek knowledge is the primary goal, for which we sell our books at a very affordable price. Our books start from a price of R100, and range up to R4,000, making sure that no reader is left disappointed,” says VM Uday Varma, owner of The Book House in Matunga. 

Often, antiquarians have to track down these books from fellow second-hand dealers in and around the city, amounting to even days and weeks of tiring hunts. “My primary goal for these books is to look for unique and authentic versions of them, including their illustrative and box editions, which may sometimes even lead to more than ten years of hunt,” adds Sawant. 

However, these trails are usually quite spontaneous, picking up books as and when they see them. “Generally, I buy these books from places like Dadar or Wadala, and the purchases are often based on my intuition and years of understanding. If I find a book that’s authentic, genuinely old, and can be in demand in the future, then I just pick it up,” says Hitlar Nadar, owner of Siddu Books shop from Matunga.

>> WHERE: Siddu Books Shop, King Circle, Matunga East
Contact: Hitlar Nadar 9082561612

>> Contact: Shashikant Sawant
Contact: 9821785618

>> WHERE: The Book Shop, King Circle, Matunga East
Contact: 7304644056

"Exciting news! Mid-day is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest news!" Click here!

Register for FREE
to continue reading !

This is not a paywall.
However, your registration helps us understand your preferences better and enables us to provide insightful and credible journalism for all our readers.

Mid-Day Web Stories

Mid-Day Web Stories

This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK