At 31 Long Acre, just north of Covent Garden, there is a plain white door with no sign or apparent significance. If however you stop to look down the list of residents you will find Bertram Rota Ltd and a small button. Press the button and the door will unlock, opening onto a narrow blank corridor leading to a set of carpeted stairs. At the top of the stairs there is another small corridor and then, all of a sudden, it opens out into a room filled from floor to ceiling with books and an old wooden desk at its centre.
Discovering Bertram Rota Booksellers conjures up the delight of being let in on a wonderful secret. The company specialises in modern first editions, the first print runs of books written in the past two centuries. Established in 1923, the company has an impressive collection of rare and exquisite books including original manuscripts. While most of its clients are collectors, the booksellers are always pleased when people come in and peruse their shelves.
It is a joy in itself to handle and read through books that are annotated or signed by some of the greatest writers in history. Many of Bertram Rota's books have stories of their own and the annotations of several hands that are hidden away in many of the volumes paint intriguing pictures of previous readers. The atmosphere of the shop is relaxed and comfortable with light streaming in from two large windows and no sharp or hard edges in sight. If ever you want somewhere to sit and think, to get engrossed in a book or to discover new writers, Bertram Rota's is a good place to start.
The best aspect of visiting Bertram Rota Ltd however is the staff. It is rare indeed to find such knowledgeable, enthusiastic and well-read people. If you have any questions or just want an interesting conversation, the staff at Bertram Rota will be happy to oblige. Most of their custom today is Internet based and so they like talking to customers. Not only are the staff well acquainted with the contents of most of their stock but they also know the back story behind each book and how it came to them. If you have the time to let them talk you through the history of the shop and its wares it is well worth the investment.
In the bustling pell-mell of city life it is often difficult to pause and see through the advertisement and glaring high street, but when you do there are a great many wonders hidden away that are worth finding. Bertram Rota Ltd is just such a place. While it is a business you get the impression that the shop was not set up to make money, but was set up because its owners loved books and literature and wanted to both preserve and share it. For anyone who loves literature, it is certainly worth giving them the opportunity to express their enthusiasm.