(Photos and text by Elizabeth Mitchell)
Ten Editions Bookstore occupies the corner of Spadina and Sussex in the Annex and has done so now for 15 years. The pedestrian traffic outside is steady but in the rush to get to work or classes at the nearby U of T, many pass the store daily without a thought. It’s their loss, for the store boasts an impressive stash that lovers of books and memorabilia would be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the city.
“We have a little bit of most things,” says owner Susan Duff as she sits behind her desk near the back of the store. Surrounded by a swirl of both classic Canadiana and pop cultural gems alike—from a signed photo of Native poet Pauline Johnson to a Perry Mason board game—Duff ’s seen a lot over the years and is hip not only to the many challenges facing the used-bookseller, but to the seismic change in customers as well. “In the past people would come in to browse,” she says, “but no one seems to have time for that now and they come in looking for one book. If I don’t have it, they won’t look around, so the chance of discovering a real find is gone.” A refreshing polar opposite to Chapters Indigo head honcho Heather Reisman, Duff may be lacking in the recommended reads department for the five-minute shopper but she more than makes up this perceived shortcoming in variety and curiosities.
Immediately upon entering the store you know the place is not a quick study. Floor to ceiling shelves covering both side walls are fitted with rails and sliding ladders to accommodate curious customers, with one side dedicated to everything from language and economics texts and other non-fictional works, and the other to fiction. The stacks between the walls are laden with a bit of just about everything else. “It’s a bit like the old card catalogues at the library,” Duff comments about her store. “Where while you’re looking for something in particular you’d discover other related books along the way.”
The feather in Ten Editions’ cap, however, is the Canadian room in the rear, replete with history and works of fiction to die for. Sure there’s the varied editions of the two Margarets—Atwood and Laurence—and the obligatory Pierre Burton and other history texts, but where else would you find Dale of the Mounted, a series for kids written by an RCMP, or pulp fiction-like books on the crime, corruption, and greed of the Mulroney years side by side? The wooden card catalogue cabinets filled with vintage postcards, photographs, labels, and menus along with the two file cabinets of vintage sheet music are the room’s cherry on top. Hours of entertainment await your fingertips!
Duff took over the store from her mother Christine, who, somewhat baffled by the curve ball retirement threw her, moved into the space in 1995 when the former tenant, scholarly and antiquarian bookseller Atticus Books, headed for Harbord Street. A believer in the importance of the community bookstore, the life-long bibliophile named the store Ten Editions, an edition for each of her ten children, with the mind of sharing her love of reading with others. Like her mother, Duff continues getting her books from the usual estate sales, flea markets, and book scouts with one noted difference, an increase in in-store drop offs in recent years. “All these anti-hoarding TV shows are telling people it’s not a good thing to do,” she says with a slight smirk on her face. “Everyone’s been brainwashed into wanting clean lines—Ikea—it’s a path that’s happening.” For those not interested in going that route, Ten Editions has fabulous pickings.
(Ten Editions Books is located at 698 Spadina Avenue. Hours: 10 – 6 Monday through Friday, 11 – 6 Saturday and Sunday.)