Withnail Books of Penrith Cumbria takes its name from the cult film, with the motto ‘I’ve opened a bookshop—by mistake’. The proprietor specialises in cult literature, has a shelf labelled Really Weird and enjoys books on obscure subjects.
It was here I found the improbably-titled Tobacco Cultivation in England, an unusual item in the bibliography of the poet and nature-writer Ronald Duncan. Another visit offered a book on barbed-wire collectors in the American West.
Alongside this fascinating stock, Withnail Books also publishes nicely produced booklets of rare literary material. In the past they have issued a newly discovered piece by Saki, a ghost story possibly attributed to Mary Shelley, an unreprinted letter by T E Lawrence, and other interesting finds.
The latest publication offers At the Door of Darkness, ‘a forgotten episode’ from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a passage excised before the book was published. Though known to Conrad scholars, it has not been available more widely before.
The new publication includes a
transcription of the deleted text from the manuscript, the heavily edited
passage as eventually published in the printed version, and a detailed introduction by editor Adam Newell,
together with a linocut frontispiece by Sharon Newell and images of Conrad's
original manuscript pages. It is in a limited edition of 100 copies.