03 November 2006

1199) Lamelif second-hand bookstore: where in-demand books are found

At Lamelif second-hand bookstore, located in Beyoğlu's Büyükparmakkapı Street, you can find Hungarian, Spanish, French, Italian, Latin, Armenian and Greek books about Turkey

Books have been a major subject of conversation lately due to the 25th Istanbul TÜYAP Book Fair, during which authors and their new books meet with their readers. Turkey's first education minister, Hasan Ali Yücel, once said, “If people are going to buy something, they should buy books; if they are going to sell something, they should sell books.” This statement explains many things. . .
People who are interested in literature begin to have interest in history some time later. They sell their literary books and begin to buy history books. This is why they often visit second-hand bookstores.

There are not too many second-hand bookstores in Istanbul today, especially since the ones in Beyazıt went out of business. Nowadays, you can find second-hand bookstores in the Kadıköy and Beyoğlu districts. The Lamelif second-hand bookstore, located in Beyoğlu's Büyükparmakkapı Street, is one of them. As you enter Lamelif, you are welcomed by the attractive scent of old books. Yes, the book you are looking for is there, but what about the others? At this point you have two choices: you will either buy your book and leave the store or you will look for other books that you want to have in your library. This is why second-hand bookstores have a nice atmosphere.



Murat Uncu, owner of Lamelif:

As soon as a second-hand bookstore opens, book lovers and collectors hear about it. There is a secret and interesting communication between second-hand bookstores and readers. Lamelif is not a bookstore that you can pass by without visiting. Murat Uncu opened Lamelif two-and-a-half years ago but his interest in books has a long history. Born in Istanbul, Uncu spent his childhood in Kabataş. An English language and literature teacher who was living in their building opened his library to Uncu. He has been involved in book selling since 1999 and says that he loves his business too much. His passion for literature is evident when he talks.

Lamelif is a store where old books are sold. There are second-hand books published five to 10 years ago as well as ones that are hard to find or out of print. Uncu says that there are 40,000 books and 10,000 magazines at Lamelif.

“We have books that are not very old and expensive but important. We focus on history, Turcology and Turkish literature books. The French language was particularly dominant in Turkey in the past. This is why we have a rich collection of French and German books. We also have various film posters, old Istanbul photos and postcards. When European, especially French people come to Lamelif they are very surprised that there are 2,000 French books. We have so many detailed books; it is hard to find them even in France.”



Great interest in old Istanbul life:

Uncu says that foreign books on the Ottoman Empire and Istanbul are in great demand and that Hungarian, Spanish, French, Italian, Latin, Armenian and Greek books can be found at Lamelif. Noting that despite their customer profile largely being collectors and academics, there are also housewives who come to Lamelif to buy books. “Our foreign customers generally buy engravings and maps. For example, during the NATO meeting in Istanbul there was an unbelievable demand for maps of Istanbul. Also, Turkish posters of foreign films, which were screened in the 1950s and the 1960s, are highly requested by South Americans. Italians and Spaniards generally demand film posters and old Istanbul photos.”

Uncu states that books, especially first editions that have been signed by their authors, are prized by collectors.

“Actually, we don't have too many authors whose signed books become more valuable after their death. The number of these authors is 10 at most. Oğuz Atay's signed book 'Tutunamayanlar' or all signed books of Nazım Hikmet are very important. It is very hard to find a book signed by Ömer Seyfettin, and I have never seen a book signed by him. It is just hearsay that there are signed copies of his books. There was nothing like a 'book-signing event' organized for authors 50 years ago. Authors then used to sign books they presented to people they knew. Now there are numerous books signed by Aziz Nesin, Yaşar Kemal or Can Yücel. We don't yet have too many people who collect signed books in Turkey. Ömer Koç and Celal Şahingör are among our signed book collectors of world standards. Alper Çeker is a very serious collector and I am sure that he will have a very rich archive of signed books in the future,” he says.

Stating that he doesn't approve and is not interested in political interpretations about Orhan Pamuk, who won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, Uncu says he is very hopeful about the new generation of authors.

“A Turkish author was given the Nobel Prize but it doesn't mean that other Turkish authors are not good. The Nobel Prize criteria for a doctor of medicine or a scientist or a man of letters are not the same. This is why I don't get angry at those who say that Pamuk received the Nobel Prize because of his remarks. If we are talking about good authors, Elif Şafak is a very strong author. Also, Selçuk Altun is writing nice things in the field of essay writing.”



Second-hand book selling is difficult in Turkey:

Uncu, who states that Turkey is a country where second-hand book selling is very difficult, explains the reason for this.

“Turkey is a multicultural country and has a long history. Books and magazines in Armenian, Greek, Hebrew and French languages were published in this country. There are old books written in five or six languages. On the other hand, in Europe you can find stores selling only poetry books but you don't have this chance in Turkey. If you sell only poetry or theater books, you lose money because there is no wide market for such books. You need to sell new or old poetry, theater, scientific, detective books and novels and be interested in all of these fields to some extent.”

Uncu is a member of the newly established Association of Second-hand Book Sellers executive board. He explains the reason why they gathered under the roof of an association as second-hand book sellers.

“Second-hand book selling was not a business known by the state. We needed to register in trade chambers. As part of the EU harmonization process, we will need to have a license for book buying and selling in 2007. All these things caused us to take a step as a sector and to establish an association. We formalized our business and received our license as second-hand book buyers and sellers in 2006.”

November 2, 2006
ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

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