I came across this word in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows today. I can’t find it in the Oxford Dictionary, so I’m rather dubious about it being a ‘real word’ (whatever that may mean), but I love it just the same. It’s exactly how I feel the moment I enter most second-hand bookstores.

A definition according to The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows: “vellichor: n. the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time — filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read, each of which is itself locked in its own era, bound and dated and papered over like an old room the author abandoned years ago, a hidden annex littered with thoughts left just as they were on the day they were captured.”

Bookstore South Africa

I’ve always felt exactly like that. There’s something sad about an abandoned book. It looks lonely, neglected, past its prime. But there’s also something bewitching about the words it still holds – the potential world it represents; a legacy beyond time.

One of my favourite second-hand bookstores is Cafda in Claremont. It’s a veritable treasure trove of forlorn, forgotten manuscripts displayed in haphazard disarray. The Cape Flats Development Association (CAFDA) has been running since 1944, and provides support and shelter to the people of Cape Town. The bookstore is one source of funding which the organisation uses to affect change where it’s most needed. It’s good to know my insatiable book buying is for a good cause! I popped in today and gave four old books a new home – my next few days are going to involve sun bathing on my patio with a novel and a cup of tea.


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