By: Annie Rueter, Contributor
Brown & Dickson isn’t your average anonymous bookseller.
Forget the New York Times bestsellers list — Brown & Dickson is packed with a beautiful collection of rare Canadian antiquarian books that can’t be found at your local Chapters.
“We sell books that we like, books that are beautiful, books we can stand behind that we think are worth reading," explains Vanessa Brown, co-owner of Brown & Dickson. "We sell books that express our vision of 20th-century culture and help us explore that culture.”
Brown co-owns the shop alongside Jason Dickson. It was a shared interest in reading and writing that initially brought the pair together both professionally and personally when they first started working together in a used bookshop.
“It’s one of those things where you stumble into the job you’re really good at and also like,” says Brown. “So when it comes to interest in antique books, it comes from loving books and loving to read and being fascinated by the book as an object, not just as a container of information.”
Amongst the collection are books on local London history, comics, regionalist art and local Canadian interest.
“When people hear the words ‘antiquarian books’ and ‘Canadiana,’ that brings to mind very specific things…. You picture austere library shelves, maybe an old man with a monocle sitting behind a desk,” explains Dickson. “But we’re under 40 and we grew up in that classic antiquarian book culture ... and it doesn’t represent what we do.”
For readers with niche interests, the store is a place to explore and discuss these interests with fellow customers and Brown and Dickson themselves.
“It’s really great to have a place where people can get into their shit and talk about it," says Dickson. "You have a professor of the history of medicine … talking to a punk printmaker with tattoos all over his hands, but they both love typeface and they both love books, and they’re dorking out about some weird story.... I really like that.”
“We geek out about it with them,” adds Brown.
Everything Brown and Dickson do reflects their dedication to preserving 20th-century Canadian culture. When designing their shop’s space, Brown and Dickson remained true to the historical look of their location at Novack’s, where they are the anchor tenants of a newly developed retail incubator.
The thick white shelves, typewrite face labels and bare wooden posts look native to the space.
“We wanted it to reflect the outdoor Canadian type environment. There’s so much history in the store and the plain white lets the books speak from themselves,” explains Brown.
Through the efforts of their collection, Brown and Dickson hope to preserve and pass along valuable stories that are overlooked and are seemingly mundane.
“We like to re-contextualize the bizarre, hidden, forgotten parts of 20th-century Canadian culture,” says Brown. “Books transmit our culture.”
Brown & Dickson is located in the Novack's Building at 211 King St. and is open from Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.