Finding a copy of a book that is no longer being published can be tricky. Yes, you can get a copy from the British Library, but that isn't the same as having a copy of your very own. You can try looking online, but if a book had only ever been published locally to begin with there is sometimes no alternative but to do things the old-fashioned way of phoning up the local bookshops and asking if they have a copy.
Now I was after a book that is notoriously difficult to find. I'd been phoning bookshop after bookshop to no avail. The local library didn't stock it, the county library didn't stock it, Southampton Solent University's library, the uni I work at, didn't stock it – you just couldn't get a copy anywhere. So when I decided to go to the University of Southampton's Turner Sims concert hall to see a silent film ('Dawn' (1928), based on the story of Edith Cavell) I thought that as I was going to be in the area with time to kill, I might as well pop into the University of Southampton's library and ask if they had a copy. If any university in the country had a copy, then they should. They have all sorts of stuff in the collection, including Wellington's handwritten orders from the Battle of Waterloo.
So I went into the library's reception, walked up to the desk and asked, Do you have a copy of and gave the book title followed by who it was by. I had thought that this was a perfectly normal question to ask librarians, the sort of thing that they'd be asked everyday, but judging from the look I got in return I guess not. It wasn't as if I hadn't tried to see if they had an online catalogue, which they had, but it seemed to be a generic and useless university one1.
Perhaps they could see that I was carrying a copy of the book with me – to explain, I do own a copy of the heavily edited and revised early 1990s reprint, but not an original first edition which I believe to be substantially different. In any case, someone who looked quite managerial and surprisingly aggressive joined the receptionist and began glaring at me, which I felt was rather uncalled for. So I explained I was searching for a copy of the book and I also said I hoped to catalogue my quest to find it with photographs. I asked if it was possible that, even if the library didn't have a copy of the original, if I could take a photo of my own copy sat on the reception desk just to log that I had been here as part of my search. At that the manager grew very impatient and said that no photography was allowed inside the library of any sort, and feeling I had outstayed my welcome, I decided to leave. But not before I went to the library's café for some nammet. I enjoyed a sausage roll and cup of tea while reading a couple of chapters of my own copy of the book.
I then went outside and took the following photograph of my book outside the University of Southampton's library.