The theme of our programme launch party this year was ‘love bookshops’. In a year when we’ve been hearing quite a lot in the press about bookshops closing, it seems only appropriate to celebrate the many brilliant bookshops which are still resolutely open. And in West Port we’re very lucky to have so many.

We’d also like to extend a warm West Port welcome to a new bookshop on Bread Street, Pulp Fiction, purveyor of exciting genre fiction. Pulp Fiction opens tomorrow. Wohoo!

Here are a few of the reasons we came up with at the launch about why we love bookshops:

‘I love bookshops because they allow me to dream.’

‘I love bookshops because they mark the civilised part of town.’

‘I love bookshops because they’re libraries… for keeps!’

‘I love bookshops because I met Hannah in one.’ [Ah, thanks Andrew. I met my husband in Shakespeare & Co., a second-hand bookshop in Paris. HA.]

‘I love bookshops because I love ’em honey, I love ’em.’

‘I love bookshops because they’re great places to pick up girls. Call me.’ [number on application]

‘I love bookshops because I love smelling old books.’

‘I love bookshops because they feel like home.’

‘I love bookshops because books are the insides of people’s heads and bookshops are like the butcher shops of ideation.’

‘I love bookshops because they are like airport lounges for books. But in a good way.’

We also asked people to tweet about why they loved bookshops using the #lovebookshops hashtag. Here are a few of the gems people came up with:

chrisdonia Chris Scott

I #lovebookshops because you meet all sorts of fascinating people in them, and bond over things like @neilhimself and @doctorow writings.

JohnGlenday John Glenday

@anonpoetry #lovebookshops Discovering all those books you never realised you needed to buy. @wpbookfestival


MrsSandwiches Katie Lee

Stepping into a book shop is the foreplay to stepping into a book. You’re tickling the nipples of escape. #lovebookshops

alastaircook Alastair Cook

As a child, my dad dragged me to all manner of bookshops. Mantra: “You can choose one book.” It is now my mantra to my son. #lovebookshops

davepoems Dave Coates

Bookshop full of drunks / it could almost be Paris / but for shite weather #lovebookshops @wpbookfestival

LizzieN1 Lizzie N

@ @anonpoetry Love the slow dance of those who browse, unchallenged specialists for just a beat in time #lovebookshops

Why not let us know why you love bookshops…



Just a hop, skip and teeny jump from the West Port sits a huddle of venues, Edinburgh’s arts quarter, made up of the Usher Hall, the Lyceum and the Traverse Theatre; an unrivalled density of culture out with the collected majesty of the West Port’s bookshops. 

The Traverse is the home of new writing in Edinburgh and has long had a reputation as a punchy and gallus wee bantam, a chameleon that won’t blend in. The Traverse was founded almost half a century ago to keep the spirit of the Festivals in August alive year-round, and in 2013 it will celebrate its fiftieth birthday.


From its beginnings in the early 60s, where, housed in an abandoned brothel, its first show had an accidental stage stabbing (the show went on – perhaps there was no doctor in the house?) through police raids and shocks to Edinburgh’s genteel society, to the modern day, the Traverse has maintained its dedication to supporting new writing and bringing cutting edge theatre to the audiences of Auld Reekie.

The Traverse has happily parenthesised the West Port: it moved from Grassmarket to its current location in 1992. It now holds two flexible theatre spaces as well as a vibrant café-bar. Rich in history, this is the theatre that helped launch the careers of John Byrne, David Greig, David Barrower and our current national poet, Liz Lochhead. She returned in name to the Traverse in 2011 in ‘God Bless Liz Lochhead’, part of the A Play, A Pie And A Pint series that brings lunchtime drama and tasty pies to the masses. No bad thing.

That history though is part of an on-going process. The Traverse encourages new writers, working with young people through the Young Writers Group and, with 21 years under its belt, the now-venerable Class Act, to help school pupils develop their work and see it performed onstage. 2012 saw Falkirk’s own Boyracer and author of the Moira Monologues, Alan Bissett, become part of the mentoring team.

A natty subterranean hang out with a coolly deconstructed feel, the bar has a great range of food and drinks including Traverse ale from the mighty Stewart Brewery.



More than just a fun-loving social hub, though, the Traverse bar also doubles as a venue in its own right. In recent times it has transformed itself into a hazy nightclub for BalletLORENT’s fantastic La Nuit Intime, hosted Traverse playwrights revealing their inner poets at WPBF 2011, been the venue for the widely praised Theatre Uncut series that brings near instantaneous reactions to global and local events (including library closures, the Naked Rambler’s arrest and the Occupy Movement) and supported a whole host of other events all held ‘live and raw’ in the bar.

On the 26th November Traverse Sessions, a free night of live music from the best and freshest local talent has its last night of the season at the Traverse bar. West Port Book Festival will be having its farewell shindig, so why not come along, dig their grooves and bid a fond farewell to #wpbf12?

We are pleased to announce our mystery guest is Scottish comic book artist Frank Quitely. He is best known for his frequent collaborations with Grant Morrison on titles such as New X-Men, WE3, All-Star Superman, and Batman and Robin, as well as his work with Mark Millar on The Authority. Former editor of 2000 AD, author and screenwriter David Bishop, will chair.

If you still don’t know who Frank Quitely is please ask your children. All ages welcome. This event is free and tickets can be collected from Edinburgh Books, 145-147 West Port, EH3 9DP, either from 5pm-6pm on Thursday 24, or from 10am Friday until we run out.

Bookbinding Tickets all Gone

That’s it folks. There are no more tickets for the bookbinding workshops, although there are a few left for the book repair workshop on Friday. However, there will be some ‘on the day’ tickets for the Master Bookbinding & Bookbinding Demonstration, as well as for the ‘Between the Lines’ event about letterpress printing.

Advance Tickets

We will stop reserving advance tickets close of day tomorrow. There will be plenty of ‘on the day’ tickets though so don’t worry! If you’re very keen to attend an event you can pick up a ticket from 5-6pm the day before and event from Edinburgh Books. Or just turn up from 10am onwards on the day to claim a ticket. First come, first served.

Book Quiz

Just a quick reminder that we’ll be holding a bookish quiz on Saturday 26, 3pm, Edinburgh Books. No longer need you worry about sports questions because there won’t be any. Just lots of lovely literary ephemera. And prizes of course. 

Author/columnist Lucy Mangan is a bit of an odd connecting thread between two venues on the same street of Edinburgh, but there we are.

Back in my days at Edinburgh Books, our Eddie would tell me about her latest column in The Guardian over coffee: always superb, the column, the company and the coffee, from Mavi’s in the West Port. A few weeks ago, I got three emails on the same subject: did you see Owl & Lion in Lucy Mangan’s column in The Stylist? I had. Like the wise lady herself, my browser sometimes takes me to owlandlion.com to drool at the wares to be found there, too.


Owl & Lion Bindery is an artistic endeavour led by Florence-trained master bookbinder, printmaker and artistic director Isabelle Ting. It used to be in Grassmarket and moved up the road to the West Port in 2011 – where it should be – and has found a warm, thriving home at number 66. For those keeping count, that’s two doors from Peter Bell Books, four doors from Armchair Books, with the Coffee Mill at number 54. The stock is handmade and high-quality, with a style, a pattern, or a print for everyone.


There’s neat paper-covered books for your pocket and bag – current favourite: ‘ex-libris’ – and gorgeous 18th century French styles for your pocket, your bag, your bookshelf, your desk. Even better, if and when you fall in love with the art, you can learn how to do it yourself with the widest range of bookbinding classes in Scotland. Whether you want to buy, Bind & Go, top up your skills or begin bookbinding, you’ll find a warm welcome.


West Port Book Festival has grown up with Owl & Lion and we wouldn’t have it any other way. After almost five thousand workshop participants, five years and five festivals, come along to our drop-in session with Isabelle on Saturday 24 November at 6.30pm at the bindery. We’ll hear stories from five years of fantastic bookbinding and Isabelle will talk about some of her very favourite examples of bookbinding from across the years. This is a celebration and a retrospective not to be missed.