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Obituary: John Chidley

By Alastair Carmichael: It is with great sadness that we have to announce the death from cancer of John Chidley, bookdealer extraordinary.
Published on 31 Jan. 2019
John Chidley

Chid started at Henry Sotheran's in the early seventies, becoming assistant manager before he left in 1984 to pursue a more bohemian existence, first in Paris, and then in Granada, a city
that became one of his great passions.
In Granada he opened Carmen Books and became a respected specialist in books on Islam in Spain, and Andalusia. He was perpetually broke, actually more broke than anyone would believe possible in modern Western Europe. With a small inheritance from an old lady he had gardened for as a boy, he bought a narrow and almost entirely perpendicular house in the middle of the old Albaicín area of the city, a house that he never quite finished working on - for years there was no glass in any of the windows, in a city that can get very, very cold in the winter. The views of the Alhambra from his terrace were stunning.

Deceased booksellers are often described as having had "adventures in bookdealing", a slightly puzzling term to depict a life buying and selling old books. Chid actually spent a night in the Granada police cells for discovering that some books he had bought had been stolen from Harvard University Library, informing the Harvard authorities and returning the books. The local police arrested him (for their pains they got bitten by Spider, Chidley's small, unattractive, but otherwise aimiable mongrel bitch; Chid and Spider is a whole story in itself) and the case actually went to trial some eighteen months later, though it was so clearly farcical that even the Spanish system of justice felt unable to proceed. Through no conscious choosing of his own, Chidley's life was a minor epic with books.

After his everlasting financial woes, and a hip replacement obliged Chid to leave Granada, he moved in to Carmichael Alonso Libros in Cantabria, in northern Spain, where his help, humour and expertise were enormously appreciated. Everyone who remembers Chid from his London days, or knew him from Spain will mark his passing with sorrow. He was one of those people who you will only come across once in a lifetime.

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