“True one-off” - Buxton bookseller Alastair Scrivener dies

Cherished Buxton bookseller Alastair Scrivener has died aged 81 - with loved ones remembering him as a “a master of puns” and “a dreadful tease”.

By Ben McVay
Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Monday, 15th February 2021, 3:40 pm

Alastair, who started Scrivener’s Books & Bookbinding in 1997, died on January 27 after a long battle with Parkinson’s.

As well as a bookseller and knowledgeable binder, the “man of many talents” was also a sculptor, artist, bell-ringer, teacher, musician and local historian.

“True one-off” Alastair set about transforming the much-esteemed higher Buxton premises from a “junk-filled building” into the “theatrical book heaven” it is today 24 years ago.

Alastair with bookbinder Janet Hopley in 2009 - around the time of his 70th birthday

After a stint selling books at a stall in Over Haddon “eccentric” Alastair took on the Victorian building - which today stocks over 40,000 books on five floors.

Present owner Miranda Midlane, who worked for “quick-witted” Alastair for 12 years, said: “He’d been selling second-hand books and decided he wanted somewhere bigger and when the shop came up he loved it but it was vastly bigger than what he needed.

“There was a lot of negativity around it but he just said ‘what the hell’ and did it.”

Remembering Alastair, Miranda said: “His big interest was bookbinding and books but he had all sorts of interests and really loved talking to people.

Alastair as the Mad Hatter from Alice In Wonderland at bookbinder Holly's 30th birthday party

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“He made a huge amount of friends through the shop and was very generous - and a great listener.”

Miranda described how Buxton legend Alastair employed dozens of teenagers over the years to cover weekends.

After hearing of his death many had been in touch with her saying “I was never bored working for Alastair” and “it was the best job I ever had”.

And the former art teacher at a Sheffield school was remembered by past pupils as “their best teacher”.

She described how Alastair - “always generous with his time and expertise” taught bookbinding to anyone who wanted to learn.

He also invested a lot of time into rejuvenating Higher Buxton - including one year bringing a live reindeer to the Christmas lights switch-on.

Miranda, who took over at Scrivener’s in 2014, said book-lover Alastair was very good at talking to older customers - “particularly as he got older and developed Parkinson’s”.

Recalling how the nervous system disease started to take hold about 10 years ago, Miranda said talented bookworm Alastair could decorate spines with gold leaf steady-handed right up until a year ago.

Alastair was still teaching bookbinding in the shop on Saturday mornings right up until the start of the pandemic.

She said: “Even with Parkinson’s he was always mentally sharp, even at the point where he couldn’t walk across the room.”

Miranda added: “Ever the eccentric, he will be remembered by everyone as knowledgeable, quick-witted, extraordinarily sociable, a great storyteller, a master of puns, a dreadful tease and the instigator of many playful practical jokes.

“Most of all he was the pivot around which the bookshop revolved, a good listener and a great friend.

“He never forgot us and we’ll never forget him - we will all miss him so much.”

Alastair is survived by wife Barbara, son Daniel, daughter-in-law Jozede and granddaughter Malaika.

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