Aziraphale’s Bookshop in Soho
Aziraphale was an angel, but he also worshipped books.
— p. 106
Although Aziraphale is an angel, on Earth to keep an eye on humanity, do good and thwart the wiles of his demonic counterpart, it could also be argued that one of his primary reasons for being on Earth is his rather large book collection, which he cares for with all the tender consideration of a fiercely overprotective parent. The bookshop that he owns in Soho is his way of keeping all of his books conveniently because “if he were totally honest with himself he would have to [admit] that his bookshop was simply somewhere to store them” (43).
The bookshop can be cited as one of the things that can cause Aziraphale to act very unangelic indeed. His typically serene and more passive nature appears to get abandoned quickly in favor of aggression and hostility whenever someone approaches his shop. He rarely sells a book. In fact, he uses “every means short of physical violence to prevent customers from making a purchase. Unpleasant damp smells, glowering looks, erratic opening hours — he [is] incredibly good at it” (43). There are people who come to the bookshop on occasion trying to convince him to sell the space, but Aziraphale seems quite talented in getting rid of such solicitors (47).
As an angel with a love of the written word, “Aziraphale’s books d[on’t] have illustrations. They ha[ve] old brown covers and crackling pages” (47). The areas that Aziraphale specializes in when it comes to his book collection include Oscar Wilde first editions, prophecy books, and “a complete set of the Infamous Bibles, individually named from errors in the typesetting” (43). Among these misprinted bibles is one known as the Buggre Alle This Bible, in which he himself added to the Book of Genesis regarding his “misplacement” of his flaming sword when he guarded the Eastern Gate of Eden. It reads thus:
25 And the lord spake unto the Angel that guarded the eastern gate, saying Where is the flaming sword which was given unto thee?
26 And the Angel said, I had it here only a moment ago, I must have put it down some where, forget my own head next.
27 And the Lord did not ask him again (44)
The back room of his bookshop contains a table, chairs, and likely someplace to store copious amounts of alcohol, as he and Crowley have a proclivity for going back there for the sake of getting completely plastered and waxing philosophically on whatever suits their fancy (47). The shop appears to have a kitchenette probably coming off the back room, where Aziraphale can make himself tea and cocoa when he feels the need (107). The shop also appears to have a second floor above it (241), but what the rooms above might be used for is unknown as Aziraphale doesn’t sleep (101) or appear to need the room. Aziraphale’s shop is located in an area containing many small bookshops like his own, and it is also known that his neighbor next door runs a bookshop called Intimate Books, and that people frequently mistake the entry of his shop for that one (133).
The bookshop contains a slow computer (Aziraphale is apparently the first angel to ever own one), which he uses “religiously for doing his accounts” (151).
When Aziraphale needs to get in touch with Heaven, he pushes aside his desk and the threadbare carpet in the shop’s main space to reveal “a small circle chalked on the floorboards underneath, surrounded by suitable passages from the Cabala” (221). By lighting candles and saying the correct words Aziraphale is capable of contacting Heaven from the shop.
During an unfortunate string of events leading up to Armageddon, the angel’s bookshop catches fire and burns to the ground (242). This is made right again by Adam Young, who restores the bookshop, but not in exactly the same manner that he restores Crowley’s beloved car: “I’m sure I didn’t stock books with titles like Biggles Goes to Mars and Jack Cade, Frontier Hero and 101 Things A Boy Can Do and Blood Dogs of the Skull Sea” (359). Though his inventory may have been changed, however, Aziraphale doesn’t seem too broken up about it, when he notes that the books are all in mint condition and apparently worth a fortune (359).
Whether or not Aziraphale has become a better salesman now that his stock has been revised is unknown, but it is likely that his protective, possessive nature over pristine first editions has not diminished, even in light of certain alterations to his collection.