Book burnings and rhino heads in 1960s Edinburgh
THEY used to say that in Morningside, 'sex' was what your coal came in. Hell mend anyone who attempted to publish or sell an erotic novel, then...
During the winter of 1960/61 the Paperback Bookshop on Charles Street, near George Square in Edinburgh, was at the centre of a literary controversy when its American owner, and future Traverse Theatre founder, Jim Haynes sold a copy of D. H. Lawrence’s sexually-explicit bestseller, Lady Chatterley’s Lover to an elderly lady.
Due to its rather raunchy content, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, published in 1928, was banned in the United Kingdom until September 1960.
Penguin Books had been put on trial that same year for publishing the book, in what became a test-case for freedom of speech.
The book burning
For Jim Haynes, it was just another day at work. A customer, an older lady, entered the shop and bought a copy of a newly-republished novel: Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
As she handed over her money, the elderly lady, a local Salvation Army volunteer, informed Mr Haynes she’d be back in about twenty minutes time to pick up her purchase.
Upon her return, the lady lifted the notorious novel from its rack using a pair of coal tongs, and made her way outside to the front of the shop where she proceeded to set it on fire. The snow melted as the book burned.
By sheer coincidence - and we have that on very good authority - the moment of the book burning was caught on camera by one of Jim’s close acquaintances.
Speaking to Edinburgh City of Literature, Jim recalled the day: “I called Alan Daiches, a friend and a photographer to come up immediately to the shop. He did and was standing there when the woman returned with coal tongs to pick up the book and carry it outside the shop.
“The photos Alan took went around the world and Sir Alan Lane, the founder and managing editor of Penguin Books, who loved my bookshop, was extremely happy with the publicity!”
Jim Haynes’ continued to run the Paperback bookshop until the mid ‘60s. The premises were demolished a decade later with the rest of the street as part of a comprehensive redevelopment of the area by Edinburgh University.
The rhino head
The famous rhinoceros head on the Paperback’s frontage, procured in 1960 from Princes Street’s New Club when it was undergoing a refit, became something of a Southside icon. Today, it is remembered by a bronze rhino head protruding from the side of Edinburgh University’s informatics block on the site of the old bookshop.
Peter Stubbs, curator of the Edinphoto website, spoke with Jim about the rhino in 2014: “I was walking down Princes one bright sunny morning with a friend when we encountered two workmen carrying out this mounted rhino head from the New Club.
“I asked them what they were doing with it and they replied that they were throwing it away. I said that I would take it. I hailed a taxi and we took it to Charles Street.
“By luck, there was a place outside the wall of the bookshop where it could easily be fixed and that is that!”
It’s amazing to think that there is now a permanent bronze fixture in tribute to a rather bizarre piece of decoration Jim Haynes saved from being chucked in a skip 50-odd years ago.
Who is Jim Haynes?
Born in Louisiana in 1933, Jim has spent much of his life immersed in the world of theatre and alternative arts.
In his twenties, Jim was stationed with the US Air Force outside Edinburgh and liked the city so much that he decided to stay, opening the Paperback Bookshop in 1959. Haynes once boasted that the shop had been ‘Britain’s first paperback-only bookshop’.
Jim has been involved with the Edinburgh Festival, particularly the Fringe, for well over half a century, putting on and starring in various productions over the years.
Together with the renowned Scottish artist Richard Demarco, Haynes was behind the formation of the Traverse Theatre in 1963, and remained chairman of the company well into the 1990s.
In recent years Jim Haynes has also appeared on our TV screens as the star of After Eight mints commercials.