Books & Literature

Adelaide’s oldest second-hand bookshop specialising in the rare and unusual

Looking to lose yourself in a good book? Find something unexpected in the literary oasis of O’Connell’s Bookshop on Bank Street.

Photos by Jack Fenby

A love of literature has spanned generations of owners of Adelaide’s oldest second-hand and antiquarian bookshop, O’Connell’s Bookshop. 

The third-generation family business has a vast range of all kinds of books, specialising in the rare and unusual. 

“Every book in the shop is something I’ve selected or bought from collectors,” current custodian Ben O’Connell explains.

“I focus on unusual antiques, but also have trashy romance as well.”

Founded in 1957 by his grandfather Reg O’Connell, the shop began as a kiosk in the Central Market, and has moved to several locations across the city, including Leigh Street and Hindley Street.

The shop is now situated in Station Arcade on Bank Street.

Although he essentially grew up in the shop, Ben never thought he’d end up the custodian, despite being an avid reader.

“A lot of my customers dealt with my parents and my grandfather,” Ben says.

“Customers have literally been coming for 40 years.”

Ben now runs the shop with “help” from his four-legged friend Oscar the whippet, after taking over from his parents eight years ago. 

He describes it an oasis for people to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and catering for everyone, including a long list of famous customers – from Guns N Roses and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to David Attenborough and Barrie Humphries. 

“There is something magical about coming into the shop and being able to browse and see what you’re looking at,” Ben says. 

“We know our stock, being readers we don’t have to look it up on a computer, we know it.”

The shop stocks a huge range of all kinds of books including an extensive selection of classics, popular fiction, fantasy, art, history, Aboriginal, military, Australiana, music, philosophy, ‘Beat’ writers, children’s, first editions and attractive Folio editions. 

The oldest book in the shop is 500-years-old and Ben also stocks unique pieces like vinyl records, maps and autographs. 

You can find O’Connell’s Bookshop at 19 Bank St (14b Station Arcade), Adelaide.

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