New chapter for bookstore: ‘It’s really been fun here’

Adventure Books owner Bill Nye holds a first edition of Sir Edmund Hillary’s first book on the...
Adventure Books owner Bill Nye holds a first edition of Sir Edmund Hillary’s first book on the ascent of Everest, available at his store. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH
It is with mixed feelings Adventure Books owner Bill Nye is moving on to a new chapter for his business.

Mr Nye has been based in Oamaru’s Victorian precinct for eight years, after his original Christchurch bookshop was destroyed in the 2011 earthquake almost as soon as it had opened.

But a lack of space for a new collection, and an offer too good to refuse in Christchurch, means he is moving back.

Mr Nye said he was sad to be leaving Oamaru.

"It’s really been fun here. I would’ve loved to stay," he said.

"I love it here — it’s great, it’s laid back, it’s a peaceful part of the world.

"But it’s time to move on.

"I started collecting books a long time ago, when I was doing engineering work.

"I always had a dream of having a bookshop, and it finally came true here. But I feel like I’ve done my apprenticeship, so I’m ready for the big leagues up there."

His new premises will be in the Christchurch Arts Centre, which he is excited about. The opening of the store will be preceded by an exhibition of rare books and artefacts, including some left to him by a collector from Boston.

"I inherited 6000 books and a lot of rare, rare items from a gentleman in Boston ... rare books, memorabilia, artefacts, artwork."

He was bequeathed the collection in 2017 after meeting fellow Antarctic enthusiast Jack Newton, who had terminal cancer, on a trip to the United States. Mr Nye returned to Boston in 2018 to arrange to have the books shipped home.

"So although they gifted me the collection, it wasn’t exactly free. There’s a lot involved in shipping and then going through Customs, import duties. It arrived in November of 2018 at a husky base camp [in Christchurch]. There was a woman named Michelle that had a husky base camp — a beautiful property out at Templeton. She gave me this big building to do this exhibition.

"So we housed all the books there — everything was unloaded there — and started collecting a whole bunch of stuff there for the exhibition. Then Covid hit, changed everything all over the world. She had a contract showing four huskies every day at the Antarctic Centre. But she lost her contract when there were no more overseas visitors. So she couldn’t afford the rent out there and decided to move — so that collapsed the whole project."

The entire collection was loaded into a container and had been in storage until last week, before being unloaded at the Arts Centre. A truck shipment last week of bookcases and books had also gone north for the exhibition, which will open on October 8.

"We’ll do that first. Then in November I’m opening up the bookstore upstairs."

The exhibition opening coincides with the annual Days of Ice festival in Christchurch, which celebrates the Antarctic season opening.

"The first flights to the ice and the first appearance of the sun in Antarctica."

Mr Nye is well-known to Antarctic enthusiasts.

"I know it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. But there are a lot of collectors out there.

"I have a lot of contacts in Christchurch — I’m vice-president of the New Zealand Antarctic Society — and a lot of connections in the mountaineering community as well.

"They asked me if I was interested in moving up. And it all kind of snowballed because I was looking for a place to do my exhibition.

"So we’re opening this exhibition on October 8, and it’s going to have rare books, memorabilia, artefacts from the golden age of Antarctic exploration — from Shackleton, from Scott. Rare stuff. And then artwork — fine art, not just decorative art — fine art on these themes of mountains and polar exploration. It’s really going to be fun putting it together."

Mr Nye is being assisted by art curator Lucy Gardener and artefacts archivist Joshua Moot.

Another highlight of the exhibition was a first-edition book.

"A very rare first edition of South — which is Sir Ernest Shackleton’s story of the Endurance expedition. Here’s the thing that a lot of museums would love to have — it’s signed by Shackleton."

 - Ashley Smith

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