Little Lives of Booksellers

> Sheila Markham. A Book of Booksellers: Conversations with the Antiquarian Book Trade. (Oak Knoll Books, 2007)

If a bookshop had a waiting room, this would be the perfect volume for its end-table. One can flip to any given interview, spend five minutes gleaning a bit of anecdotal lore, and leave off without ever reading another one. That would be a mistake, however, since there are many nuggets lodged in this stream of reminiscence.

Initially published in a limited hardcover edition of 500 copies in 2004, A Book of Booksellers reprints 50 (of 94) interviews of antiquarian dealers that Markham conducted from 1991 – 2003, originally published as a column (“Endpaper”) in the Bookdealer. The arrangement is chronological, in order to illustrate “a decade of exceptional change” in the antiquarian trade, referring mostly to the huge impact of the Internet on the business.

Each interview has been edited into a continuous narrative and is accompanied by a servicable (if not inspiring) photograph of the dealer. According to Markham, “rumors that I learnt my craft in the passport office are unfounded.”

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