Mark Skipper of Cheltenham Rare Books.

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1. How did you get your start?

Although I have been dealing in rare fiction and illustrated books for nigh on 30 years now, it was only recently that I took the plunge, went full time and set up a bookshop: Cheltenham Rare Books.

Job-wise it is the most satisfying thing I have ever done. Looking back, I now realise that whatever I was doing to bring in money took a back seat to hunting for and selling books. For me, it has always been rare literature (ancient and modern) or illustrated books.

2. What is the first sale you remember making?

My first major sale happened when I had just left Oxford and was living in Switzerland. An American lawyer gave me a wad of dollars and asked me to build him a library.

I duly obliged, running round a multitude of bookshops back in the UK and buying up whatever took my fancy. I wish it were that easy now.

3. Why are fairs central to the book trade?

Fairs are important. From a customer’s point of view these are far more personal and hands-on than the internet.

The bookshops are disappearing – I’m bucking a trend – and those that survive have to work on a number of fronts, including fairs, to supplement what comes into the shop.

4. Do you use social media and if so, how?

Don’t get me wrong: I sell online, I have a Facebook page, a website and I’m on Instagram. Still, there is nothing quite like picking up a signed Thomas Hardy novel or a first edition of The Waste Land… and you can only do that at a fair or in a shop.

5. Real ale or espresso martini?

Espresso martini – but preferably a double macchiato.

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