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1. How did you get your start?

After I graduated I walked into my local dole office and told them I wanted to be an antiquarian bookseller. They said I could sign on for three weeks, but they never wanted to see me or hear from me again. Luckily, they never did.

2. Biggest threat to the market at the moment?

Successive governments have paid lip service to the idea of helping small businesses, but couldn’t have done more to drive us to extinction. The archaic business rates system, which clobbers high-street shops while giving tax breaks to online giants, is unfit for purpose in the 21st century. Proposed quarterly tax returns are another threat for small businesses.

3. One rule you live by as a dealer?

We advise customers to buy only what they like, and dealers should do the same. I’m not saying you have to want it in your own home (necessarily) but if you can’t see the point of it, and wouldn’t consider taking it back into stock in the future, why should anyone else want to buy it off you?

4. Do you have a private collection – and if so, what’s in it?

Our home looks very like the shop (see answer above).

I do have a particular liking for 20th century maps, and some of the maps in my private collection appeared in a book, A History of the 20th Century in 100 Maps, which I co-wrote with the curator of rare maps at the British Library. We featured my Happy Eater Route Map – of limited commercial value, it’s true, but unaccountably missing from the library’s holdings.

5. Real ale or espresso martini?

Start with the beer, finish with a martini, every time. But how about a dry martini? Frozen glass, coated with dry vermouth, topped up with ice-cold London dry gin, with a twist of lemon.

Refresh frozen glass part way through drinking if necessary.

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