1 How did you get your start as a dealer?
I got my first job as a Saturday boy in a second-hand bookshop at 14. While at Oxford I turned buying and selling into a business that funded drinks at the Kings Arms. A lucky break at a Christie’s South Kensington auction didn’t hurt, either.
2 How would you describe your business?
I’m proudly generalist – just as happy dealing in books and manuscripts from 1850 as 1500. We sell through our shop, online and at fairs both major and minor. I spend a lot of time out at sales and reading catalogues – it is when I am at my happiest.
3 How has the market changed in your experience?
When I started, one couldn’t easily bid at auctions online, and now with the push of a button on a smartphone one can bid on auctions all over Europe. One of my best buys of 2019 happened while I was flying to the Stuttgart book fair, bidding over WiFi.
Of course, this shift has also increased prices for the best items. The unique manuscript, annotated book, or stunning binding are rarely hidden now.
Another change is the way in which the trade is using the internet to buy and sell – some dealers I know trade largely through social media now. This has made the barrier to entry for new dealers much lower.
4 What is one category of collecting in vogue right now?
Annotated books seem especially sought-after at present. I guess the interplay of printed object and manuscript addition is interesting across disciplines, and actively acquired by institutional and private collectors alike.
5 What do you collect personally?
Books by John Stuart Mill owned by politicians. My favourite is Charles Bradlaugh’s copy of On Liberty.
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