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Lawyer-turned-bookseller John Martin.

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1 How did you get your start?

I used to be a lawyer, but that profession has increasingly become regulated and I don’t regulate at all well, so 15 years ago I went full time as a bookseller.

2 What is your focus?

I deal in antiquarian books, ephemera, archives and manuscripts. I am not a scholar and lack basic catalogue training. I like to go for the more unusual items and while I respect my colleagues who collate and catalogue so well, I prefer a broader brush or more informal approach.

Ephemera is the more forgiving category.

3 What do you do in the trade beyond dealing?

I have for nearly three years been the Hon Secretary of the PBFA. It is like running another business with no pay, but I wholly support the organisation’s aims and am pleased to see it has been so professionally set up to weather the current storms.

4 What change would you like to see in the market?

Online is an obvious way forward, including the advent of the online auction such as those at Forum, of which I am a great fan.

It is not going to be an easy time for the trade, I fear. Our rulers have banned indoor fairs but not apparently bingo. I hope the fairs will return, but I suspect the trade will have contracted by the time they do.

Meanwhile, the trade needs to shake off some of its older values and become more embracing across the board. In particular, it needs to be seen more as a career for younger people like it is on parts of the Continent.

5 Real ale or espresso martini?

As a long-standing member of the Savage Club – gin. It’s the club staple. Bushmills, too, has been a wonderful rediscovery from my youth during the current lock-up.

If you would like to be featured in 5 Questions, please contact francesallitt@antiquestradegazette.com

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