Sheila Markham - A Book of Booksellers
“Sheila Markham’s quirky ‘Endpaper’, published in the Bookdealer for five years in the early 90s, was unquestionably the wittiest and most popular weekly article in the trade paper’s history. In the nature of things the feature ran its course. Sheila became weary of it and decided instead to develop a series of interviews with members of the antiquarian book trade.” (Barry Shaw)
This was the beginning of the “Conversations with the Antiquarian Book Trade”. “The last resort of the English eccentric” (Brian Lake), the trade is rich in colourful and entertaining characters. Since 1991, Sheila Markham has been interviewing its most influential figures for the Bookdealer. Fifty of these conversations, in which leading dealers speak frankly about their life and work, have been published in book-form by the author and Oak Knoll Press 2007. Others are published on Sheila Markham’s website. Copies of the interviews are kept in the library of The Stationers' Company in the City of London, as part of their extensive holdings in British book trade history.
We are very thankful to Sheila Markham that she allows us to publish some of the interviews on ILAB.org, too, and: She has promised more for the future. All who have read her “Conversations” know that this is something special. Sheila Markham’s interviews are more than book history. They are an insight in the everyday life of an extraordinary profession, introducing stories and characters that stand behind the showcases of the book fairs, the 1-Million-Dollar highlights of the auctions, the well-designed book catalogues and the many online databases with its legions of old books. Sheila’s interviews show the knowledge, the experience, the individualism and the fascination for the real value of books (which is not, in any case, their price). They reflect the very reasons why rare bookselling is one of the most fascinating things to live for in the global book world.
Barry Shaw writes in his foreword to the “Conversations”: “It is once a reference work, a book to dip into and a book to read from cover to cover. However it is used, for those who rejoice in books and booksellers it will prove a reliable and entertaining companion.” Be sure, if you start reading about Raymond Kilgarriff, Barbara Grigor-Taylor, Anthony Rota, Bill Fletcher, Michael Hollander, John Price, Stuart Bennett, Albi Rosenthal, Helen Kahn, Bernard Shapero, Mitsuo Nitta, Adrian Harrington, Robert Frew, Wilfrid de Freitas and all the other well-known figures of the rare book trade, you cannot stop until you have read the last page.