Sheila Markham

in conversation

The originality of Sheila Markham’s conversations with the antiquarian book trade is the privileged insight they give into the quirky yet fascinating world of rare books, demonstrating how very much alive it is today.

She allows every bookseller his or her own monologue to talk about what interests them in their job, how they fell in love with books, or their views on the current state of the trade. Each bookseller has an individual voice – be it modest, earnest, anxious, ironic, zestful, measured, proud, humorous, business-like, secretive or nonchalant.

- Michael Meredith


Sheila Markham’s role is that of a silent recording angel, benign and encouraging, bringing forth occasional glissandos of egotism and ambition, wistful memories of happier or more profitable times, and occasional revelations of life in the real world as Buddhist monk, fashion photographer, drystone waller, bus driver, actor or pedagogue.

- Paul Grinke


An invaluable mine of fact, anecdote, memories, few lies and no statistics. Thank God for all the persons that Sheila Markham has immortalized, and all the rest that she has yet to reach.

- Nicolas Barker


Sketch by the Victorian artist John Leech

English is such a wordy language.

This sketch by the Victorian artist John Leech (Mary Evans Picture Library) appears on the dust-jacket of the two volumes of Sheila Markham’s conversations with the antiquarian book trade published in 2004 and 2014.

The sketch lends itself to a caption competition. If you would like to enter, please send your suggestion to

The Voice of Experience
You can learn so much about a person simply by going through their books. I always think buying a library is rather like buying someone’s life.

John and Juliet Townsend

Interview of the week Peter Budek

Peter Budek

Book collectors like the physicality of the object; they want to hunt in the corners of a bookshop, and not in the margins of a screen.

Read on ...

Latest updates

In Memoriam Alfredo Breitfeld

Posted on 11/07/2021 at 12:07

Today marks the first anniversary of the death of Alfredo Breitfeld of Librería de Antaño in Buenos Aires. Alfredo was one of a handful of booksellers who became sick with Covid-19 after attending the New York Antiquarian Book Fair in March 2020.  His condition worsened on the flight back to Buenos Aires, where he spent four months on a ventilator. Alfredo Breitfeld passed away on 11 July at the age of 82. His son, Gustavo, plans to continue the business, adapting to new trends in buying, selling and collecting, ‘We were partners with my father for more than thirty years, and I learned a lot, although I must admit that these moments are very challenging for our profession. I will try hard and with passion!’


'I was so much older then'

Posted on 20/06/2021 at 17:06

Rob Rulon-Miller looks back on a quarter of a century since I interviewed him. George Floyd was murdered less than ten miles from Rob’s home, and his thoughtful afterword describes the efforts of CABS-Minnesota to assist those who have found themselves isolated, distanced, or removed from the antiquarian book trade by reason of race, culture, class, religious affiliation, or gender.

A Poland & Steery Co-production