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

I’ll have the one at the bottom, please.

James Fleming

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 sheilamarkham@hotmail.com

The Voice of Experience
It’s scientifically untenable but I like to think there’s a genetic bent towards the love of the rare and the old.

Robin Fryde

Interview of the week Richard Sawyer

Richard Sawyer

A dealer should always stop a good customer from buying the wrong book.   

Read on ...

Latest updates


I have grown more optimistic...

Posted on 29/12/2017 at 17:12

Twenty-two years have gone by since I first interviewed Stuart Bennett - long enough for much to have changed in his business. Here are Stuart's thoughts as another year comes to an end.

"Has the antiquarian book business slowed down, or have I? Maybe my problem is the decreasing amount of unusual or high-quality antiquarian literature coming onto the market, although I and others had plenty of adrenalin when Robert Pirie’s extraordinary collection came up at Sotheby’s New York at the end of 2015.

"In 2009, towards the end of my term as president of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, I was interviewed for the ABAA website and – perhaps reflecting on my pending sixtieth birthday and the fact that the majority of ABAA members were then at least as old as the Association itself (founded in 1949) – I remarked that over the next ten or fifteen years membership would implode and what was left of the ABAA would look around and ask “what happened?”

"I have grown more optimistic since then, mostly out of admiration for my younger bookselling colleagues and their generation of collectors and curators. There are fewer of them than there were in predecessor generations, and fewer still who share my affection for really old English books. But those who do are enormously impressive, and the energy and enthusiasm of educators such as those at Rare Book Schools in Virginia and California, Indiana University, the Colorado and York Antiquarian Book Seminars, and elsewhere, along with their growing number of students, should mean that the torch stays alight for at least another generation."

 

John Saumarez Smith's Swansong?

Posted on 30/09/2017 at 11:09

John Saumarez Smith has just added an afterword to his interview, which was originally conducted in 2003.  The afterword coincides with the publication of a catalogue with the codeword ‘SWANSONG’. In the introduction to the catalogue, John writes, ‘When the Swan has Sung, I very much hope to keep in touch with those of you who have supported me since my departure from [Heywood Hill,] Curzon Street. Booksellers don’t retire but hope to continue to share their pleasure in books with their bookish friends’.

A Poland & Steery Co-production