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

Those look like my books, but I ordered a blue wheelbarrow.

Sean Oliver

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
I cannot imagine a time when one of my clients will start to tremble and perspire holding in his hands a first electronic version of Don Quijote de la Mancha.

Alfredo Breitfeld

Interview of the week John Wilson

John Wilson

It is not improbable that a general interest in letters may increase as the genre approaches extinction, which it very nearly has according to a leader in The Times on 1 August 1991, ‘Incontrovertibly, the art of letter-writing is dying.’ 

Read on ...

Latest updates

Requiem for the Old Bookshops of Europe

Posted on 05/04/2019 at 10:04

In a recent issue of the London Magazine – England’s oldest literary periodical – there is an essay by Will Stone on the fate of antiquarian bookshops as their lights go out all over Europe. It’s an impassioned argument for their importance, and a plea for their survival as rare fauna in our cultural landscape. “They should be valued, visited and relished, not as relics to be admired or as a novelty cabinet of curiosities, but as intellectually aligned companions and educators, mentors, and more than anything as wise friends whose storehouse of words might guide us out of our ingrained ways of feeling and thinking.”

New Year New Upload

Posted on 31/12/2018 at 12:12

To mark the New Year, I have uploaded a number of interviews to the online archive, where they appear for the first time. The new material includes interviews with John Loska of Colin Page Books, Larry Ilott of Cobnar Books and Peter Budek of The Eagle Bookshop, whose website is one of the most engaging in the secondhand book trade.

A Poland & Steery Co-production