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 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’.
Welcome to the new design of my website. I hope that you will find it a more engaging experience, and that you will return from time to time as I plan to introduce new features with the collaboration of my colleagues in the trade, to whom this website is devoted.
I’ve been asked this question many times, and usually the answer is that they don’t want to be interviewed, or that I should come back in a few years’ time. Meanwhile perhaps the best thing I can do is to let their catalogues speak for them, starting with Susanne Schulz-Falster’s outstanding catalogue on bookbinding and paper manufacture, produced jointly with Michael Banzhaf.