Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2012 Issue

A New Book from David Batterham Recalls 35 Years Among Booksellers

Amongbooksellers

Among Booksellers.

For those who sell (or buy) books, and are fascinated by others' adventures in the book trade, a new title was recently published by the English bookseller David Batterham. Though Mr. Batterham obviously has some well-heeled customers in England, he seems to have operated under the radar for much of his career. He sold via catalogue, rather than having a shop, common today but not so much so decades ago. An internet search for him reveals virtually nothing beyond the couple of books he has written. Indeed, he doesn't maintain a website, something common to every important (and unimportant) bookseller before 1990, but most unusual today. Mr. Batterham has been in the trade for some 40 years now, and evidently holds to traditional ways.

His book is entitled Among Booksellers; Tales told in Letters to Howard Hodgkin. Howard Hodgkin is an artist and long time friend of Mr. Batterham. Over 35 years of travelling the world buying books, Mr. Batterham wrote letters back home to his friend describing his adventures. According to the publisher, “He was looking for Trade Catalogues, Fashion Magazines and other illustrated journals but his colleagues interest him almost as much, seen in their homes and shops. The visitable bookseller, a vanishing breed, is here immortalised. Part diary, part memoir, some anecdotes and reflections; intended to amuse rather than inform.” We should note here in conjunction with these publisher's comments that this book is self published.

While Mr. Batterham did not maintain a shop, interestingly he primarily purchased from them. He would travel the world, including France, Spain, Denmark, Holland, Finland, and America, meeting with booksellers. He understood what books could be sold for higher prices to his customers in England, and would bring those home. The result of this type of purchasing was that he came to know many booksellers of the day. His book, being a collection of contemporary private letters, rather than later recollections, reveals his observations of his fellow booksellers more accurately and honestly than a filtered later account might offer.

According to a recent review in The Guardian by Simon Hoggart, “It is a strange book, but beguiling – you meet the weird people who inhabit the world of antique bookselling. And there are old crones serving terrible meals in French hotels, crab-like people who try to cheat him but halve their prices when he insists, the discovery of amazing volumes he can sell in London for 10 times what he paid. I expected to toss it aside, but couldn't put it down.”

A quote from writer and critic Margaret Drabble, provided by the publisher, states that the book is, “An extraordinary picture of a strange eccentric world of dealing and collecting with its chance encounters, crazed characters, its obsessions and its loneliness.” Another publisher's quote, “the funniest book I have read in years,” from Richard Burton confuses me a bit. I know of two Richard Burtons, the famed English explorer, and the noted British actor. Both have been dead for a very long time. Apparently, there are a couple of contemporary Richard Burtons involved with writing and I guess the quote comes from one of them.

If you would like to obtain a copy of this book, and it is hard to imagine why anyone involved in the book trade would not, it may be ordered directly from bookseller David Batterham, at 36 Alexander St., London, UK W2 5NU. The price is £9.95. Or, you might want to contact him first for shipping information at david.batterham@virgin.net. Special terms are available on orders of four or more copies if you would like to resell them. In the U.S., you may also purchase it from Oak Knoll Books for £14.50 (including shipping), or if you prefer to use the local currency, $17.50. Oak Knoll may be found online at www.oakknoll.com or via email at oakknoll@oakknoll.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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