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>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> <i>Westvaco–Inspirations for Printers,</i> 3 volumes, 1938-61. $200 to $300.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Proef van Letteren, <i>Welk gegooten worden in de Nieuwe Haerlemsche Lettergietery,</i> 1768. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Paul Klee, <i>Bauhaus Ausstellung Juli – Sept.,</i> Weimar, 1923. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Michel Seuphor & Jozef Peeters, <i>Het Overzicht Nos.</i> 22-23-24, Antwerp, 1922. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Wolfrum & Co., <i>Modern Graphik, Serie I…,</i> complete portfolio, 1909. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> <i>Gravure et Fonderie deC. Derriey: Specimen-Album,</i> Paris, 1862. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <b><center>Sotheby’s<br>Science: Books and Manuscripts<br>15-25 May 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Mary Anning. Autograph letter signed, to William Buckland, 24 November 1834. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Bolyai. <i>Scientiam spatii absolute veram exhibens,</i> Maros Vásárhelyi, 1832-1833, 2 volumes, half calf. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Vesalius.<br><i>De humani corporis fabrica,</i> Basel, 1555, modern crushed burgundy morocco. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b><center>Sotheby’s<br>Science: Books and Manuscripts<br>15-25 May 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Copernicus.<br><i>De revolutionibus orbium coelestium,</i> Nuremberg, 1543, later boards, Rostock duplicate. £70,000 to £100,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Payan-Dumoulin. Profusely illustrated manuscript of fossils, France, c.1875-1979. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Albert Einstein. Autograph letter signed, to his son Albert, 4 November [1915]. £10,000 to £15,000.
  • <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Images of Angling:<br>The David Beazley Collection<br>of Angling Prints<br>Online Sale<br>20th May 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Alken (Henry), after. Salmon Fishing; Fishing in a Punt; Pike Fishing, three works, 1820. £600 to £800.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Early Images of Angling.- Hollar (Wenceslaus) Angling; River Fishing; and Salmon Fishing, after Francis Barlow, 3 engravings, [c. 1671]. £500 to £700.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Rolfe (Henry Leonidas). <i>Studies of Fresh Water Fish,</i> 1851. £500 to £700.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Images of Angling:<br>The David Beazley Collection<br>of Angling Prints<br>Online Sale<br>20th May 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Morland (George), After. A Party Angling; The Anglers' Repast, a pair, mezzotints, 1789. £400 to £600.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Pollard (James), After. Bottom Fishing; Anglers Packing Up, etchings with aquatint, 1831. £400 to £600.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Angling's Age of Romance.- Sayer (Robert, publisher) & J. Bennett. The Angelic Angler, mezzotint, 1781; and another. £300 to £400.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Images of Angling:<br>The David Beazley Collection<br>of Angling Prints<br>Online Sale<br>20th May 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Fishing Satire.- London.- Roberts (Piercy). Patience at Paddington or angling in the Junction Canal, etching after Woodward, 1807; together with Woodward's 'Angling at Sadler's Wells', and another, 1794. £300 to £400.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Fishing Satire - Cats Fishing.- Seymour (Robert). Waltonizing or - Green-land Fisherman, [c. 1830s]; together with 3 lithographs of cats fishing, [c. 1830s]. £300 to £400.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Fishing Portraits.- Zoffany (Johan), After. Master James Sayer, at the age of 13, mezzotint by Richard Houston, 1772. £300 to £400.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Images of Angling:<br>The David Beazley Collection<br>of Angling Prints<br>Online Sale<br>20th May 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Wilkinson (Norman). Come to Britain for Fishing, lithographic poster, [c. 1947]. £300 to £400.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Scottish Fishing.- Heath (William). Sporting in the Scottish Isles no. III. Salmon Fishing, 1835; and another. £150 to £200.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Simpson (Joseph). The Border Angler, drypoint, [c. 1927]. £150 to £200.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions