“Among Booksellers” by David Batterham
I’ve always loved books and reading. As soon as I learned to close my grubby mitts around objects, books were my favorites. But it wasn’t until starting with AbeBooks (nearly 12 years ago now!) that I thought about books as a product, as a creation, as a start-to-finish labor of love for someone. From the author’s idea to the publishers and marketers to the booksellers, both new and used, who sell the books, the entire industry is fascinating and fuelled by passion.
One of AbeBooks’ booksellers, David Batterham has written a book called Among Booksellers: Tales told in Letters to Howard Hodgkin.
Batterham’s stint as a bookseller began in Wales when he was employed by Richard Booth, a famous Welsh bookseller partially credited with the development of Hay-on-Wye (a small marketplace community on the River Wye) as a known centre for books. But the match was not a good fit, and Batterham soon struck out on his own. Among Booksellers tells the story of Batterham’s quests to source books – through most of Europe he went, through France, Spain, Portugal, America, Denmark, Holland, and Finland, through countless estate sales, bookshops, auction houses and more. And throughout, he wrote letters of his journey to his friend, the English abstract artist Howard Hodgkin, telling him of the ups and downs of traveling and business and life among the books and booksellers. The cover art of the book is a piece by Hodgkin, and is gorgeous.
If you love books, and you’ve ever been interested in the business behind them – not just the writing, but beyond – this book provides a rare, valuable insight into that world, in warm and funny tone, with a healthy dose of travel thrown in for good measure. A pleasure.