Once Upon a Tome: The Misadventures of a Rare Bookseller

Norton. Mar. 2023. 256p. ISBN 9781324092070. $27.95. MEMOIR
This debut by former antiquarian bookseller Darkshire offers readers a wonderfully charming story about his bookselling life. He situates his story in Sotheran’s, the well-known bookshop in London that was established in York in 1761. At the age of 20, the author interviewed for an apprenticeship at the shop. He gets it but intends to stay for only a year. Soon Darkshire realizes that he’s drawn to the aroma and dust of old books, and he ends up working there for a decade. In this memoir, he colorfully tells story after story about the mishaps and unfortunate occurrences he experienced at the bookshop. He even tries to fend off the ghost of its late founder. One highlight of the book is a story centered on Sotheran’s commissioning a bespoke copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. It proved impossible to sell and was sent off to New York City in the hopes of finding a buyer at a cut rate. Thus begin rich tales about life in Sotheran’s, the people who work there, and the antiquarian book business.
VERDICT A funny and witty memoir about life in the antiquarian book trade. Avid readers will love it.
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