Cunning Plans…

I have been working on a couple of cunning plans recently. Both are ideas that I want to develop for my own business, but which may well be of wider use to the book trade in general. So here they are. Should you wish to get in touch with me about either, then do drop me a line at You are probably able to tell, these are both ideas at this stage – so they may well change over time. Evolution is a wonderful thing!

Staff for the busy bookseller

At the London fairs last year, I had conversations with several dealers, who found their movements were limited between the fairs, by being ‘one man bands.’ Those who were manning their booths at Olympia, found it difficult to get away to ILEC, and vice versa. Further conversations highlighted that bringing staff over to the UK from America or Australia (or even Europe) was prohibitively expensive when one takes into account flights, accommodation, food and other costs, on top of salaries.

tavistock stallIt became apparent, that a pool of knowledgeable freelancers, who could look after a dealer’s stand, help them set up, and talk usefully to the public would be a major asset. Several dealers have told me that they would book more fairs in the UK if they could use local staff. As a result, I am starting to build a list of freelancers, who would be available and willing to work for an overseas dealer at UK fairs on a ‘one off’ basis. Ideally, freelancers should already be involved in the book trade, whether as a dealer, cataloguer, shop staff, or even collector looking to start in the trade. Expert knowledge would not be required, but an ability to ‘look the part’ on a dealer’s stand would be. Actual rates of pay / arrangements would be between the dealer and the freelancer – this plea is just to start the ball rolling and get the list together!

A database of linguists

I have recently been trying to catalogue (or even identify) some Japanese material. This has left me in a quandary, as I cannot even begin to read Japanese.slavonic script

This set me thinking, there are many languages, and more importantly, alphabets & scripts, that I, and many others in the trade, cannot read.

I thought it may be useful to obtain a list of individuals willing to translate title pages / colophons (Not translate large texts – but to give basic bibliographical information on an unfamiliar texts).

Once I have established such a list, my intention is to hand it over to the two trade associations in the UK (ABA & ILAB) where it would be held confidentially.  If a member of either trade body required some advice on a text, they could contact their member organisation for a list of those willing to help in the specific language.  Access would be limited to the ABA and PBFA initially (or perhaps to ILAB members & the PBFA ?) The information would remain confidential, and would not ever be given or sold on.

Japanese_Rare_Books (454x270)My feeling is that dealers could choose to offer their service for free, or could specify a fee if they felt necessary. I believe that if offering this advice for free, it would be good practice if they were offered first refusal of any material they have assisted with before it goes on general sale. This would perhaps act as an incentive / gratuity to the dealer offering the advice. My assumption at this stage, is that most advice would be sought by showing a photograph or scan of the material, and that initial assistance could be given very quickly. If further help was needed, some payment may well be appropriate.

If you are interested in going onto such a database – or  have opinions regarding it as a concept, I would welcome hearing from you.

2 thoughts on “Cunning Plans…

  1. For most languages and scripts first you can try Google translate to identify the language and to get a basic translation – enough to start with so you can ask the right questions at the next level. (Best if you can create an OCR scan!)

    Second – find a library with a collection in that area and then try to find a professional Librarian with the appropriate skills.

    The website of CERL – the Consortium of European Research Libraries – is just one of the places for this kind of thing.
    For example they have a place where you can post pictures of those armorial bearings embossed on old book bindings to establish provenance

    If you have enough information you can also use WorldCat or other library databases for more bibliographic details, especially the catalogues of National Libraries.
    Again CERL has a useful entry point at

    Third – use Google Scholar to find ranking experts on the kind of research that will add to your knowledge – most University websites do give personal or departmental email addresses through which you can contact them.

    June S

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Post Script :
    Your suggestion that
    could mean that you cut off your nose to spite your face in that the most useful and expert contacts you need might not be members of those organizations or even members of the book trade at all.


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