Kensington Christmas Fair

It is almost time, and I have been busy packing my stock ready for the Kensington fair this weekend. Why would anyone in their right mind head up to Kensington just before Christmas?  Well the book fair is as fine an excuse as any!  A last opportunity to bag a unique (or at least very hard to find) item for the one you love.

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Once you get a goodly gathering of PBFA dealers, add some authors presenting their works, a sprinkling of Small Press publishers and finish with poster and artwork sellers, then you have a mix to attract anyone (well,  anyone with taste and a yearning for the finer things anyway!)

Whoever you are trying to purchase a gift for – there will be something available. Here is a selection that will be taken by PBFA dealers. Click on the pictures for more information. There is also a slide show at the bottom of the blog that has more images of these items. ken_1

Perhaps you are trying to inspire an appreciation of books in your grandchildren (or children) – You could do far worse than a first edition of “The Vicar of Nibbleswick” by Road Dahl, offered by Sarah Key (The Haunted Bookshop) . A fine first edition, with illustrations by Quentin Blake – it certainly is a nibble at only £20


Sarah is also offering some goodies at the other end of the scale. A lovely numbered, limited copy of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (number 916), with beautiful illustrations by Arthur Rackham. This will be presented for £2,995.




Somewhere in the middle, Black Cat Bookshop is bringing along a first edition of “The Lorax” by Dr Seuss, from 1972. A lovely clean tidy copy, in “unscribbled” condition, a bargain at £295.




For the travellers amongst you, there will be a wide variety of books, maps and items. John Underwood is presenting Peter Heylyn’s  “COSMOGRAPHY IN FOUR BOOKS. Containing the Chorography and History of the whole WORLD and all the Principal Kingdoms, Provinces, Seas, and the Isles thereof” Printed in 1682, and boasting a beautiful hand coloured title page, this contains four folding maps. Complete, and potentially yours for £2,500


Adrian Harrington (newly of Tunbridge Wells) is bringing along an account of the voyages of Captain Cook. Written by John Hawksworth, “An Account of the voyages undertaken by the order of his present majesty for making discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere … “ together with a copy of Cook’s ken_9own “A Voyage towards the South Pole, and round the world.” and also containing Cook’s “A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean” Altogether, these fabulous books, make 9 volumes, all bound into a lovely matching set by the Chelsea bindery. Follow the photo link for a lengthy description of these books and their importance. This one only for the truly deserving! Yours for £25,000.

If you prefer your travel to be fantastical, then we (Harrison-Hiett) will beken_8 taking along a copy of Johann Baptist Homann’s  “Accurata Utopiae Tabula”, a complete (if fictitious) map showing the allegorical isle of fools paradise or Pays de Cocaigne, printed and hand coloured in 1740. It includes the “Kingdom of Extravagance”, and “Empire of Fat Stomachs”, “Tobacco Island” and the “Land of Gluttony”.  All surrounded by Seas of Drunkenness and Lust – when can I visit?  find your own way there for £500


It isn’t just books that are available at the fair. If it is rare signatures that you are looking for, then consider White Eagle’s copy of “Tenzing After Everest” – Tenzing’s own account of the ascent of Everest, and signed by him to the front end paper. Available at £495.

You can also find some interesting London ephemera at the fair. Wool House Books are bringing along a Copper token engraved with the words Lyceum Strand London engraved below figure of a prancing horse ken_92with figure of Mercury on its back. Words engraved around edge: “The First Equestrian Performance in Europe.” Theatre tokens were issued by the London theatres to reserve seats or booths, and as commemorative items. This one offered at £95

ken_94Finally, Wool House are also bringing another piece of London ephemera –  a lovely silk souvenir programme for a performance at Covent Garden June 23rd 1897. Silks were produced for a lasting souvenir in Victorian times, and this, to celebrate the Queen’s 60th anniversary as Queen, shows the program of the operatic performance at Covent Garden. Perfect for lovers of music, London or royal family history. Only £75

I hope you can make it to the fair to visit. If you do, come and say hello to us on stand 11 in the main hall. (If you don’t wish to speak to me, the lovely Marcia will be helping me for the day).

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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.

Made in Chelsea

chelsea panorama

Last weekend, Marcia and I spent the weekend in Chelsea, at the ABA Antiquarian Fair. Above is a panoramic photo of the hall at the end of Thursday evening (I wanted to capture the hall without the dealers – an exhausted Marianne was just a bonus)! Click on the panorama to see it in all its glory.

As ever, the fair was full of some fabulous books, manuscripts and ephemeral items from around the world. Just behind me on the stage was an array of medieval manuscripts and incunabula. Ranging from a few pounds, to many tens of thousands, there was truly something for everyone. Even for Marcia – she picked up a small artists note book full of beautiful illustrations by a Victorian doctor, who caught yves_1typhus in the last major outbreak in London, whilst assisting the sick.

Another lovely item was the original sketch by Yves Saint Laurent – presented by one of our French colleagues.


On Pat Marrin’s stand, I found this lovely little picture of a bookseller. I am sure I recognize him from our dinner on Friday night (wonderfully arranged by Giles from Worlds End Books). Which reminds me – did anyone ever work out where the missing five hours went after the dinner?

And so, Chelsea is over for another year. Many thanks to Marianne, Ped (relaxing below at the end of the fair), Camilla (hiding in the video of the fair below) and of course, our wonderful ring master Graham York. Ever onwards to the next fair – for many this is Boston, but for me it will be the PBFA Kensington Christmas Fair.


Credit card payments & the itinerant bookseller

At the recent AGM for the PBFA, I was asked to look into the various options available for booksellers to take credit card payments at fairs. Well I haven’t forgotten, and have been doing lots of digging and chatting over the last few weeks.
I am assuming here, that this is aimed at the small to medium bookseller, rather than those with a shop and several staff (who probably already have credit card facilities lined up). When I had my shop, I had a card machine that I could take around with me. This worked well, but cost me a rental of £25 per month plus standard transaction fees. Not so good if you only do one fair a month.

The good news is that there are several ways for us to accept credit card payments, and most of them are now far cheaper than this. This obviously isn’t a definitive guide – but it does offer you some options to choose from.

Ultimately, these all work in the same way. There is a small device, or reader, which connects to your mobile phone or tablet. These only work with smart phones with wi-fi or 3/4G access as they need to connect with the provider. Once the payment is taken, you can either print (if you have a portable printer) email, text or hand-write a receipt. A common problem with these devices, is that they are only as good as your phone internet signal. No signal, no transaction! Beyond these features, each differs slightly

Barclaycard Anywhere

 Method: A reader attaches via a cable to your headphone socket on your device. This costs £29.99 + barclaycard_picVAT if you have a Barclays Business Account – otherwise £60 + VAT.
Transaction cost: 2.6% of each transaction. No monthly cost or fixed contract. One drawback is that you cannot take customer not present payments.
The App allows you to keep an eye on your account and see reports. As this is offered by Barclaycard, it is reassuring to customers.


Method: There is a choice of two readers. The “Card reader lite” attaches to your phone via a cable. This is free to the business. There is also a “Card reader Pro” which cost £79 and operates via Bluetooth. This will also take contactless payments. Now that these are up to £30, this is a real plus. Using an App on izettle_readeryour device, you can manage payments and your account.
Transaction cost: These are on a sliding scale. For £0-£1999 per month these are at 2.75% This then falls by small increments with each increase in turnover. So £4,500 would cost 2% After £12,850 per month (oh if only) the rate drops to 1.5% where it remains. There is no monthly cost to this. No fixed contract.
There is also access to izettle where you can see reports and follow up on transactions. I cannot see from their website whether you can take customer not present payments via the website. Perhaps someone who uses this system can comment on this.

Gerry Mosdel recommends this service, and says it has worked well for him. If you use his link to sign up, you will get free transactions when you start:


Method: The reader is a Bluetooth reader. This costs £59.95 (until the end of October). The reader can take chip and pin or contactless payments.

Transaction costs: 2.75% per transaction. However, if the payment is taken via the magnetic strip (npaypal_readerot chip and pin) or customer not present then the fee is 3.4% + 20p. If taking money from overseas, then paypal’s exchange rate tends to be quite punitive. No monthly fees or set term.

One important thing to note here, is that the payment goes into your paypal account – not a bank account. On the other hand – the payment is credited to your account immediately.

Worldpay Zinc

Method: Payments can be taken via the card reader or online. The card reader is a blue tooth device, which currently costs £39.99 (or £29.99 – see below). The website has reports, but also has a page for taking Customer Not Present payments. This is the system I use, and it is handy for taking payments over the phone from customers.

Transactiozinc_appn costs: There are two tariffs with Zinc. If you expect to be an occasional user, then there is a 2.75% tariff with zero monthly cost. If you expect a busy month then there is a 1.95% tariff – but a monthly cost of £5.99. You can switch between the two tariffs each month – so you can set it to the zero fee setting, but phone up and change if you go over £800 (which is when it is worth changing). The new tariff will apply to the whole month.

This is offered by Streamline – who provide a large number of the credit card facilities in shops – this is their “small business” offering. If you wish to sign up using this link: ttp:// then you can get £10 off the device.

The price comparison bit

As book dealers, we are not consistently busy. For a comparison here, I have assumed there are 4 months where we take nothing at all. 4 months where we take £400. 2 months of £800 and two months of £3000 (half of which is overseas dealers). This way, we can compare and individual seller, who does a few fairs, and has a reasonable York and ILEC. I have included transaction fees and any monthly cost.

Barclaycard Anywhere: £218.40

iZettle: £209.40

Worldpay Zinc: £194.16

Paypal: £250.90


Obviously you will need to do your own calculations, based on your turnover. But in general, if you only use the reader now and again, and expect a very low turnover, Barclaycard Anywhere is cheapest. If you are hoping to take anything over £7000 per year on cards, then the Worldpay Zinc is cheapest. If contactless is important, then Zinc becomes more attractive, particularly for the lower turn over. Whichever you choose, the best of luck, and may your transactions be many and large

Napoleonic bureaucracy

One of the reasons that I love dealing in rare books and ephemera, is the diversity. 1684-1The many backwaters of knowledge that they lead you into. Part of the joy of being a generalist, is that you have to get to grips with many topics, and learn them quickly.  Yesterday, I was aware that after the battle of Waterloo, the British stayed in France for a short time. Today, I am familiar with the formation of the 5th Brigade of the 3rd Division of the Anglo-Allied Army in Flanders. Useful stuff, I am sure you will agree.

What initially seemed to be a reasonably interesting letter from the Occupying Army of 1816, found on the wall of a French café (and haggled over in my inexcusably bad French, with a poor Madame, who didn’t even have the letter on sale), has left me spending hours looking at the structure of the army, and into some of the personalities of the time.

Poor Sir James Willoughby Gordon (one of the three officers copied into the letter. All things army, must of course be written in triplicate). Despite his rank and obvious skills, he was so “inordinately vain and self opinionated” that he was universally unpopular. Having been sent to the Peninsula to act as Wellington’s quartermaster, he was so arrogant and rude, that he was sent back to England almost immediately. He lived out his days as the Quartermaster General to the Royal Artillery at Horse Guards.

honfleur_1Poor Lt. Col. Marlay, (This letter was his copy). He lost his father to the army, he served in America during the war of Independence, and was captured at the Battle of Saratoga. Our Marlay served with distinction at Waterloo, and was made a Companion of Bath (C.B.)

Poor General Sir George Murray, who instigated the letter. He had been sent across to Canada at the same time that Napoleon was exiled. When the call for his return came, he dashed back across the Atlantic, but too late to take part in the Battle of Waterloo, much to his Chagrin. By the time of this letter, he was Chief of Staff to the Army of Occupation.  He shouldn’t worry too much though. It seems that half of Australia (including the city of Perth) was named in his honour.

Lt. Col Gold (the letter writer himself) seems a much more down to earth character. He came with an excellent pedigree, his father having been with General Wolfe in Quebec, and dying in the battle of Bunker Hill.  Gold served under Earl Cornwallis at the defeat of Tippoo Sahib’s army in India, and took part in the capture of Pondicherry. He was the author of “Oriental Drawings sketched between the years 1791 and 1798″ a sought after item in its own right.

At Waterloo, Gold commanded  the artillery of the 2nd Division under Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton. He was mentioned in dispatches by General Wood, and was appointed a Companion of Bath. In 1816, he commanded the Royal Artillery at the Headquarters of the Allied Army of Occupation, and from time to time, the whole force of British Artillery in that Army until its return from France. Eventually he became a full Colonel. He died in 1841, leaving three sons, who became a Lieutenant-Colonel, a Captain, and a Lieutenant-General (the last commanding the 65th Regiment in New Zealand).

So much useful information, and all coming my way because Marcia chose a particularly quaint café for us to have our afternoon refreshments in. By the way. I also discovered that a Landaulet was a cut down carriage – a truncated Landau.


The UK Consumer Rights Act – the impact for booksellers

legal pic

The introduction of the Consumer Rights Act is important for all retailers.

It applies to anyone selling “any tangible moveable items” so that applies to books, manuscripts, ephemera, maps and pretty much anything that a member of the book trade could sell (except their premises.) The first thing to remember is that for all the jargon, this isn’t too bad for the trade, and any difficulties it may present us can be overcome with professional conduct.

The new legislation assumes that consumer rights form part of our contract with the client. Any goods sold to a consumer must be “of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and matching its description.” (ATG, issue 2211). Clearly, when dealing with rare and second hand items, the condition is unlikely to be “new” or “as new” so any description made by a bookseller must by its nature be somewhat open to interpretation. It is to avoid this that good bibliographical and condition descriptions become important. (for an excellent and handy guide to proper bibliography, see Laurence Worms excellent new guide “Cataloguing for Booksellers.” *) Once sold, a consumer has rights under the 30 day rule.

This simply means that under the new legislation, a consumer can return to the seller within 30 days if the item is not fit for purpose, or as described. With rare / second hand items, the opportunity to offer a replacement are limited, so the consumer has the right to reject the goods, or to obtain a price reduction.

For those items sold in person, condition has been ascertained, so it is only likely to become an issue where a consumer later notices defects not clearly specified (such as missing plates, or a miss-attribution of date / edition). With distance selling, the description is of more importance than ever. But ultimately, the members of the trade associations should be protected by our professionalism. If we describe correctly, we are safe. If we make errors, we must give refunds.

What this really boils down to in terms of work for members of the trade, is that our “terms and conditions of sale” will need to reflect a willingness to accept returns within 30 days if the goods are not “as described.” We should all be aware that whether we update our terms and conditions or not, we will have to abide by the legislation, and that it overrides any contrary terms we may try to impose.

Finally, there is an important exemption in the Act that will affect many of the trade. The act talks of Consumers. A consumer is a member of the public who makes a purchase. If we are selling to another retailer, then these are considered “trader to trader” contracts, and so are outside the reach of this legislation. Phew!

*published by the Rare Book Society. The entry for this item on Mr Worms website is a beautiful example of his preferred form of description!