Sheila Markham

in conversation

The originality of Sheila Markham’s conversations with the antiquarian book trade is the privileged insight they give into the quirky yet fascinating world of rare books, demonstrating how very much alive it is today.

She allows every bookseller his or her own monologue to talk about what interests them in their job, how they fell in love with books, or their views on the current state of the trade. Each bookseller has an individual voice – be it modest, earnest, anxious, ironic, zestful, measured, proud, humorous, business-like, secretive or nonchalant.

- Michael Meredith


Sheila Markham’s role is that of a silent recording angel, benign and encouraging, bringing forth occasional glissandos of egotism and ambition, wistful memories of happier or more profitable times, and occasional revelations of life in the real world as Buddhist monk, fashion photographer, drystone waller, bus driver, actor or pedagogue.

- Paul Grinke


An invaluable mine of fact, anecdote, memories, few lies and no statistics. Thank God for all the persons that Sheila Markham has immortalized, and all the rest that she has yet to reach.

- Nicolas Barker


Sketch by the Victorian artist John Leech

At a guinea a volume, I make that £19.19.0.

Brian Lake

This sketch by the Victorian artist John Leech (Mary Evans Picture Library) appears on the dust-jacket of the two volumes of Sheila Markham’s conversations with the antiquarian book trade published in 2004 and 2014.

The sketch lends itself to a caption competition. If you would like to enter, please send your suggestion to

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Latest updates

London Rare Books School 2022

Posted on 27/06/2022 at 11:06

Leo Cadogan and Angus O'Neill are the tutors for the course on the Modern Rare Book Trade which starts today at the Institute of English Studies, University of London. It was a great pleasure to find my two volumes of conversations with the antiquarian book trade on the reading list for the course. I hope to have a third volume published in time for next year's LRBS.

In Memoriam Alfredo Breitfeld

Posted on 11/07/2021 at 12:07

Today marks the first anniversary of the death of Alfredo Breitfeld of Librería de Antaño in Buenos Aires. Alfredo was one of a handful of booksellers who became sick with Covid-19 after attending the New York Antiquarian Book Fair in March 2020.  His condition worsened on the flight back to Buenos Aires, where he spent four months on a ventilator. Alfredo Breitfeld passed away on 11 July at the age of 82. His son, Gustavo, plans to continue the business, adapting to new trends in buying, selling and collecting, ‘We were partners with my father for more than thirty years, and I learned a lot, although I must admit that these moments are very challenging for our profession. I will try hard and with passion!’


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