cover image Once Upon a Tome: The Misadventures of a Rare Bookseller

Once Upon a Tome: The Misadventures of a Rare Bookseller

Oliver Darkshire. Norton, $27.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-324-09207-0

In this witty and heartwarming memoir, Darkshire, a former bookseller at London’s Henry Sotheran Ltd., catalogs the stories behind the books, patrons, and antiques that found their way to the shop during his apprenticeship. He comically recounts peculiar interactions with customers, or “cryptids”: one woman offered to sing for him then later recanted because his aura was off, a customer nicknamed The Spindleman kept trying to lend his own books in exchange for favors, and an elderly patron was always impossible to please. His humor extends to the store’s resident ghost as well, a polite spirit named Henry (after the last Henry Sotheran, who died in an accident not far from the store) who only caused minor incidents during Darkshire’s tenure. More serious matters include taking care of antiquated collector’s volumes, which involved keeping the books away from sunlight and the arduous use of book oil to preserve their covers. The entertaining stories of the challenges Darkshire encountered day-to-day and the eccentric customers he served over the years add a ton of appeal. Darkshire’s sunny temperament and respect for the trade will resonate with book lovers and fellow booksellers. (Mar.)