A Working Life: The Rare-Book Dealer


A Working Life: The Rare-Book Dealer
“For someone who loves old and rare books, buys and sells them, Ed Maggs hardly comes across as bookish, more of an energetic sporting type. But then, Maggs, 51, had ambitions of becoming a reggae superstar – not quite what his parents had in mind after an expensive private education at Westminster. Maggs played in a band called Talkover, worked as a DJ in various minor clubs and in department store stockrooms and other undemanding jobs, before fetching up like a prodigal son in the family business he initially wanted to avoid.

One of the world’s largest antiquarian booksellers, it was established in 1853 by one Uriah Maggs, whose picture hangs on a wall at the firm’s premises on the very fancy Berkeley Square. Across from the car showrooms with gleaming Bentleys and Rolls-Royces, the 18th-century house – once home to former prime minister George Canning – is crammed, not just with books (120,000) but with manuscripts, correspondence, ranging from the famous to the obscure, illuminated miniatures and paraphernalia such as shipwrecked leather (for book binding) and Spanish civil war flags. On a brisk tour, it seems chaotic. But Maggs says it is nowhere near as bad as it seems and insists that the fifteen full-time experts, organised in five areas, know where everything is”.

Snippets from an article by Mark Tran. Photograph by Graham Turner for the Guardian.

A Working Life: The Rare-Book Dealer – Mark Tran in The Guardian, October 9, 2010