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Titans Of The Trade #20: Mark Richardson of The Plantagenet King

THE PLANTAGENET KING
Specialities: Modern First Editions, Children’s Books, and 19th Century Literature.

Mark Richardson was
iInterviewed by Giles Lyon, Worlds End Bookshop

1. How have you adapted your business in light of covid? I am fortunate to work in a business centre that have implemented the changes needed. So, when visitors come and say hello, they follow the centre rules of wearing masks, sanitising, and keeping the 2m distance. I was also fortunate enough to have an online presence before covid and so people have been able to buy books from me throughout. I feel for booksellers that have relied in the past on face to face sales only and appreciate its been a tough ride for many.

2. How did you come into the book trade? I’ve collected first editions for quite a while but it wasn’t until about 5 years ago when I got talking to two friendly neighbourhood ABA booksellers and they told me how much fun it was being a bookseller…and they are right!

3. Glass of wine or pint of beer? Such a difficult question but after much soul searching and thought I have boiled it down to these two scenarios: A] A cold beer in a pub garden on a summer’s day B] A glass of red with a board bulging with cheese. I’m going B glass of wine that is my final answer!

4. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? I love cooking and most of my creations are fairly edible but about 7 or 8 years ago I cooked the infamous ‘stew’. To this day my partner shudders when it is mentioned.

5. Favourite holiday destination? What is this holiday you speak of?! I am not sure when it will be safe enough to go on my hols again, but I love Italy. We went to Florence and then San Gemignani a few years ago and I would love to go back and visit more of the area.

6. What do you miss most about pre-covid days? Definitely book fairs. As great as the online fairs are, I am missing the fun of buying and selling from other booksellers and meeting customers at fairs across the country. There is a member of public who comes and finds me at most fairs and talks to me about frogs. I even miss that guy!

7. When did you last cry and why? Last year my non-verbal autistic son signed ‘daddy’ for the first time.

8. What type of book do you tend to deal in? I have tended to concentrate on modern fiction as its where my interests lie. But more recently I have been spending my time putting together a catalogue on rare books of WW1. Specialising in one area, albeit temporarily, has enabled me to roll deep on research in one collecting field. It has been highly enjoyable – the catalogue came out in November!

9. Dinner party for six – who are your five dream guests? Bertrand Russell, Angela Carter, Lady Gaga, Andre the Giant and Oliver Reed. Bit of an unusual mix but it wouldn’t be boring!

10. What can we do to revitalise our trade post Covid? One of the successes in these difficult times has been the online fairs. I’ve met new customers, that wouldn’t necessarily go to a face to face fair and so I think there is a place for online fairs and face to face fairs in the future. That way we can reach out to as many potential customers as possible and provide an event to collectors that maybe reluctant to go to a fair initially.

11. What media do you tend to follow? I love using and being a part of Instagram because the books can be centre stage. Conversations can revolve around the aesthetics or content of a book rather than anything else. There are a lot of collectors on Instagram and I think it works really well for our trade. I’ve bought and sold items on there regularly.

12. Name your favourite movie? Withnail and I – it’s a timeless classic!

13. What meal would you cook for the Queen? Lordy not the stew. I cook a mean Bolognese so probably that. Although now I have an image of the Queen slurping up spaghetti!

14. Do book fairs have a viable future given the current pandemic? I really hope they do. My view is they are the cornerstone of our trade and are an opportunity to meet collectors and get to know them. But clearly safety comes first and so there would need careful thought around how they would be run in the future.

15. How do we attract the younger generation into our trade? I think there are plenty of things we have in our gift to do and improve on. I think we can make ourselves more approachable (smile more – I know it is a shocking suggestion sorry) and also look to buy what a younger audience is more likely to be interested in. My recent experience is that younger people are buying rare books online and so it would be great if that translated to seeing a more diverse crowd at fairs.


Contact Mark Richardson via his website at www.theplantagenetking.com.