With All Faults

Michael Holman

Michael Holman

On the road again to hand out another of the ABA’s Fifty Years a Bookseller badges.  This time a trip to Lincolnshire with Vice-President Brian Lake (Jarndyce) to seek out our old friend Michael Holman now in retirement in Lincolnshire.  An early start as I rendezvous in North London with Brian, who has agreed to do the driving.

We reach Osbournby more or less without incident, barring a couple of minor mishaps with counter-intuitive and ill-signposted one-way systems in Stamford and Grantham (Jane, satnav queen, where were you?)  Discuss on the way some new ideas to spread the burden of ABA subscriptions more equally between the members at the head of the trade and those (most of us) nearer the foot.  Collect Michael and Dorothy H. – pausing to case the joint for any books which might have been overlooked and to admire his English watercolours.   Both Michael and Dorothy looking rather well – although both would perhaps admit to having reached the with all faults stage by now.  We meander through the distinctive Lincolnshire countryside to the rather splendid Bustard Inn at South Rauceby.  Michael  is greeted by a hug and a kiss from our hostess – the affection and popularity he has always inspired plainly undiminished with the passing years.

A fine lunch is produced and over it we talk through Michael’s fifty (rather more actually) years in the book trade – from selling new books in Sussex, moving to London, on the road for publishers, and in the sixties opening his first bookshop.  Trading as Anglebooks in Berkhamstead, he was a member of the PBFA from the outset (its first treasurer – although we know Dorothy did all the work) and elected to the ABA in 1974.  He later moved to Cecil Court in central London , where I first met him all those years ago.  Amiable, friendly, knowledgeable, keenly interested in both books and people (not necessarily the most common combination) – a natural raconteur, with all the timing and prodigious memory entailed in making that look easy.

One of the many tales he told us – about the only one I’m ever going to repeat until the libel laws are repealed – was how he was elected to the ABA Committee in the early eighties on a ticket of healing the breach between the ABA and the PBFA (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose).  But even the most scurrilous tales (and there were one or two, maybe rather more) were told with affection and without a shred of malice.  Brian and I urge him to get it all written down for posterity – for posthumous publication if need be.   Michael recalls Adrian Harrington offering to bring a tape-recorder and just letting it run.  Get going, Adrian.  This is the real history of the rare book trade in the final third of the twentieth century.

Bless you, Michael – you have adorned the trade for many a year.  Universal affection isn’t won that easily.  Do get those memoirs written.  As you (or was it Dorothy) said on parting, “Only the good die young – we should be good for a few more years yet”.

About Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

Laurence Worms has owned and run Ash Rare Books since 1971. He represented the antiquarian book trade on the (British) National Book Committee from 1993 to 2002 and has been six times an elected member of the Council of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association. He was largely responsible for drafting the Association’s Code of Good Practice first introduced in 1997 (and its recent update), served as Honorary Secretary of the Association from 1998 to 2001 and as President from 2011 to 2013. He is a former member of the Council of the Bibliographical Society and continues to serve on the Council of the London Topographical Society. He writes and lectures on various aspects of the history of the book and map trades, and has lectured at the universities of Cambridge, London, Reading and Sheffield, as well as at the Bibliographical Society, the Royal Geographical Society, the Warburg Institute, the National Library of Scotland and at Gresham College and Stationers' Hall. Published work includes the compilation of fourteen ‘lives’ for the “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography”, a number of articles for “The Oxford Companion to the Book” and the chapter on early English maps and atlases for the fourth volume of “The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain”. Essays on the British map trade are also appearing in “The History of Cartography” published by the University of Chicago Press. His long-awaited “British Map Engravers”, co-written with Ashley Baynton-Williams, was published to critical acclaim in 2011. He also contributed the numerous biographical notes to Peter Barber’s hugely successful “London : A History in Maps”, co-published by the British Library and the London Topographical Society in 2012.
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1 Response to With All Faults

  1. Steve Liddle says:

    I view MH as a dear friend and as my bookselling mentor ( which will explain a few things to the observant ). I have offered, on several occasions, to transcribe/edit the Holman memoirs. Up to press he is far more interested in daytime TV and bookmakers. One does one’s best…


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