Guarded by Dragons: John Banville on a fascinating glimpse of the eccentric world of book dealers

Review: Rick Gekoski lets us in on intricacies of the trade with candour and insouciance

 Rare book dealer Rick Gekoski is both amused and bemused by the business at which he makes his living. Photograph: Stephen Baccon/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Rare book dealer Rick Gekoski is both amused and bemused by the business at which he makes his living. Photograph: Stephen Baccon/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

The mania for collecting things is incomprehensible to non-maniacs. The rest of us have a hard time of it keeping down the clutter, and cannot understand why otherwise sensible people should want to accumulate drawers, cabinets and crates full of matchboxes, Victorian egg cups, medieval thumb-screws, Dinky toys.

Books are, of course, beautiful objects, when they are well printed and decently bound, and quite a few are even readable. But for most bibliomanes the content of the books they collect is of little interest; for them, what matters is that the volume in hand, on shelf or in vault, should have the rarity value of a hen’s tooth.

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