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Book Cover for: Once Upon a Tome: The Misadventures of a Rare Bookseller, Oliver Darkshire

Once Upon a Tome: The Misadventures of a Rare Bookseller

Oliver Darkshire

Reader Score


82% of readers

recommend this book

Some years ago, Oliver Darkshire stepped into the hushed interior of Henry Sotheran Ltd (est. 1761) to apply for a job. Allured by the smell of old books and the temptation of a management-approved afternoon nap, Darkshire was soon unteetering stacks of first editions and placating the store's resident ghost (the late Mr. Sotheran, hit by a tram).

A novice in this ancient, potentially haunted establishment, Darkshire describes Sotheran's brushes with history (Dickens, the Titanic), its joyous disorganization, and the unspoken rules of its gleefully old-fashioned staff, whose mere glance may cause the computer to burst into flames. As Darkshire gains confidence and experience, he shares trivia about ancient editions and explores the strange space that books occupy in our lives--where old books often have strong sentimental value, but rarely a commercial one.

By turns unhinged and earnest, Once Upon a Tome is the colorful story of life in one of the world's oldest bookshops and a love letter to the benign, unruly world of antiquarian bookselling, where to be uncommon or strange is the best possible compliment.

Book Details

  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • Publish Date: Feb 27th, 2024
  • Pages: 256
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 7.18in - 4.69in - 0.74in - 0.42lb
  • EAN: 9781324074786
  • Categories: MemoirsTopic - Regional & CulturalReaders

About the Author

Darkshire, Oliver: - OLIVER DARKSHIRE (@DeathByBadger) is an antiquarian bookseller at Henry Sotheran Ltd, and the voice of @Sotherans twitter account. He lives in Manchester, England, with his husband and his neglectfully curated collection of books.

Praise for this book

Peculiarly hilarious!--William Gibson
Brim[s] with self-effacing charm.--Caitlin Doughty
Laugh-out-loud.--Garth Nix
An enchanting billet-doux to an arcane and eccentric world. Every page is a pleasure.--Lindsey Fitzharris, best-selling author of The Facemaker
[W]itty and heartwarming.... Darkshire's sunny temperament and respect for the trade will resonate with book lovers and fellow booksellers.-- "Publishers Weekly"
Utterly charming.--Tom Holland
A browse through these hilarious pages is just as satisfying as a browse in a good bookshop.--Danny Caine, Raven Book Store, Lawrence, Kansas
Witty. Whimsical. Smart. A cozy gem for people who love books, bookstores, and booksellers. I loved this memoir so much I instantly picked it for our Fantastic Strangelings Book Club. Go read it. You'll thank me.--Jenny Lawson, author of Broken (In the Best Possible Way)
[A] mischievous account...Darkshire's whims and fantasies now take on solid form in...entertaining tales of bookshop ghosts, cursed volumes, and unwelcome visitants.--Suzi Feay "Financial Times"
Extremely entertaining.... The anecdotes about the bookselling profession were as enlightening as they were amusing.--Neil Gaiman