Bright Young Booksellers: Annie Rowlenson

Our Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Annie Rowlenson, a bookseller with Simon Beattie (himself a former entry in the series) in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, England. Annie and Simon will have a booth at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend.

How did you get started in rare books?

I'm a product of the 'get them while they're young' approach.  As an undergrad at the University of Virginia I took a first-year seminar taught by the director of the Rare Book School on the history of books.  A couple years later RBS kindly took me on as an office assistant and summer staff member.  From there, I developed an interest in the book as an object and ended up getting an MA with a concentration in bibliography and textual studies, followed by an MLIS at the Palmer School.

What is your role at Simon Beattie?

My official title is bookseller, but I suppose 'apprentice' would be just as apt; we're participating in the ABA Educational Trust's apprenticeship scheme, which has proven to be a fantastic support as I enter the trade.

What do you love about the book trade?

The book community--it really is a 21st-century Republic of Letters.  I like how places like book fairs, the York Antiquarian Book Seminar, and RBS create spaces where dealers, librarians, collectors, and others can come together on the same footing to exchange interests and support each other's endeavours.  

I also love seeing new things entering the market that might have been overlooked in decades past.  We're slowly but surely moving towards a place of equal representation.

Describe a typical day for you:

I'm not sure there is a typical day for a bookseller.  Collating and cataloguing new acquisitions always take up a bit of my time, as do book fairs and visiting customers.  I'm slowly becoming more Photoshop-literate and really enjoy helping Simon put together catalogues.  The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that I've helped match the right book to the right customer or collection.

Favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you've handled?

I'll always have a soft spot for anything in the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction at the University of Virginia.

What do you personally collect?

I've collected editions of Wuthering Heights since doing my undergrad thesis.  It's very much in the same vein as the Jane Eyre collection at the Rare Book School--i.e., it aims to show how materiality affects and effects the meaning of a text over time.  I buy everything from early editions and translations to more recent stage adaptations, pocket editions issued to soldiers in WWII, erotic spin-offs ('Wuthering Nights', anyone?), and everything in between.  I like the messiness of it; there's something really satisfying about seeing a ratty Harlequin-esque paperback from the 80's on the same shelf as one finely bound in morocco.  Each one has something different to say.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I'm in the middle of trying to coerce my husband into doing another road trip to Wales.  Last time we stumbled upon some castle ruins and I got to have an Ann Radcliffe moment.

Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book trade?

So long as there are booksellers selling material that they are passionate and knowledgeable about, I don't see it ever changing for the worse.  It's definitely becoming more female and tattooed, which can only be a good thing.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

Our next fair is the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, Nov. 16-18.  If you plan on attending, please stop by booth #226 and say hello!  We'd love to share our books with you.