News & Updates Antiquarian Booksellers' Association Peter Harrington
Returning to Oxford as a bookseller: Anna Middleton, scholarship winner for the 2022 ILAB Congress in Oxford
How did you start working in the rare book trade and what were your first encounters?
I first became aware of the rare book trade while an undergraduate reading English at Oxford. I took a special option in "texts in motion", which gave me privileged access to the Bodleian library - a trove of historically interesting objects. I wanted to know how the Bodleian acquired out-of-print works, where they acquired them from, and how significant commercial value had come to be attached to the books. At the time, I was working with early variant editions of Sir Philip Sidney's collected works, which still hold a sentimental weight for me: they were compiled by his sister, who was the driving force behind his immortalization in the English literary canon, publishing his works in weighty folios that predetermined his significance as a poet.
What do you specialize in and please describe your business a little to us?
I went on to study an MSc in Book History and Material Cultures at Edinburgh, where I had the opportunity to work at McNaughtan’s and see the Edinburgh Rare Book Fair from behind-the-scenes. After finishing my MSc I dotted about as an English teacher in Paris for a while, before settling in London and joining Peter Harrington in 2019.
I am primarily interested in English literature, methods of textual circulation, and the materiality of readership: how books pass from hand to hand, and the networks and connections they generate. I'm grateful to ILAB for hosting me on this scholarship: it's refreshing to return to Oxford as a bookseller, and the congress looks to be the ideal antidote to a few years of digital bookselling.