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This report is taken from PN Review 207, Volume 39 Number 1, September - October 2012.

Batterham of Bayswater Alice Wooledge Salmon
A self-described ‘good listener’ and ‘world’s worst traveller’, bookseller David Batterham has for years allied the former quality to an arresting talent for observation: ‘…the lift itself is working again, the brass sliding door repaired, the frayed cables re-sellotaped’, ‘I saw them as I went to the bathroom, a great jumble of duvets and heads and bottoms, gaping mouths and rucked-up nighties’, or ‘When he is sitting down he looks more like a plant than a man.’

Spanish lift, Danish duvets, French vegetation; in 2011, Batterham published Among Booksellers, chronicling nearly four decades of European quest and sorties beyond for the illustrated journals, architectural pattern books, trade catalogues, political caricatures and other diversity of the applied arts which have made his reputation as essential provider of the ‘books one can enjoy without having to read’.

As compact and vivid as some of his verbal assessments, Among Booksellers is an edited collection of Batterham’s letters to the painter Howard Hodgkin, with whom he used to stay near Bath. ‘I began writing these as a sort of "thank you" to Howard and his family, and at the end of a day’s searching, I continued the habit, using him as an absent companion who, I’m sure, influenced the things I wrote about and the way in which I wrote.’

Having reached his mid-70s and ‘not so active now’, Batterham was planning a series of ‘vignettes, a sort of "brief lives" of the booksellers, each shop reflecting the owner’s ...

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