Making the impossible possible. That is what I love about the antiquarian book trade. Books have had to endure the ravages of time, from mere careless handling to the burning pyres of Savonarola and modern war. Someone may ask me for a 15th century book on witchcraft or express interest in a biblical manuscript, and I have to seek out these treasures from the flea markets of Paris and alleys of Istanbul to New York Fifth Avenue apartments and the ritzy auction rooms of London.
I started out selling books related to the Middle East, largely because I fell in love with Istanbul as a student, a great city about which I wrote a few books. I am still actively searching for material related to the Arab world and Ottoman Empire. Another main area of interest lies in early printed books and medieval manuscripts and fragments, dating back to the 8th century.
How does someone with such a love of rare books sell them instead of collect them? This is a dilemma that confronts all dealers that hold a true passion for the field. As a child, I remember reselling comic books on the street and a woman walked up to me and said one day I will be sorry that I sold my beautiful books. Now I sell even more beautiful ones! And I have never felt bad about it. After all like in life, one has to practice detachment and I feel satisfaction that I add a link to the chain as books pass through my hands and continue their journey (especially chain bindings).
I studied philosophy and theology. Those subjects provided not only an intellectual springboard for the rare book trade, but also gave me a sense of the larger picture. I love academia but also the excitement of trading. The auction room after all, is a battleground. The modern book trade is not a staid profession, sitting alone with spectacles in some dusty shop. To make exciting discoveries, I am always on the go, making new connections and travelling the world. That energy, persistence, and James Bond like sense of adventure, has allowed me to dig out such varied treasures as a Dutch prayer book with the earliest and hitherto unknown texts of a Dutch rhetorician, the notebook of a German Renaissance artist, to an exceedingly rare collection of original photographs by the first Arab photographer of Mecca.
I cannot do everything alone of course – there is strength in numbers. Thankfully, over the years I have become good friends with many of my esteemed colleagues and experts in the trade. Their help and advice has been a source of inspiration, a fountain of ideas, and an indispensable key to my success. I feel very fortunate as well to have worked with devoted curators and librarians at Institutions through the world to whom I have sold.
And I have also held true to a very important conviction: to always conduct my business with integrity and transparency. My clients and colleagues have appreciated this simple and straightforward approach. I look forward to continuing to do so, to travel widely, to go where no bookseller has gone before, ferret out new treasures, to pay and price fairly, and most importantly, to meet new clients and friends.