A Literary Hub and BookPage Most Anticipated Book of 2023
Welcome to Sotheran’s, one of the oldest bookshops in the world, with its weird and wonderful clientele, suspicious cupboards, unlabeled keys, poisoned books, and some things that aren’t even books, presided over by one deeply eccentric apprentice.
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.
About the Author
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.
Seeking a Christmas present for that bibliophilic relative who has seemingly read everything? It’s right here.
— Suzi Feay - Financial Times
— William Gibson
Brim[s] with self-effacing charm.
— Caitlin Doughty
— Garth Nix
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, New York Times bestselling author of Broken (In the Best Possible Way)
An enchanting billet-doux to an arcane and eccentric world. Every page is a pleasure.
— Lindsey Fitzharris, best-selling author of The Facemaker
Unfortunately I have mislaid the book in question.
— Neil Gaiman
[W]itty and heartwarming…. Darkshire’s sunny temperament and respect for the trade will resonate with book lovers and fellow booksellers.
— Publishers Weekly
— 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