40 South Audley Street, W1K 2PR
020 7297 4888
Bond Street / Marble Arch LU
The grand entrance to Bernard Quaritch with its vast black lacquered door and brass name plate might seem very daunting to the uninitiated but having pressed the bell and gained admittance to the first floor reception you are assured a warm welcome. The main entrance leads to a high ceilinged room with light wooden shelves displaying some of the books held by this established name in London’s antiquarian book world. Above the mantlepiece, a portrait of the eponymous Mr Quaritch looks down benevolently, no doubt satisfied that the business he established back in 1847 is still thriving.
Quaritch’s vast stock extends into the staff offices but the first floor reception room is where most business is done. Staff will cheerfully fetch what visitors require. The company’s main strengths are medieval manuscripts, English and Continental books, travel, the human sciences and early photographs.
My guide on a recent visit was Alice Ford-Smith, formerly of the Welcome Library and Dr Williams’s Library. She manages the firm’s library and archive, alongside its publications and marketing activities. As she put it:
‘Bookselling at Bernard Quaritch is not just about selling books, manuscripts and photographs. We give advice to customers and provide valuations.’
The offices might seem quiet by comparison with a typical shop, but Alice is keen to point out that a great deal of the company’s business is with a world-wide network of collectors and libraries. Most of whom rarely cross the companies threshold but communicate from afar and make their purchases on the strength of catalogues, accurate descriptions and photographs. The firm also attends the major book fairs, both at home and abroad, to meet people face-to-face.
The world of Bernard Quaritch is a fascinating one, but the prices do reflect the quality of their stock and the fact that many of their books are unique. Alice showed me a vellum bound copy of Hitopadйsa that formerly belonged to William Morris and can be yours for £400. A recent catalogue included a first edition of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital which could be yours for £80,000.
Bernard Quaritch welcome enquiries. If you can’t make it to their Mayfair offices, do drop them a line and they are always a significant presence at the ABA/PBFA Rare Books London event.