Our Marketing Manager Oliver Bayliss interviews our Founder and CEO, Bernard Shapero, as part of our Books not Border series, wherein we're breaking down the barriers to the rare book world and introducing you to the team at Shapero and the fascinating world they inhabit here on Bond Street.

Bernard is an experienced international dealer in rare books and works on paper. He began dealing in rare books in 1979 from a stall in Gray’s Antiques Market, moving to a purpose-designed gallery in Holland Park in 1989 and then Mayfair in 1996. His specialist knowledge lies primarily in works of Natural History, Travel and Literature, but his years in the rare book world and his enthusiasm for printed and illustrated books in general make him a font of bibliographic knowledge.

Bernard, how did you get started in rare books?

It started as a hobby and grew into a business after I left school.  I had a stall at Gray’s Antique Market for ten years from 1979, before opening the shop in Holland Park, which was both bookshop and print gallery, and then of course in 1996 I moved to Mayfair.

What is your favourite rare book?

Diderot’s Encyclopedia and Blaeu’s Grand Atlas. Diderot’s great work is described in PMM (Printing and the Mind of Man) as a ‘monument in the history of European thought, the acme of the Age of Reason; prime motive force in undermining the ancien regime and in heralding the French Revolution’.  Whilst Blaeu’s Altas Major is known as ‘the greatest and finest atlas ever published’ (Koeman).  In its various editions it was the largest atlas ever published, and justly famed for its production values, its high typographic standard, the quality of its engraving, ornamentation and colouring.  In fact it was so lavish and highly prized that it was used as the official gift of the Dutch Republic.

What’s the most expensive book you’ve ever sold?

That would be the first printed atlas: Cosmographia translated by Jacobus Angelus from 1462. There are only thirty-one known copies, and this one was one of only two copies known to be in private hands, complete with contemporary hand-colouring.

The rare book world is global, where has this job taken you?

I’ve travelled to every continent except Africa. 

Any advice for budding young collectors?

If you have a passion follow it and you will always be happy enough. (Oli: It’s funny how so many people have said that to me – perhaps there’s a message in there?)

If you had to choose one book currently on the shelves at Shapero to add to your own collection, what would that be?

A unique manuscript on the French Navy, presented to Louis XVI by the author in a beautiful presentation binding, and subsequently given by the King to his Queen, Marie-Antoinette, with her arms on the doublures (Oli: that’s the inside covers to those new to the world of rare books!).

Last but not least, what does a book dealer read - desert island book choice?

Auction Catalogues!